In a dramatic development, former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed on Wednesday took refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male to evade arrest, a year after he was ousted from power.
The 45-year-old leader turned up at the single-storey Indian mission around noon to evade the arrest warrant issued by a court in a case concerning the detention of the chief judge of the Criminal Court during his Presidency in January last year.
Later in the day, as his application for a stay on the arrest was rejected by the Maldivian high court, Nasheed stayed put in the Indian mission. The Indian government has permitted him to stay on, official sources in New Delhi said.
"Following the arrest warrant issued against him by the Hulhumale Magistrate Court, Nasheed, who is a candidate for the presidential elections in Maldives scheduled for September 2013, is in the Indian High Commission and has sought India's assistance. We are in touch with the relevant Maldivian authorities to resolve the situation," an official spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs said in New Delhi.
He also said the prevention of participation by political leaders in the contest would call into question the integrity of the electoral process, thereby perpetuating the current political instability in Maldives which "is not in the interest of Maldives or the region".
He said as a close and friendly neighbour, India has expressed concern over the ongoing political instability in Maldives and called upon the government and all political parties to adhere strictly to democratic principles and the rule of law, thereby paving the way for free, fair, credible and inclusive elections.
Asserting that it was necessary that the Presidential nominees of recognised political parties be free to participate in the elections without any hindrance, he said, "India would call upon the government and all political parties in Maldives to avoid any action that would vitiate the political atmosphere in the Maldives".
Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of the Indian Ocean archipelago in 2008. He resigned a year ago after weeks of public protests against the judge's arrest.
His deputy, Mohammed Waheed, succeeded him.
Immediately after his resignation, Nasheed claimed that he was ousted in a coup, a claim that was dismissed by an inquiry commission last year.
Nasheed also tweeted, "Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives".
According to Indian officials, the former Maldivian President had sought a meeting with High Commissioner D M Mulay, who flew back to Maldives early on Wednesday from Delhi.
The arrest warrant was issued against Nasheed by a Maldivian court after he did not turn up for his previously scheduled trial hearing at Hulhumale' Magistrate Court on February 10.
Nasheed was briefly arrested in October last year at the start of the trial.
Meanwhile, anti-riots police have surrounded the Indian mission and the police have set up barricades around the High Commission area.
Maldivian President Waheed's official spokesperson Imad Massod told PTI that the forces will not enter the Indian mission.
"Nasheed was summoned to the court on Sunday but he did not go. The court last night issued an order to the police to bring him to the court under arrest. Currently he is in the Indian High Commission. The policemen are waiting for him to come out. They will not enter the High Commission premises," he said.
Nasheed's act is similar to that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who had last year taken refuge in the Ecuador embassy in London after his appeal against his extradition to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault was rejected by a court in the United Kingdom.