Maldives president asks for unity while rioting rages on (+video)
Backers of the Maldives former president clashed with police while the country's new leader sought to bring unity to government after months of turmoil.
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Hassan, who had promised to protect Nasheed from retribution, said his predecessor was not under any restriction and was free to leave the country. However, he said he would not interfere with any police or court action against Nasheed.Skip to next paragraph
Police were investigating the discovery of at least 100 bottles of alcohol inside a truck removing garbage Tuesday from the presidential residence as Nasheed prepared to relinquish power, said police spokesman Ahmed Shyam. Consuming alcohol outside tourist resorts is a crime in this Muslim nation. If charged and convicted of possession of alcohol, Nasheed could be sent to jail for three years, banished to a distant island, placed under house arrest or fined.
Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director Sam Zarifi called on the new government not to seek retribution against Nasheed.
Nasheed presented his resignation in a nationally televised address Tuesday afternoon after police joined demonstrators who had spent weeks protesting his decision to arrest a top judge and then clashed with soldiers in the streets. Some of the soldiers then defected to the police side.
Nasheed's party insisted his ouster was engineered by rogue elements of the police and supporters of the country's former autocratic leader. Others blamed Islamic extremists.
Nasheed defended his government.
"I did not want wealth or to continue in the presidency, but I wanted to bring good governance," he said.
The dueling leaders ran as a ticket in the nation's first multiparty elections in 2008 after Nasheed's MDP formed a coalition with Hassan's Gaumee Itthihaad Party, or National Unity Party.
In a news conference Wednesday, Hassan sought to tamp down fears that Islamists were gaining power.
"They are part of the society; you can't ignore them," he said. "But there are wide range of people with different views, philosophies and ideas about politics. I am planning to create a plural multiparty government."
He also worked to reassure the vital tourism industry that the country, known for its stunning beaches and lavish resorts, remained a peaceful place to visit.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement he hoped Nasheed's resignation would lead to a peaceful resolution of the political crisis.
U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco is scheduled to lead a U.N. team to the country later this week to help the Maldives resolve its political tensions.
Nasheed's resignation marked a stunning fall for the former human rights campaigner who defeated the nation's longtime ruler, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, in the country's first multiparty elections in 2008. Nasheed was also an environmental celebrity calling for global action to combat the climate change that could raise sea levels and inundate his archipelago nation.
Over the past year, Nasheed was battered by protests over soaring prices and demands for more religiously conservative policies.