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Maldivian judges accuse India of 'interference'

world Updated: Feb 16, 2013 17:08 IST
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Maldivian judges on Saturday accused India's top envoy of meddling in domestic politics by sheltering ex-president Mohamed Nasheed who faces charges that could rule him out of contesting elections.

Nasheed has remained at the Indian embassy since Wednesday after taking refuge there to avoid being arrested after he failed to appear in court last weekend to answer charges of abuse of power while he was president.

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC), a watchdog responsible for the administration of the justice system in the Indian Ocean holiday destination, accused Indian high commissioner DM Mullay of meddling in local politics.

"We regret the interference of the high commissioner (ambassador) of India in Maldives in his personal capacity with the judicial process of the Maldives," the JSC said in a statement.

It said the Indian envoy was "impeding the due process of the law" by "keeping" Nasheed within the diplomatic compound.

There was no immediate comment from the Indian diplomatic mission.

Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party says it considers the charges of abuse of power against him to be politically motivated. A conviction would prevent him from holding public office.

The country is slated to hold presidential elections on September 7.

The government said Thursday the warrant for Nasheed's arrest had expired and that he could leave the embassy without fear of arrest. But Nasheed's party said they could not trust the regime.

The standoff comes amid political turbulence in the Maldives, one year after Nasheed, the nation's first democratically elected leader, was ousted by violent protests and a mutiny by police and security forces.

The United States and the United Nations, as well as India, have called for free elections in the nation of 330,000 Sunni Muslims.

New Delhi said Wednesday it was "necessary that the presidential nominees of recognised political parties be free to participate in the elections without any hindrance" -- a statement seen as tacitly backing Nasheed.