Maldivian authorities arrested the nation's Vice President Ahmed Adeeb over a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen Gayoom. The president had escaped death after his boat was hit by an alleged bomb attack.
Maldives police announced that Vice President Ahmed Adeeb has been arrested on suspicion of having links to a bomb blast on the presidential boat last month. He was charged with high treason.
Police spokesman Ismail Ali said that Adeeb had been detained on Saturday at the airport when he returned from an official visit to China. Adeeb has denied that he was linked to the explosion.
Gayooom only appointed his 33-year-old deputy Adeeb three months ago after impeaching his original running mate Mohamed Jameel - also on charges of treason.
Security has been tightened in the capital, Male, to prevent any protests related to the arrest.
The Maldivian leader was unhurt in the blast but his wife and two other bodyguards suffered minor injuries. Authorities had initially said that the blast could have been the result of a mechanical failure, but they announced later the blast had been a failed attempt to assassinate Gayoom.
Vice President Ahmed Adeeb has denied any involvement in the attack, which targeted Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Gayoom
The government said the device had reportedly been placed under the seat usually occupied by the president, who only escaped unhurt because he wasn't sitting there at the time. The September 28 explosion took place when President Gayoom and his wife were returning to the capital from the airport after a hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. With the airport of the archipelago state being located on a separate island, journeys on speedboats are the usual route to and from the airport.
The arrest came after authorities had launched a criminal investigation, which included support from the United States, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka. Maldivian authorities have also arrested two security personnel who had access to Yameen's boat.
Hours before the arrest on Saturday the president fired his police chief Hussain Waheed - the latest in a series of dismissals seen as a purge of individuals whose loyalties may be in question.
Earlier in October, Yameen had sacked his defense minister Moosa Ali Jaleel without providing a specific reason. The sacking came only 10 months since the previous defense minister, Mohamed Nazim, was dismissed from the position. He later had to face a controversial trial and was convicted of arms smuggling and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Deutsche Welle interview
In an exclusive interview with DW earlier in October, Adeeb defended the current Maldivian leadership style, which eventually led to his arrest.
President Abdulla Yameen Gayoom had just returned from Saudi Arabia, when the alleged assassination attempt took place
"Under no circumstances does the government or any associated agency order arbitrary arrests," he told Deutsche Welle in an exclusive interview while referring to protests against the government. Maldives, a popular tourist destination, has been at the center of controversy since Yameen came to power in a hotly contested presidential election in 2013.
His rival, then-President Mohamed Nasheed, was given a 13-year jail sentence earlier this year under charges of terrorism, drawing criticism from around the globe and resulting in various government protests.
ss/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)