Sun, Jan 22, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Protests spread in Maldives as more protesters arrested

AFP, COLOMBO

Dozens of anti-government activists were arrested in the Maldivian capital, Male, the opposition said yesterday as the government accused it of whipping up religious extremism.

Opposition parties said police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of activists on Friday night and that dozens were detained, raising to 82 the number of arrests over the past four days.

“The police detain people and release them after a few hours,” opposition spokesman Mohamed Shareef said, adding that a total of 82 had been arrested during the past four days.

Maldivian authorities said the protesters had attacked government facilities, including two police vehicles and vandalized the home of a government minister during the protests.

The government said six journalists and staff of the state-run national television broadcaster had been attacked by anti-government protesters while private media organizations accused the government of intimidation.

Anti-government activists have been keeping up pressure on Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who ordered the arrest on Monday of the head of the country’s criminal court on charges of misconduct and favoring opposition figures.

A senior figure in the opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party, Mohamed Jameel, was also re-arrested on Wednesday as police investigate him and the party for allegedly spreading hate-speech.

The government has accused Jameel, a former Maldivian minister of justice, of publicly declaring that Nasheed was working under the influence of “Jews” and “Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.

The government on Wednesday raised fears of Islamic extremism taking hold in the Indian Ocean atoll nation, which is best known for its upmarket tourism and as a destination for honeymooners.

The Maldivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was “extremely concerned” by an increase in extremist rhetoric used by the government’s rivals that could lead to “stigmatization, stereotyping and incitement to religious violence and hatred.”

There have been anti-Semitic protests recently about the Maldivian Ministry of Transport and Communication’s decision to allow direct flights from Israel.

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