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Maldives president resigns amid unrest

Nasheed said he did not want to run the country with an iron fist in his resignation speech. Photo: BBC

MALDIVES President Mohamed Nasheed has resigned after weeks of demonstrations and a mutiny by some police officers.

In an address on state TV, he said it would be “better for the country in the current situation” if he stood down.

Earlier, a group of mutinying police officers took control of the state broadcaster in the capital, Male.

Tensions escalated after the Maldives army arrested a senior judge last month, prompting bitter street protests in the Indian Ocean island chain.

Soldiers used tear gas to break up a demonstration by supporters of ex-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Nasheed announced his resignation during a televised news conference.

“It will be better for the country in the current situation if I resign. I don’t want to run the country with an iron fist. I am resigning,” Nasheed said.

Earlier, sources in the office of President Nasheed told the BBC a group of policemen had taken over the state broadcaster and began playing out messages in support of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Several journalists were said to be detained in the facility.

Sources in the office of Nasheed told the BBC Tuesday’s protest took place in front of military headquarters, a high-security zone.

The president’s office released a statement saying the government has taken “all necessary actions to stabilise the situation in Male”.

On Monday, around 50 policemen stood down in favour of the protesters and refused to obey orders.

The president’s office denied reports that the army fired rubber bullets at the protesting police officers.

The clashes are said to be a struggle for power between the former president, whose 30-year rule was widely seen as autocratic, and his successor, who took power in 2008 and is credited with ushering in the country’s first democratically elected government, our correspondent says.

Judge’s arrest

Last month the army arrested a senior criminal court judge, Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

The government alleged that the judge’s rulings – such as the release of an opposition activist detained without a warrant – were politically motivated.

It says the dispute with the judge is not an isolated incident but indicative of a more deep-rooted problem with the Maldives judicial system and the checks and balances it has to ensure it stays independent.

The BBC’s correspondent in the region, Charles Haviland, says since the 2008 elections brought former human rights campaigner Mohammed Nasheed to the presidency, the Maldives has been gripped by constitutional gridlock – especially because parties opposed to Nasheed now dominate parliament.

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