Male: Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed walked out of the court without being sentenced to a jail term after the hearing against him was deferred for at least four more weeks. The case was deferred on the request of his lawyers.
Nasheed was produced in the court in a power abuse case. He was arrested on Tuesday.
The arrest came after a local court issued a warrant against 45-year-old Nasheed. Nasheed had left the Indian High Commission in Male, where he took refuge for 11 days, on the condition of no arrest and on hopes of taking part in elections due in September.
Nasheed's lawyers requested the court in Male to defer his case for at least four more weeks.
He was overthrown by the current government in a coup in February 2012. Nasheed took refuge in the Indian embassy on February 13 to evade arrest warrant issued by a court in a case concerning the detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court during his Presidency in January 2012.
In an interview to CNN-IBN on March 1, Nasheed had admitted he was worried about the "precarious" situation he is facing in his country. "Right now they seem to have restrained themselves from arresting me, but the situation continues. I still have the court cases against me and when I wanted to travel to Abu Dhabi for a cultural function, the government did not allow me to travel. Because of the violent nature of the coup and since I have unfinished business, I am worried. Last week, a number of journalists were very badly beaten up. It is an issue of serious concern for us," the ex-President had said.
During the hearing, which lasted for over a one-and-a-half hours, 45-year-old Nasheed sought deferment of trial till the Presidential polls in September. The Prosecutor too had agreed to the proposal.
However, noting that the Elections Commission is yet to announce Nasheed as a presidential candidate for the elections, the Bench postponed the trial by four weeks. "Nasheed has walked out as a free man. He was taken into custody on orders of the court because he was evading Court summons and not because of any vendetta as he claims," President Mohamed Waheed's Press Secretary Masood Imad said.
He added, "We have maintained right from the beginning that we cannot interfere in judicial matters. Even the trail against him has been postponed by four weeks only because of the wishes of the Court". Nasheed was arrested less than a fortnight after he left the Indian High Commission in Male where he was holed up for 11 days to evade arrest in a case concerning the detention of the Chief Criminal Judge during his Presidency.
His arrest led to protests by Nasheed's supporters who also indulged in violence. President Waheed's brother too was allegedly roughed up by protesters.
Police too cracked down on protesters and took into custody over 70 people including women. Asserting that India was monitoring the situation very closely, the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi had said that it "expects due process and the Rule of Law would be followed".
Nasheed claims the trial is "politically motivated" to bar him from contesting in the presidential elections. If convicted in the case, he will face a maximum sentence of one year in jail. He will also be barred from contesting elections for three years.
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)