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Maldives quits Commonwealth over rights row
[MALÉ, Maldives] The Maldives angrily quit the Commonwealth on Thursday after years of wrangling over its human rights record since the toppling of its first democratically-elected leader four years ago.
The troubled honeymoon island nation said it had been treated "unjustly and unfairly" by the bloc, a voluntary association of more than 50 countries, many of them former territories of the British empire.
"The decision to leave the Commonwealth was difficult, but inevitable," said a statement from the foreign ministry.
The former British protectorate has come under intense international pressure since the controversial conviction of former president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.
The Commonwealth put Male on notice after Nasheed stood down as president in February 2012 and said he had been forced out in a coup.
It has since criticised the government over its crackdown on dissidents and its controversial judiciary, and sent a special envoy to try and improve the archipelago's rights record.
In its statement the Maldives, which had previously threatened to pull out of the bloc, accused the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat of interfering in its affairs.
"The Commonwealth has sought to become an active participant in the domestic political discourse in the Maldives, which is contrary to the principles of the charters of the UN and the Commonwealth," it said.
"The Commonwealth Secretariat seem to be convinced that the Maldives... would be an easy object that can be used, especially in the name of democracy promotion, to increase the organisation's own relevance and leverage in international politics."
The country of 340,000 Sunni Muslims is famed for its coral-fringed islands but has been gripped by political unrest since the fall of Nasheed and there are regular anti-government protests.
All its opposition leaders are either in exile or in jail.
Mr Nasheed secured political asylum in Britain this year after travelling to London for medical treatment while on prison leave from a controversial 13-year prison sentence.
The country becomes the latest to leave the Commonwealth after Gambia which quit in October 2013.