Police break up Maldives anti-govt protest

Maldives police on Sunday used tear gas and batons to break up a protest by opposition activists demanding President Mohammed Nasheed step down over the island nation’s worsening economic plight.

Opposition spokesman Mohammed Shareef said dozens of people were injured at the early morning clashes that erupted after crowds gathered in the capital, Male, on Saturday.

“The demonstration was crushed brutally,” Shareef told AFP by telephone. “At least 30 of our supporters were arrested including a parliamentarian, and scores of women supporters.”

Police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam said officers had used tear gas and batons in self-defence after coming under attack when trying to break up the protest.

He added that some arrests had been made due to public property being damaged.

Nasheed was elected president in the country’s first multi-party election in 2008, ending Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-years of one-party rule, but the country has recently struggled with soaring food prices and unemployment.

The opposition movement is led by Gayoom’s Dhivehi Raithunge Party, which accuses the government of wasteful spending and financial mismanagement.

The Maldives, a nation of 1,200 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean, is famous as a luxury holiday destination but is also home to 330,000 Sunni Muslims, many of whom live in poverty.

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