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Maldives president resigns after protests over detained judge

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed resigned on Tuesday after weeks of protests over the detainment of senior criminal court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, who was arrested last month for corruption [JURIST report]. Nasheed, the country's first democratically-elected president, stepped down [press release], saying in a public address: "I believe if I continue as the President of the Maldives, the people of the country would suffer more. ... I wish the Maldives would have a consolidated democracy. I wish for justice to be established." His vice president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan [official profile], took over the presidency Tuesday afternoon, vowing to uphold the rule of law [press release], protect the Maldives Constitution [text, PDF] and prevent any attempted retaliation against former leaders. Hassan, who has worked as a UNICEF [official website] official, had called for the Mohamed's release [CSM report] while serving as vice president. Mohamed was arrested in an unprecedented move by the military, following his ruling to release a government critic. Local media on Tuesday evening reported that Mohamed had been released [Minivan report].

The Maldives has faced ongoing unrest since Mohamed's arrest, as well as other political struggles following the adoption of its constitution [JURIST report] in late 2008. Last month, the UN called for Mohamed's release days after the Maldives Minister of Foreign Affairs [official website] asked the UN to help them resolve [JURIST reports] what they called a judicial system failure. The same week, a group of Maldives lawyers submitted [JURIST report] to the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] the case, calling Mohamed's continued detention a violation of the International Convention on the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance [text]. In the country's first democratic elections in 2008, Nasheed defeated longtime political opponent Maumoon Abdul Gayoon [BBC profile], ending his 30-year rule. During today's street protests, some worried that the violence may have been a coup attempt by Gayoon, but the government has denied [Reuters report] such claims.

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