The Maldivian government yesterday denied it had made any deal to allow ex-Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed to end his refuge at the Indian embassy in the capital, Male, and resume election campaigning without fear of arrest.
Presidential spokesman Abbas Riaz said Nasheed walked out of the embassy on Saturday afternoon of his own will and there was no agreement with an Indian mediator who rushed to the Maldives a week ago to resolve a tense standoff.
“There is no deal, absolutely no deal with the Indians or anyone else,” Riaz told reporters in the government’s first reaction to Nasheed leaving the embassy to resume his political work.
Nasheed, 45, sought refuge at the embassy on Feb. 13, straining ties between regional power India and small neighbor Maldives after an arrest warrant was issued following his failure to attend court.
He says his trial is a “politically motivated” attempt to disqualify him from an election due on Sept. 7, a charge denied by the government.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said Nasheed was meeting with visiting Western diplomats yesterday and would start house-to-house campaigning today.
“He is back on the campaign trail,” party spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told reporters. “India arranged a deal to give political space for Nasheed to contest ... but still there is a risk [of arrest]. We don’t trust this rogue regime.”
The Maldivian government insists that it will not interfere with a judicial process.
India sent its special envoy, senior diplomat Harsh Vardhan Shringla, to mediate an end to the crisis after Nasheed took refuge in its high commission to avoid arrest.
New Delhi said in a statement shortly after Nasheed left the embassy that it had been working with all sides to “strengthen democracy” in the nation of 330,00 Sunni Muslims and urged all to main “peace and calm.”
Nasheed, a pro-democracy campaigner, won the country’s first free elections in 2008, but was ousted last year following a mutiny by police and military troops.
His court hearing on Feb. 13 was postponed because he could not be arrested while inside the embassy.