Authorities in the Maldives arrested former President and current opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed on Sunday, ordering him to stand trial for his 2012 decision to arrest a senior judge.
Nasheed's party called for his release and his supporters protested in the capital, Male, following the arrest in a sign that the Indian Ocean archipelago nation, in just its seventh year of multiparty democracy following 30 years of autocratic rule, could be plunging into political uncertainty.
A document signed by a senior criminal court judge seen by The Associated Press said Nasheed was being charged under anti-terrorism laws. Television stations in the country aired scenes of the arrest.
Nasheed resigned as president in February 2012 following weeks of public protests against his order to arrest Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed. In 2013, he lost the presidential election to current President Yameen Abdul Gayyoom, a half-brother of the country's 30-year autocratic ruler, Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom.
The arrest comes weeks after a key ally of Yameen Abdul Gayyoom, whose support helped him win the presidency, defected from the ruling coalition to align with Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party to launch a series of protests to force Gayyoom to resign.
They accuse Gayyoom's administration of repeatedly violating the constitution.
Government minister Mohamed Shareef said Nasheed was arrested because the court felt he may not honour a summons to stand trial.
'Acts against the state'
Shareef said the anti-terrorism laws cover not only acts or planned acts of violence, but a wide range of "acts against the state."
'Nasheed had never absconded from court, nor has taken the opportunity to flee or go into hiding.' - Maldivian Democratic Party spokesman Hamid Abdul Gaffoor
Nasheed is accused of using the military to arrest the senior judge when it had no authority to do so, Shareef said. He also is accused of detaining Mohamed for weeks without trial or legal counsel and ignoring a Supreme Court order to release him, he said.
Mohamed was arrested soon after he released an opposition politician Nasheed's government had detained. He was accused of bias and corruption.
Maldivian Democratic Party spokesman Hamid Abdul Gaffoor said in a statement that "Nasheed had never absconded from court, nor has taken the opportunity to flee or go into hiding," and called on the authorities to release him immediately.
Nasheed was a pro-democracy campaigner during Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom's 1978-2008 rule, and was arrested a number of times for his activism. He defeated Gayyoom in the country's first multiparty election in 2008.