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US Concerned Over Arrest of Maldivian Ex-President


Maldives police try to move former president Mohamed Nasheed during a scuffle as he arrives at a courthouse in Male, Feb. 23, 2015.

The United States has expressed concern over the arrest of former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, who faces anti-terrorism charges in the Indian Ocean country.

Nasheed was arrested at his home Sunday in the capital, Male, and accused of illegally detaining a senior judge more than three years ago during his presidency.

On Monday, police dragged Nasheed into a courtroom to hear the charges. He later appeared to be in pain and complained that he had been abused by police.

The top U.S. diplomat for South Asia, Nisha Biswal, met with the Maldivian foreign minister to voice concern over the situation.

"She urged the government to take steps to restore confidence in their commitment to democracy, judicial independence, and rule of law, including respect for the rights of peaceful protest and respect for due process," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The Criminal Court on Monday ordered Nasheed to be detained for the duration of the trial. It also gave him three days to appoint a lawyer.

Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party has said the charges are politically motivated and "trumped-up."

As he was being arrested, hundreds of Nasheed's supporters clashed with police, who fired bursts of tear gas to subdue them.

Nasheed lost a controversial 2013 election to current president, Abdulla Yameen.

Last week, a prosecutor dropped charges of abuse of power against him for allegedly ordering the arrest in early 2012 of one-time chief criminal court judge Abdulla Mohamed, who was accused of corruption. But a new charge involving the same incident was filed Sunday under tougher anti-terrorism laws.

India weighs in

"We are concerned at recent developments in the Maldives, including the arrest and manhandling of former President Nasheed," India's Foreign Ministry spokesman said, adding that political parties should resolve their differences within the constitutional framework.

New Delhi views the Maldives, a group of 1,190 coral islands southwest of India, as part of its sphere of influence. It has been concerned about China's efforts to boost its strategic presence in the Indian Ocean, including a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the archipelago last year.

The U.S. State Department, which shares India's concerns about China's increasingly assertive posture in Asia, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Nisha Biswal had spoken to the foreign minister of the Maldives at the weekend to express U.S. concern at Nasheed's arrest and other events in recent weeks.

Some information from Reuters was used in this report.

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