Maldives police break up opposition protest

Maldives police break up an opposition protest demanding freedom for jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Maldivian police patrol the area where supporters of former President Mohamed Nasheed have gathered for a mass rally in Male', Maldives, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015.

Maldives police on Friday broke up an opposition protest demanding the release of the country's former president, other jailed politicians and activists.

The Maldivian Democratic Party had said the protest will continue for 72 hours. But police said they would not allow three days of protests and ordered the demonstration to end by midnight Friday.

Police used shields and pepper spray on the protesters as they prepared for the march. It is immediately unclear if there were injuries.

The party demands the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed, ex-defense minister Mohamed Nazim and opposition leader Sheik Imran Abdulla. It also demands that court action against some 1,700 opposition activists be withdrawn.

The party says the prosecutions result from a political vendetta by President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's government. It is also calling for judicial reforms and end to corruption.

Nasheed has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for ordering the arrest of a senior judge when he was president in 2012. Nazim is serving a 10-year sentence for keeping a gun, a crime in the Maldives. Abdulla was detained over accusations of inciting violence during an anti-government protest in May.

Maldives held its first multiparty election in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule but its transition to democracy has been difficult.

Nasheed who became the country's first democratically-elected president resigned four years into a five-year term amid public protests over his role in the judge's arrest.

In 2013, Gayoom, a half-brother of the country's 30-year autocrat defeated Nasheed in a disputed election. Since then the Gayoom family has regained control of the Maldives.

The country has been in upheaval in recent months following a blast in Gayoom's speedboat which authorities say was an assassination attempt.

Gayoom's former vice president Ahmed Adeeb has been arrested and detained on suspicion of being behind the blast.