News ID: 131856
Published: 0735 GMT November 28, 2015

Maldives police break up opposition protest

Maldives police break up opposition protest

Police in the Maldives dispersed opposition protesters for a second straight day Saturday, using tear gas and pepper spray and arresting more than a dozen demonstrators demanding the release of a former president and other jailed political leaders.

After Friday's protest was shut down, Maldivian Democratic Party spokesman Hamid Abdul Gaffoor vowed to regroup Saturday, saying it is within the party's legal rights to continue the protests because police had unilaterally withdrawn from agreed-upon terms for a 72-hour demonstration, AP reported.

The party is demanding the release from jail of former president Mohamed Nasheed, ex-defense minister Mohamed Nazim and opposition leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, as well as the withdrawal of court action against 1,700 political activists.

It said the actions against the leaders and activists are the result of a political vendetta by the current President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Police used pepper spray Friday night to disperse protesters as they prepared for a street march. They also cut off electricity for the campaign site.

On Saturday, police used tear gas and pepper spray against the protesters, and said they had arrested 13 demonstrators.

Gaffoor said that the police had initially agreed to allow a three-day protest as long as sound systems were not used after midnight. However, they withdrew their permission after the government interfered, he said.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison for ordering the arrest of a top judge in 2012, when he was president. Nazim is serving a 10-year sentence for illegal possession of a pistol, and Abdulla has been detained for allegedly inciting violence at a protest in May.

Nasheed, the Indian Ocean archipelago's first democratically elected president, resigned four years into his five-year term amid protests against his role in the arrest of the judge. Gayoom, a half-brother of the Maldives' former 30-year autocrat, defeated Nasheed in an election in 2013.

The Maldives' judiciary, police and bureaucracy are deemed highly politicized and are accused of being used by Gayoom to crack down on the opposition.

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