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Opposition leader's passport confiscated in Maldives

The authorities may have seized Ibrahim Hussein Zaki's passport because of outstanding charges against him relating to a speech.

world Updated: Mar 22, 2007 15:26 IST

Immigration officials seized the passport of the Maldives' main opposition leader as he returned home after briefing diplomats in India and Sri Lanka on the country's political situation, his party said on Thursday.

Ibrahim Hussein Zaki's passport was confiscated as he arrived at Male airport on Tuesday, the Maldivian Democratic Party said in a statement.

The party said authorities may have seized Zaki's passport because of outstanding charges against him relating to a speech he delivered at a pro-democracy rally in November.

The government charged him with "attempting to create disharmony among the public," the statement said.

"Both the charge against me and withdrawing my passport are obviously politically motivated," Zaki was quoted as saying in the statement. "There is no legal justification for the government's actions."

Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Saeed denied the moves against Zaki were politically motivated and said the confiscation likely happened because of a hiccup in the system.

"Probably it was an administrative oversight. I expect it to be sorted out soon," Saeed told The Associated Press by phone from the capital, Male. He did not elaborate.

It was unclear when Zaki would get his passport back. Zaki is the acting president of the MDP, which is campaigning for democratic reforms in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

The nation of 300,000 people has been governed by autocratic President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom since 1978.

Gayoom promised reforms in 2004 under international pressure sparked by anti-government riots and allegation that political prisoners were being tortured. The opposition says reforms have been slow.

The government has permitted the establishment of four political parties, and the Maldives' first multiparty legislative elections are planned for 2008.