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Maldives ex-President Mohamed Nasheed trial to start

By - BBC | October 1st 2012

The trial of former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who faces charges of abuse of power, is due to begin in the capital, Male.

Mr Nasheed, who resigned in February in what he said was a coup, is accused of illegally arresting a judge.

The former human rights activist denies the charges against him and says the trial is politically motivated.

A conviction could disqualify him from contesting the next presidential elections.

Mr Nasheed, who was succeeded by his deputy, Mohamed Waheed, he said he was forced to quit by threats of violence from rebellious police and soldiers.

But a domestic commission of inquiry - backed by the Commonwealth - last month rejected his account, saying he had stepped down voluntarily.

Coral atoll nation

The charge against him relates to an incident in January, when he was accused of illegally ordering the arrest of a judge accused of corruption.

Now the 45-year-old, once an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, faces up to three years in jail or banishment to a remote islet in the popular tourist archipelago if found guilty of abuse of office.

"The coup has not yet been completed," Mr Nasheed told AFP at the weekend after his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) staged a mass rally in the capital island, Male.

He said he had "no chance of a fair trial, particularly in a case as political as this".

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Male says that despite the small size of this country, Mr Nasheed became a disproportionately influential head of state, raising the Maldives' profile by highlighting the threat posed to it by climate change.

Last week, a court order was introduced preventing him from leaving Male, one small island in the coral atoll nation.

He has denounced the ban as an unfair and politically motivated attempt to prevent him from campaigning in the upcoming elections.

But the government argues that travel restrictions are standard ahead of several court cases Mr Nasheed faces.

His party has vowed not to follow any orders from the courts until the judicial system is reformed and his lawyers say he will join colleagues in a tour of outlying provinces due to also start on Monday.



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