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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 17:54 GMT
Maldives protesters cancel rally
Protesters in the Maldives
The opposition say their supporters have been detained and ill-treated
An opposition protest in the Maldives has been called off after what organisers say is a "sustained campaign of government harassment".

Activists from the one of the main opposition parties, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) say over 100 of their activists have been arrested.

AN MDP official said that the decision to cancel was taken to prevent MDP supporters from coming to harm.

The government has said Friday's demonstration would have been illegal.

They have accused the MDP of trying to stage the demonstration in order to overthrow the government.

It says its response to the protest has been "very restrained".

'Prevent bloodshed'

But the MDP says that some of its key activists have been imprisoned and tortured by the authorities in the run-up to the protest.

It says that those detained include people travelling to the capital, Male, by boat from outlying islands.

We will not stop campaigning against this government unless or until it speeds up the reform process
MDP spokesman Ahmed Moosa

The MDP says that a British observer from the Maldives Aid organisation has also been detained and is likely to be deported.

"We have decided to call off the demonstration in consultation with the international community," MDP spokesman Ahmed Moosa told the BBC from his home in the UK.

"We don't want a confrontation with the government and have taken this decision to prevent any bloodshed and to stop a campaign of violence against our supporters.

"We will not stop campaigning against this government unless or until it speeds up the reform process," he said.

The Maldives government has been under international pressure over its human rights record and says it is implementing democratic reforms.

The authorities and opposition recently reached an agreement under which a number of opposition detainees have been freed.

But correspondents say relations between the two sides have recently taken a turn for the worse.

The government recently accused "radical elements of the MDP" of trying to trigger a coup in the country.

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Country profile: The Maldives
18 Jan 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: The Maldives
07 Aug 02 |  Country profiles

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