Maldives ex-leader takes refuge in India embassy

Former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed took refuge inside the Indian High Commission in the capital Male on Wednesday after a magistrate ordered his arrest, party officials said.

Mohamed Nasheed went into the diplomatic compound around midday and was likely to remain until a hearing in a higher court which could decide to quash the warrant, party spokeswoman Shauna Aminath told AFP.

"We have appealed against the arrest warrant and we expect a decision shortly," Aminath said when contacted by telephone. "He is inside the High Commission with some MPs" from his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

There was no immediate comment from the Indian authorities.

"He is inside having one-on-one discussions with the High Commissioner," MDP lawmaker Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told AFP. "The High Commission is the safest place for him."

A magistrates court for the island of Hulhumale near the capital issued an arrest warrant on Monday after Nasheed failed to turn up for a hearing the previous day.

The pro-democracy activist has been charged with abusing his power as president after winning the first free elections in the Indian Ocean archipelago in 2008.

Nasheed was forced out of power in February last year after prolonged public demonstrations against him and a mutiny by police which he described as a coup orchestrated by former strongman ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

"He has absconded the court proceedings and the court has ordered the police to present him before it by 04:00 pm (1100 GMT) today," Masood Imad, a spokesman for President Mohammed Waheed, told AFP.

"Maldivian police under no condition will enter the Indian High Commission and so it's a wait-and-watch situation for the police," he added.

Nasheed was briefly arrested in October last year at the start of the trial.