(Adds comment from Maldives government and India)
MALE, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Former Maldives president Mohamed
Nasheed took refuge in the Indian High Commission in the capital
Male on Wednesday as police attempted to arrest him, raising the
prospect of protests by supporters who say he was ousted a year
ago in a coup.
Nasheed, the Maldives' 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.
"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.
Riot police barricaded the street outside the High
Commission after Nasheed's arrival at noon, as his supporters
began to gather.
India's External Affairs Ministry said in a statement that
Nasheed had sought India's assistance and that the High
Commission was in touch with Maldivian authorities.
A court ordered Nasheed's arrest 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,
police spokesman Hassan Haneef said.
"We have received the order and we will be trying to carry
it out in accordance with the Maldivian constitution and the
Imad Masood, spokesman for Maldives President Mohamed Waheed
Hussain Manik, said the police would wait for Nasheed to come
out. "If he doesn't come, then police will begin to talk to High
Commission officials," he added.
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.
If he is found guilty in the court case, Nasheed could be
barred from standing in a presidential election on Sept. 7. His
party says the trial is an attempt to exclude him from the
contest and has challenged the court's legitimacy.
India said it had "expressed concern over the ongoing
political instability in Maldives and called upon the government
and all political parties to adhere strictly to democratic
principles and the rule of law, thereby paving the way for free,
fair, credible and inclusive elections".
The Maldives held its first free elections in 2008. Nasheed
defeated Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled for 30 years and
was accused by opponents and international human rights groups
of running the country as a dictator.
(Reporting by J.J. Robinson in Male and Shihar Aneez and Ranga
Sirilal in Colombo; Editing by Kevin Liffey)