AFP Former Maldives president and opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed has been sentenced to 13 years in prison after being convicted of a terrorism charge, a ruling likely to fuel further unrest in the honeymoon islands.
A three-judge criminal court unanimously found Nasheed, the Indian Ocean archipelago's first democratically elected leader, guilty of ordering the arrest of a chief judge when he was president in January 2012.
"Nasheed is found guilty of arresting and illegally detaining judge Abdulla Mohamed," judge Abdulla Didi told the court late Friday. Nasheed was then taken to Dhoonidhoo prison, near the capital island Male.
Nasheed, however, remained defiant and through his office urged supporters to take to the streets and continue the protests they have been holding since his incarceration on February 22.
"I appeal to all of you today to stay courageous and strong, to confront the dictatorial power of this regime," his office quoted him as saying.
Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the verdict dealt a blow to the young democracy seven years after it embraced multi-party elections following three decades of rule by former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
"Democracy jailed for 13 years on March 13, 2015," said MDP spokeswoman Shauna Aminath. "Nothing good will come out of this. It's a sad, sad, sad day for the Maldives," she added.
Local media reported that after the ruling police clashed with pro-Nasheed protesters across Male.
The United States said in a statement it was "concerned" at the "apparent lack of appropriate criminal procedures during the trial" against Nasheed.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US called on Male to "restore confidence in its commitment to democracy and the rule of law".
"We urge the government to ensure former president Nasheed's safety and well-being in custody, and we hope all Maldivians will express their views peacefully," she said