Maldives Soldiers Fire Rubber Bullets At Police

Published February 7, 2012 4:27AM (EST)

MALE, Maldives (AP) — Maldives soldiers on Tuesday fired rubber bullets and clashed with police officers who were defying a presidential order to end a protest against what they perceive as illegal orders by authorities.

Hundreds of police started demonstrating early Tuesday in the capital, Male, after officials ordered them to withdraw protection for government and opposition supporters protesting close to each other. The withdrawal resulted in a clash that injured at least three people.

President Mohamed Nasheed later visited the police and urged them to end the protest, but they refused and instead chanted for his resignation. Reporters saw soldiers firing rubber bullets, but an official from the president's office denied that.

Protests have become a daily occurrence in the Maldives after Nasheed ordered the arrest of a senior judge three weeks ago. The chief judge of the country's criminal court, Abdulla Mohamed, was taken into custody after ruling a government critic's arrest was illegal and ordering him freed.

The Indian Ocean nation's vice president, Supreme Court, Human Rights Commission, Judicial Services Commission and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have all called for Mohamed to be released.

The government accuses the judge of political bias and corruption. It says that the country's judicial system has failed and has called on the U.N to help solve the crisis.

The Maldives, an archipelago nation of 300,000 people, is a fresh democracy, with 30 years of autocratic rule ending in 2008 when Nasheed was elected. Nasheed is a former pro-democracy political prisoner.

By Salon Staff

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