India moves to end Maldives stand-off, case put off

MALE (AFP) - A Maldivian court on Wednesday postponed the trial of opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, who has taken refuge in the Indian embassy, as New Delhi sent an envoy to try to end the political standoff.

The court postponed the hearing scheduled for Wednesday after police said they were unable to arrest the former president and bring him before the magistrate, according to Nasheed's party.

"The hearing was cancelled after police informed the court that they were unable to bring Nasheed (to court)," a spokeswoman for Nasheed's party, Shauna Aminath, told AFP.

Former foreign minister Ahmed Naseem said the government could re-schedule another hearing "at any time" and try to arrest Nasheed again.

Presidential spokesman Masood Imad confirmed that the hearing had been cancelled but insisted that the case was still pending.

Nasheed has been at the embassy in Male since last week, when an arrest warrant was issued after he failed to attend court for what he called a politically-motivated trial aimed at disqualifying him from elected office.

Top Indian diplomat Harsh Vardhan Shringla arrived in the Maldives and was due to hold talks with political leaders in the nation of 330,000 Sunni Muslims, a government source said.

Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party said they wanted the Indian envoy to secure guarantees of safety for him before he leaves the embassy, and also to secure an agreement that he can stand in the Sept 7 presidential election.

The Maldivian foreign ministry on Sunday had summoned Indian High Commissioner D.M. Mulay to protest that India was allowing Nasheed to use its embassy for political activities.

India last week appealed to its tiny neighbour to guarantee "the integrity of the electoral process" before the presidential election, but has strongly denied interfering.

Nasheed is accused of abusing his powers after he won the island nation's first free elections in 2008. The former pro-democracy activist was ousted last year by violent protests and by a mutiny by police and troops.

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