(Corrects date of missed court appearance in fifth paragraph to
Feb. 10, not Friday)
MALE, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Former Maldives president Mohamed
Nasheed took refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male on
Wednesday as police attempted to arrest him, risking fresh
protests by his supporters who say he was overthrown in a coup
Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader,
was removed from office in contested circumstances and his
supporters have frequently clashed with security forces in the
Indian Ocean archipelago famous as a luxury tourist resort.
Riot police barricaded the street outside the high
commission after Nasheed's arrival at noon, as his supporters
began to gather in protest against his possible arrest.
"Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian
Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in
Maldives," Nasheed wrote on his Twitter page.
A court ordered police to arrest Nasheed after he missed a
Feb. 10 court appearance in a case relating to accusations that
he illegally detained a judge during the last days of his rule,
a police spokesman said.
"We have received the order and we will be trying to carry
it out in accordance with the Maldivian constitution and the
order itself," spokesman Hassan Haneef added.
Police would wait outside the high commission, said Imad
Masood, spokesman for the country's current president, Mohamed
Waheed Hussain Manik. "If he doesn't come, then police will
begin to talk to high commission officials," he added.
If found guilty in the court case, Nasheed could be barred
from standing in a Sept. 7 presidential poll. His party says the
trial is an attempt to prevent him from contesting and has
challenged the court's legitimacy.
Nasheed says he was forced from power at gunpoint after
opposition protests and a police mutiny. A national commission
last August said the toppling of his government was not a coup,
a ruling that triggered several days of large demonstrations.
The Maldives, a sultanate for almost nine centuries before
it became a British protectorate, held its first free elections
in 2008. Nasheed defeated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was then
Asia's longest-serving leader and accused of running the country
as a dictator.
(Reporting by J.J. Robinson in MALE and Shihar Aneez in
COLOMBO; Additional reporting by Ranga Sirilal in COLOMBO;
Editing by Henry Foy, Nick Macfie and Ron Popeski)