05/04/2011, 00.00
MALDIVES
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Anti-government protests in the Maldives: Opposition leader arrested

Fourth night of demonstrations against rising prices and the policies of President Mohammed Nasheed. Police detain Uman Naseer and charge protesters within batons. Dozens arrested. In recent weeks, in food prices rose 30% while local currency was, devalued.

Malé (AsiaNews / Agencies) – On the fourth night of protests in the Maldives, where people have been pouring through the streets shouting slogans against the government, the police charged protesters beating them and arresting an opposition leader and Human Rights activist. Leading the revolt the Dhivehi Raiyyithunge party, headed by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is calling for the resignation of the head of state Mohamed Nasheed, charged with being incapable of resolving the economic crisis and repression of political dissidents.

Over night the police arrested Uman Naseer, a leader of the opposition, while he was leading the anti-government protest in the streets of the capital Malé, followed by dozens of supporters. The protesters call for decisive action to contain inflation. The cause of the riots, now in their fourth day, the 30% increase of food prices, resulting in the executive decision to devalue the value of local currency against the dollar.

Witnesses report that Naseer was handcuffed and thrown into a van by the police, while officers in riot gear dispersed the crowd. "The police are chasing protesters," Mohammed Shareef, a spokesman for the opposition, told AFP. He confirms that "there are some injuried, who have been transported to the hospital," many others "have been arrested."

The Maldives, a nation made up of 1,200 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean, are famous for luxury resorts and beaches, a favourite destination for many tourists from all over the world. The local population consists of about 330 thousand people, mostly Sunni Muslims and live in poverty.

The current President Nasheed was arrested several times in the past for the opposition to the autocratic regime of Gayoom, who led the country for about 30 years. The turning point in the presidential elections of 2008, the first democratic and multi-party in the modern era, which marked the victory of the former leader of the opposition.

However, even the current Government is facing serious charges, including mismanagement of public property and numerous cases of corruption, along with clear and repeated violations of religious freedom (see AsiaNews 19/02/2009, No place for religious freedom in the Maldives’ new democratic dispensation). Human rights organization Forum18said that Nasheed not only failed to introduce innovations in the field compared to his predecessor, but has even increased the powers of the Ministry for Islamic Affairs.

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