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Maldives ex-president charged over judge's arrest

The former president of the Maldives has been formally charged with illegally ordering the arrest of a senior judge, the move that led to the president's ouster earlier this year.

The judge's secret arrest in January was deemed illegal because it did not follow the procedure laid down for arresting a top official, Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem said.

The charge filed Sunday against former President Mohamed Nasheed carries a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment or banishment to a remote island.

Nasheed had ordered the military to arrest the chief judge of the country's criminal court on accusations of political bias and corruption. The judge's secret detention triggered weeks of unrest in the Indian Ocean archipelago known for expensive resorts.

Nasheed was a pro-democracy political prisoner before becoming president in the Maldives' first multiparty election in 2008. In the wake of the judge's ouster, he resigned as president in February after losing the support of the military and police.

He quickly insisted he was ousted in a coup, and his supporters have rallied since then for new elections.

Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, a party spokesman speaking for Nasheed, said Monday he did not expect the trial to be fair, accusing the judiciary of being corrupt and influenced by the country's 30-year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Nasheed's supporters demonstrated for a sixth day Sunday demanding that new President Mohammed Waheed Hassan resign and call early elections. The protesters say their campaign would continue until they win.

Hassan says he will hold elections in July 2013, the earliest time permitted by the constitution.