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Maldives denies deal as ex-president back in action

MALE: The Maldivian government yesterday denied any deal to allow former President Mohamed Nasheed to end his refuge at the Indian Embassy in the capital and resume election campaigning without fear of arrest.
Presidential spokesman Abbas Riaz said Nasheed walked out of the embassy on Saturday afternoon of his own will and there was no agreement with an Indian mediator who rushed to the Maldives last week to resolve a tense standoff.
“There is no deal, absolutely no deal with the Indians or anyone else,” Riaz said, in the government’s first reaction to Nasheed leaving the embassy to resume his political work.
Nasheed, 45, sought refuge at the embassy on Feb. 13, straining ties between regional power India and its small neighbor Maldives, after an arrest warrant was issued following his failure to attend court.
He says his trial is a “politically motivated” attempt to disqualify him from an election due on Sept. 7, a charge denied by the government.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said Nasheed was meeting with visiting Western diplomats yesterday and would start house-to-house campaigning from today.
“He is back on the campaign trail,” MDP spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said. “India arranged a deal to give political space for Nasheed to contest... but still there is a risk (of arrest). We don’t trust this rogue regime.” The Maldivian government insists that it will not interfere with a judicial process.
India sent its special envoy, senior diplomat Harsh Vardhan Shringla, to mediate an end to the crisis after Nasheed took refuge in its High Commission. New Delhi said in a statement shortly after Nasheed left the embassy that it had been working with all sides to “strengthen democracy” in the nation of 330,00 Sunni Muslims and urged all to maintain “peace and calm.”
Nasheed, a pro-democracy campaigner, won the first free elections in 2008 in the Indian Ocean holiday destination but was ousted last year following a mutiny by police and troops.
His court hearing slated for last Wednesday was postponed because he could not be arrested while he was inside the Indian Embassy.
During heightened anti-government protests just before he walked out of the embassy, three journalists were attacked and injured in two separate incidents early Saturday, police said.
A journalist from private, pro-opposition Raajje TV suffered serious head injuries after being beaten with an iron rod, police said, adding that he was flown to neighboring Sri Lanka for specialized treatment.
Two female state TV reporters were assaulted while covering an MDP protest and were admitted to hospital locally, but were reported to be out of danger, police said.
The US embassy in Male condemned both attacks in a message posted on its website.
“We urge all Maldivians to refrain from violence, and urge protesters and police to respect the right of all media outlets to cover demonstrations,” it said.
President Mohamed Waheed also condemned the attacks.
“The president has assured that the government would not step back in bringing to justice, those responsible for this act of brutality,” Waheed’s office said in a statement.