Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahii, Leah Malone
Former President Mohamed Nasheed left the Indian High Commission on Saturday afternoon after seeking “refuge” from police seeking to present him to the Hulhumale Magistrate Court.
Nasheed has maintained that the charges against him – of detaining the Chief Criminal Court Judge during his final days in office – are a politically-motivated effort to prevent him contesting the 2013 elections.
After 11 consecutive days inside the High Commission, Nasheed emerged and was greeted by approximately 600 Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters at a press conference in the Dharubaaruge exhibition hall, across the street from the party’s former protest site at Usfasgandu.
Nasheed emphasised his desire for stability to be restored, following eight days of continuous protests by the MDP, dozens of police arrests, and a violent attack on a Maldivian journalist.
“I have been in the Indian High Commission for the last 11 days and now I have come out with the understanding that I will be able to conduct my peaceful political activities and my normal social life.
“I hope and I believe that this will bring much stability to the very volatile nature of Maldivian politics and our society today. I hope that all the stakeholders all actors will bear in mind that we will have to have a peaceful election and to do that we will all have to forego whatever we have to.
“It is always my wish that democracy is consolidated in the Maldives. It is always my wish that we have a more prosperous life,” Nasheed stated.
MDP supporters were heard cheering during the press conference following Nasheed’s statements.
Nasheed was greeted with joyful applause, chants of “Anni”, and was surrounded by a throng of supporters as he exited the building to give a speech near Usfasgandu.
Nasheed claimed his decision to seek refuge in the Indian High Commission was not pre-planned during his recent visit to the country.
“We are living in a very vibrant period of time. We are never certain when we will get arrested or when we will be released from custody. This is not something faced by myself alone. But the biggest attacks are targeted against me,” he said.
“I believe the danger posed towards me is far graver than others. I have faced more attacks than any other person possible could have faced. But we all should understand that our safety lies at the hands of almighty Allah. We maintain that protection by seeking courage from each other,” he added.
The former President also contended that leaders of all political parties should get the opportunity to compete in the upcoming presidential elections peacefully.
“I came out of the Indian High Commission because I believe I can now carry out political activities and that I too could take part in social activities in the country. My wish has always been that Maldives remains a democracy,” he said.
“I thank the Indian people and its High Commission. I do also thank the people of the Maldives and supporters of MDP. What is now important is that we win the next presidential elections,” he said.
Nasheed repeated his statement that the MDP would contest in the upcoming presidential elections and re-establish its government in the country.
“I believe that the presidential elections will not proceed without all political party leaders being able to fairly compete in it,” he said.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it will boycott the elections should its presidential candidate Nasheed – who was been elected through a direct vote from its members – be barred from contesting in the elections.
Nasheed also expressed sadness over the brutal attack against Raajje TV News Head Ibrahim ‘Aswad’ Waheed last night, who is currently fighting for his life in a Sri Lankan hospital.
“I take part in the grieving of the brutal attack on Aswaad. Attacks on journalists hinder our development [as a society]. That is an attack on us, the people. I really do hope that we let go of such vindictive acts and focus on our development and that all of us can compete in the elections,” he said..
Highlighting on the flaws within the judiciary, Nasheed said that he believed that judicial reforms could be “achieved through dialogue and negotiations”.
He also said that delaying his ongoing trial “would not compromise anyone’s rights” and that it was important the next presidential election was “inclusive”.
His short speech was followed by an MDP march around Male’ in support of Nasheed, calling on citizens to support “independent news” following the attack violent on a Raajje TV journalist in the early hours of Saturday (February 23).
Speaking to the Press Trust of India, President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad said the government “welcomes” the development, and that there was no arrest warrant against Nasheed at present.
“I am happy that the longest meeting in the world has ended. We were formally told by the High Commission on the first day that Nasheed had come into the Mission for a meeting and will be out once it is over,” Masood told PTI.
Indian diplomatic efforts
The Indian High Commission expressed hope that Nasheed “will again resume his social and political life.”
“India would be happy to support all efforts to create favourable conditions for free, fair, credible and inclusive Presidential elections in September 2013 that can contribute to durable peace, stability and prosperity in Maldives and the region,” the High Commission said in a statement.
Nasheed’s departure from the protected diplomatic territory – which prevented police from acting on two court warrants for his arrest – follows a series of meetings by Joint Secretary of India’s Ministry of External Affairs Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
“These interactions have provided some forward movement and the team continues to work further on the available inputs so that the matter could be resolved to satisfaction,” the High Commission stated on Friday, despite various reports in Indian media that President Mohamed Waheed had been unable to meet with the delegation due to his “very busy schedule”.
No information has yet emerged as to whether Nasheed’s exit from the High Commission is related to a specific commitment from the government or Nasheed’s political opponents not to pursue charges against him, ahead of the September 7 presidential elections.
The saga has however led to widespread international backing, including from the UN, US, UK, Commonwealth and EU, that the presidential elections be “inclusive” and that all parties are able to put forward the candidates of their choice in the upcoming elections.
Nasheed’s press conference after leaving the Indian High Commission: