MDP cries foul over government refusal to honour deal

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called on President Abdulla Yameen to honour commitments made to release former president Mohamed Nasheed and other jailed politicians.

Instead of releasing Nasheed on Thursday as rumoured, the state decided to appeal his terrorism conviction. His 13-year jail term, however, has been commuted to house arrest.

Revealing details of the government’s demands for the first time, the MDP said President Yameen had requested opposition backing to amend the constitution to set new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency, and the impeachment of Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

The government also asked for legislative support for specific projects, later revealed to be a second constitutional amendment to allow foreigners to buy land in the Maldives.

The MDP said it had delivered on all counts by issuing a three-line whip on the first two demands, and a free whip on the controversial foreign freeholds amendment. The party said it had also complied with a moratorium on street protests.

The free whip on foreign freeholds has divided MDP supporters. The party said it had issued a free whip line because it believes in free ownership of land and property, but had reservations that the amendment could lead to foreign, non-commercial logistical installations or military bases being built in the Maldives.

In return, it had asked for freedom for political prisoners, including Nasheed, the dropping of charges against more than 1,000 political activists and reforms to the judiciary and independent institutions.

The government agreed and home minister Umar Naseer made a number of promises during the talks that began on July 1, the party said.

“The MDP believes the government of Maldives must follow through on its commitments before the Independence Day celebrations on July 26,” the party said.

Stressing that it had entered talks with the government in good faith, the MDP said it had hoped to see meaningful reform to the “hopelessly politicised and corrupt” judiciary and independent institutions. Further, the party also wished to usher in a parliamentary system of government for the Maldives.

Nasheed’s legal team on Friday called the Prosecutor General’s decision to appeal the terrorism conviction “a charade,” and said they will make a decision to participate after discussion with the opposition leader’s international legal team.

The lawyers said the appeal could affect ongoing talks between the opposition and the government over the release of jailed politicians.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali said in a tweet yesterday that he did not believe the actions of independent body of the state could “obstruct talks between the government and MDP.”

In a brief statement on Thursday, the PG office said the decision to appeal the conviction was made based on concerns raised over due process in the trial and Nasheed’s request for the PG to appeal the conviction as well as his contentions over procedural violations, insufficient time to mount a defence, and inability to appeal due to the criminal court’s failure to provide a full report and transcripts of the trial within a 10-day period for filing appeals.

Diplomatic pressure had been mounting on President Yameen to release Nasheed, but the international community has been silent since the MDP started negotiating with the government.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) opted to keep the Maldives off its agenda soon after talks began. President Yameen has now asked the parliament for its counsel on leaving the Commonwealth.

The UN working group on arbitrary detention is meanwhile expected to rule on Nasheed’s imprisonment in September or October. In a response to the UN, the government insisted Nasheed must appeal the sentence.

There appears to be no progress on the release of the Adhaalath Party president or two former defence ministers.

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Independence Day celebrations kick off with fireworks

Celebrations for the Maldives’ golden jubilee of independence kicked off on Friday night with a massive fireworks display at the newly renovated Republic Square.

Thousands watched in awe as the night sky over Malé lit up for more than half an hour with the largest display of fireworks the country has ever seen.

President Abdulla Yameen, first lady Fathimath Ibrahim, former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan oversaw the celebrations. Judges, cabinet ministers, heads of independent institutions and some diplomats were present as well.

Maldives will celebrate 50 years of independence from the British on July 26.

A team of 23 individuals, including students, doctors, pilots and sportsmen cut the ribbons and officially opened the Republic Square before the fireworks display.

State owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company has built a new musical fountain at the main square. At the center of the fountain is a monument symbolizing unity. The fountain started sprouting water when a group of children carrying traditional water containers poured water inside it.


Photos courtesy of President’s Office

Housing minister Mohamed Muizz said millions had been spent to renovate the Republic Square. According to the Finance Ministry, a budget of MVR150million (US$9.7million) has been allocated for Independence Day celebrations.

All government buildings, streets, lampposts and hundreds of trees and walls in Malé city have been decked in blinking red, yellow and white neon lights.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will arrive at 12:45pm today for the official function to be held at the Usfasgandu area tomorrow morning. He is the only head of state to attend Maldives’ golden jubilee of independence.

Other dignitaries from China, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Mauritius, Japan, Bangladesh are expected to arrive throughout the day today.

The government is yet to disclose the full program of events for the weekend. The celebrations include a parade by the army and school brass bands, reopening of public parks, official games at the national stadium and football tournaments.

Former presidents Ibrahim Nasir and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom will receive an honorary shield at the official function tomorrow.

A three hour play, depicting different stages of Maldivian history from the Buddhist-era to the present will take place at the national stadium on July 27.

Bollywood pop star Sanam Puri is to perform in Malé tonight.

The anti-corruption commission is investigating the home ministry’s use of the MVR150million budget.

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Nasheed’s sentence was commuted to house arrest before state decision to appeal

Questioning the state’s decision to appeal a terrorism conviction against former President Mohamed Nasheed, lawyers revealed today that the opposition leader’s 13-year jail sentence was commuted to house arrest on July 19.

“The government of the Maldives has permanently moved President Nasheed to house arrest for the balance of his 13-year term in prison,” the opposition leader international lawyer Jared Genser told reporters in Colombo this afternoon.

The Maldivian high commission in Sri Lanka confirmed the move to AFP. Nasheed’s domestic legal team told Minivan News the decision had been communicated in writing.

The PG office announced the decision to appeal the guilty verdict yesterday amidst rumours that President Abdulla Yameen will pardon Nasheed in exchange for the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) backing for several crucial votes in parliament.

Speaking at a press conference in Malé today, lawyer Hassan Latheef said the legal team believes the government has exerted undue influence over the PG to appeal the case in a bid to appease growing international pressure.

The European parliament, the British prime minister, the US secretary of state, the UN Human Rights Council and various international organisations have called for Nasheed’s release, Latheef noted, adding that the legal team had expected the former president to be pardoned as a result of talks.

But President Yameen could now “tell the international community that President Nasheed’s case is out of his hands,” Latheef suggested.

“We believe that there is intense foreign pressure on the government to release President Nasheed and the case was on President Yameen’s table. But we now believe that the government has sent the case to the prosecutor general’s table,” he said.

The government will be able to tell the numerous foreign diplomats expected to arrive in the Maldives to attend an official function to celebrate 50 years of independence on July 26 that Nasheed’s case has been appealed by the state, Latheef said.

Some diplomats would accept that the president could not intervene in the judicial process or grant clemency before the appeal process is exhausted, he added.

Latheef said the legal team will decide whether or not to participate in the “charade” following consultations with Nasheed’s international lawyers. The state’s sudden reversal of stance may affect ongoing talks between the opposition and the government, lawyers suggested.

Genser meanwhile told reporters today that he was denied a business visa to work in the Maldives last week and was told that he needed further authorisation from the Supreme Court certifying that he was licensed to practise law internationally.

“There is no Maldivian law, regulation, or rule that imposes such a requirement on applicants for business visas who are lawyers – it appears the Supreme Court specially designed this requirement just for me,” he said.

Genser is representing Nasheed along with Amal Clooney, the wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, and Ben Emmerson, a UN rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights. The international lawyers have filed an appeal at the UN working group on arbitrary detention seeking a judgment declaring Nasheed’s imprisonment illegal.

Appeal

In a brief statement yesterday, the PG office said the decision to appeal the conviction was made based on concerns raised over due process in the trial and Nasheed’s request for the PG to appeal the conviction as well as his contentions over procedural violations, insufficient time to mount a defence, and inability to appeal due to the criminal court’s failure to provide a full report and transcripts of the trial within a 10-day period for filing appeals.

Lawyer Hisaan Hussain noted that Muhsin had repeatedly rejected requests for the state to appeal the conviction, insisting that Nasheed could file an appeal despite the lapse of a 10-day period and that the PG would not appeal a verdict in his favour.

The PG’s sudden reversal of stance while talks seeking Nasheed’s release were ongoing “raises questions about his purpose and intent,” Hisaan said.

Muhsin told the press in May that he believed Nasheed’s appeal had “a high possibility of being accepted at the high court since Nasheed is a former president, since it is related to a judge and since it is a terrorism charge.”

The Supreme Court had shortened the appeal period  from 90 days to 10 by striking down provisions in the Judicature Act a month before Nasheed’s arrest on February 22.

Last month, the High Court, citing lateness, rejected an appeal filed by the Prosecutor General over the acquittal of a defendant on murder charges.

On June 20, President Yameen rejected Nasheed’s appeal for clemency, urging him to exhaust all appeal processes first. The opposition leader’s lawyers say that the Clemency Act grants the president the discretion, on the president’s own initiative, to commute the sentence of any individual convicted of a criminal offence.

The next day, Nasheed was transferred to house arrest for eight weeks.

Shortly thereafter, the MDP and the government began talks on clemency for Nasheed and other jailed politicians as well as the withdrawal of charges against some 1,400 opposition supporters.

Opposition MPs subsequently backed the impeachment of vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel and a constitutional amendment setting new age limits for the presidency and vice presidency. The amendment allowed President Yameen to replace Jameel with the influential tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

The MDP also issued a free whip on a second constitutional amendment to allow foreign freeholds in the Maldives. Some 19 opposition MPs, including ten MDP MPs, voted to pass the amendment.

At the fourth meeting of talks last week, MDP representative Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had suggested that Nasheed may be released before July 26.

The UN working group on arbitrary detention is meanwhile expected to rule on Nasheed’s imprisonment in September or October. In a response to the UN, the government insisted Nasheed must appeal the sentence.

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PG to appeal former president’s terrorism conviction

Citing irregularities and rights violations in the terrorism trial of former president Mohamed Nasheed, the Prosecutor General has announced today that he will appeal the criminal court’s verdict.

The decision comes amidst rumors that President Abdulla Yameen will pardon the opposition leader ahead of July 26, the day Maldives marks 50 years of independence from the British.

In a brief statement issued at 6pm, PG Muthaz Muhsin said: “As various parties are raising questions about how the trial proceeded, and as Mohamed Nasheed has said his rights were violated, and that he did not have sufficient time to prepare for the case, and that he did not receive the case documents for an appeal, and since Mohamed Nasheed has asked the prosecutor general to appeal the case, the Prosecutor General’s office has decided to appeal the terrorism conviction against Mohamed Nasheed at the Maldives’ High Court under authority granted to the prosecutor general by article 233(i) of the Maldives’ constitution.”

Article 233 authorises the PG to appeal any judgment, verdict or decision in a criminal matter.

It may take days for the appeal to begin with state offices closed until July 29 for independence day celebrations. The criminal court will now have to issue a trial record and the High Court registrar will then make a decision on accepting the appeal.

Nasheed was found guilty on terrorism charges over the military’s detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih, MP of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said he could not comment as Nasheed’s lawyers were presently discussing the development.

The Attorney General Mohamed Anil today dampened talk of an imminent pardon for Nasheed saying: “Such matters will be dealt with through established procedures in the criminal justice system… It will not happen without my knowledge. I have not received any information yet.”

On June 20, President Yameen rejected Nasheed’s appeal for clemency, urging him to exhaust all appeal processes first. The opposition leader’s lawyers say that the Clemency Act grants the president the discretion, on the president’s own initiative, to commute the sentence of any individual convicted of a criminal offence.

The next day, Nasheed was transferred to house arrest for eight weeks.

The MDP and the government subsequently began talks on clemency for Nasheed and other jailed politicians and withdrawal of charges against some 1,400 opposition supporters.

The opposition has backed several government proposals in hope of freedom for Nasheed, including the impeachment of vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel and a constitutional amendment setting new age limits for the presidency and vice presidency. The amendment allowed President Yameen to replace Jameel with the influential tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

The MDP also issued a free whip on a second constitutional amendment to allow foreign freeholds in the Maldives. Some 19 opposition MPs, including ten MDP MPs, voted to pass the amendment.

At the fourth meeting of talks last week, Ibu had suggested that Nasheed may be released before July 26.

The UN working group on arbitrary detention is expected to rule on Nasheed’s imprisonment in September or October. In a response to the UN, the government insisted Nasheed must appeal the sentence.

The opposition leader’s lawyers maintain they have no legal avenue to file an appeal as the Supreme Court had shortened a 90-day appeal period to 10 days, weeks before Nasheed’s trial began.

The High Court, citing lateness, last month rejected an appeal filed by the Prosecutor General over a murder acquittal. Public prosecutors blamed the delay on the criminal court’s failure to issue a trial record, as had happened in Nasheed’s case.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court last week acquitted a convicted drug trafficker citing irregularities similar to that raised by Nasheed’s lawyers.

In the unprecedented ruling, the apex court said the accused was not given access to a lawyer or the opportunity to call defence witnesses.

In a separate development, only four of the nine High Court judges are eligible to hear Nasheed’s appeal. This is because of two factors; three judges were transferred to a newly created appellate court branch in the south on June 23 and two of the three presiding judges in Nasheed’s prosecution were promoted on June 8 to fill two vacancies at the High Court.

Since the Judges Act states that an odd number of judges must preside over appeals, Nasheed’s appeal can still proceed with three judges.

An appeal filed by ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim was stalled at the High Court when the Supreme Court transferred judges overseeing his appeal to the southern branch.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the European parliament, and influential US Senators have called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

Reporting by Ahmed Naish and Shafaa Hameed. Writing by Zaheena Rasheed.

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Majlis votes overwhelming ‘Yes’ to Adeeb

Ahmed Adeeb, the influential tourism minister, has been sworn in as the Maldives’ new vice president at a ceremony at the President’s Office this afternoon. The People’s Majlis has approved his nomination with 70 votes in favor.

Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed administered the oath of office before the Majlis vote.

The new vice president thanked President Abdulla Yameen for his nomination.

He told local media he will only take half of his MVR75,000 salary and will reside at his home instead of the official vice presidential palace.

Adeeb will continue to handle the cabinet portfolio on tourism.

The seven No votes include opposition MPs Eva Abdulla, Mariya Ahmed Didi, Imthiyaz Mohamed Falah, Mohamed Aslam, Rozaina Adam, and Ahmed Mahloof.

The minority leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, MDP MP Fayyaz Ismail, Jumhooree Party’s Ali Hussein, and Adhaalath Party’s Anara Naeem abstained from the vote.

Adeeb’s appointment comes after the parliament impeached Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel with multi-party support yesterday.

The impeachment process was initiated by the PPM-MDA coalition. Pro-government MPs accused Jameel of incompetence, dereliction of duty, links with the opposition, failure to defend the government, and excessive expenditure from the state budget.

Last week, the parliament also approved changes to its standing orders to fast-track the process of voting on a president’s nominee to fill a vacancy in the vice president’s post. The rules were changed to allow the speaker to call for a vote on the day a committee’s evaluation report is sent to MPs. Items are normally tabled in the agenda three days after the committee report is sent out.

In late June, the parliament approved a first amendment to the constitution to set age limits of 30 to 65 years for the presidency and vice presidency. Adeeb is 33 years old and was previously ineligible for the post as the constitution required candidates to be above 35 years of age.

Opposition MPs’ backing for the amendment was widely perceived as part of a deal in exchange for transferring imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed to house arrest.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is currently engaged in talks with the government and has expressed hope that the opposition leader could be freed ahead of July 26 when the Maldives marks 50 years of independence.

Adeeb’s supporters meanwhile launched a social media campaign backing Adeeb for the vice presidency whilst rumours spread about former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s opposition to appointing the tourism minister to the post.

However, the PPM leader has repeatedly denied favouring a particular candidate, stating that the appointment of a deputy is the sole prerogative of the president.

Minivan News understands that senior members of the ruling party were split over Adeeb’s appointment. Several PPM MPs had, however, publicly declared that Adeeb would be sworn in before July 26.

Shortly after the constitutional amendment lowering the age limit for the vice presidency was passed, the tourism minister reprimanded Gayoom’s son, newly elected MP Ahmed Faris, for his absence from the vote.

Accusing Faris of letting Yameen down, Adeeb said in a text message in English: “You cannot differentiate youth or any segment with educated, non educated, poor and rich, beyfulhu [aristocrat] or non beyfulhu [non-aristocrat] etc.”

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Constitutional amendment on foreign land ownership up for debate tonight

A constitutional amendment to allow foreigners to own land in the Maldives will be up for debate at an extraordinary parliament sitting tonight, only hours after it was submitted to parliament.

The amendment allows foreign parties to own land for projects worth US$1 billion. Ownership is dependent on the parties reclaiming more than 70 percent of the plot.

The constitution at present prohibits foreigners from owning land under any circumstances, but allows the government to lease land to foreign parties for up to 99 years.

The amendment is the second amendment proposed to the constitution since it was ratified in 2008. It was proposed by Ahmed Nihan, MP of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the majority leader.

Nihan said he has proposed the amendment to increase economic growth and to facilitate sustainable investment. It will allow foreigners free holds in the Maldives, and to transfer ownership or lease their plots.

The amendment comes amidst negotiations between the government and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The opposition has so far backed several unprecedented measures proposed by the government in hope of freedom for jailed opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed and other politicians.

MPs in June passed the first amendment to the constitution to set new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency. Subsequently, vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was impeached today. He is expected to be replaced by tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

The amendment may be put to a vote as early as tomorrow. Tonight’s sitting was scheduled after the parliament today approved changes to the standing orders to fast-track the process of passing a bill into law.

The legislative process includes three main stages: a preliminary debate on the floor, an extensive review by a committee involving consultations with stakeholders and experts, and a final debate on the committee’s report followed by a vote. However, under the new rules, all three legislative stages can be carried out consecutively and a final vote could be held on the same day as a bill is submitted.

The changes were approved with 56 votes in favour and 24 against.

The PPM in 2014 enacted a law on special economic zones with tax breaks and little regulation to incentivize foreign investment. The government previously said one SEZ project could transform the economy, but has so far failed to attract investment.

The amendment on foreign ownership comes amidst increased attempts by the government to woo Chinese and Middle-eastern investors.

The proposed change includes amending Article 251 of the constitution and adding a new chapter to the constitution. Below are some important provisions.

Article 302: If a project meets the set criteria, he Maldivian government may grant any party a freehold in the area designated for the project

Article 304: A project can only be approved if it meets the following criteria
(a) A project approved under a law passed by the People’s Majlis
(b) An investment of US$1billion in the territory of the Maldives
(c) When the project reaches completion, at least 70 percent of the land must have been reclaimed from the ocean and visible at medium tide

Article 305: The parliament can increase the threshold for investment by a law. However, such a change will not apply to projects approved before its enactment.

Article 251: No foreign party shall own land in the Maldives, except under the circumstances specified in Article 302. Allowing foreigners to own land under Article 302 does not undermine the Maldivian state’s sovereignty over its territory and does not amount to loss of territory.

Reporting by Hassan Mohamed, Ahmed Naish and Zaheena Rasheed. 

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Vice president’s lawyer barred from impeachment proceedings

The People’s Majlis has barred vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed’s lawyer from responding to charges on his behalf before an impeachment vote at tomorrow’s parliament sitting.

Jameel is currently in London, and had appointed former attorney general Husnu Suood to read out a response on his behalf. However, in a letter addressed to Jameel today, Speaker Abdulla Maseeh said the vice president himself must be present at the sitting, according to the Constitution.

A lawyer can only accompany Jameel and provide him with legal counsel at the sitting, the letter said.

Article 100 (d) states that the vice president shall have the right to defend himself in the sittings of the People’s Majlis, both orally and in writing, and has the right to legal counsel.

MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) have accused Jameel of incompetence and disloyalty. The vice president abruptly left the Maldives within a day of parliament approving a constitutional amendment that will allow President Abdulla Yameen to replace him with the tourism minister.

A two-thirds majority or 57 votes of the 85-member house is required to remove the vice president. The motion alone gained 61 signatures.

Jameel was asked for a response in early July, but did not respond within the 14 day period. PPM MPs have previously said he refused to comply with the president’s orders to return to the Maldives and answer charges.

The pro-government majority in the parliament has since amended Majlis standing orders so that an investigation is not required before impeaching the vice president. MPs have also set just 30 minutes for the vice president to respond to charges.

Suood told Minivan News today that the 30-minute response period was insufficient. He said he had been preparing a defense based on statements made by PPM MPs in the media as the parliament is yet to inform him or Jameel of details of the charges against him.

The Majlis secretariat told Minivan News that a copy of the impeachment motion had been provided to Jameel with the letter notifying him of the 14-day notice.

The motion, obtained by Minivan News, accused Jameel of incompetence, dereliction of duty, links with the opposition and failure to defend the government. The vice president is also accused of excessive expenditure from the state budget.

“No substantial evidence has been made public. I do not believe that president Yameen’s alleged lack of confidence in vice president Jameel is sufficient grounds for impeachment,” Suood said.

PPM parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan, however, said the president’s confidence in the vice president is crucial as he is to assume the responsibilities of the president in his absence.

Nihan said PPM MPs had gathered a large amount of evidence and information regarding Jameel’s alleged incompetence for over a year.

“Projects assigned to Jameel in sectors such as education and health had been stalled for about ten months. He also attempted to divide MPs by taking some of them on trips and making statements that may affect their confidence in the president,” he said.

“We also have evidence of Jameel’s official and unofficial involvement in the opposition protest on May 1,” he added.

Some 20,000 people took to the street on May 1 over former president Mohamed Nasheed’s imprisonment. Some 200 people were arrested in violent clashes.

Jameel has denied allegations of incompetency. In an interview with the New Indian Express, he said that he had been carrying out his duty as the President Yameen had ordered him to.

Opposition politicians have meanwhile claimed President Yameen is fatally ill and wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a life threatening surgery. The government continues to deny rumors of the president’s health.

The parliament in late June passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming multi-party consensus to set the new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency. Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb is now 33. The constitution previously stated that candidates must be 35 years of age.

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Ex president’s lawyer denied work visa

Jared Genser, a member of former president Mohamed Nasheed’s international legal team was denied a business visa upon his arrival in the Maldives today.

Genser, the founder of Freedom Now, an organization that works for the rights of political prisoners, entered Maldives on a tourist visa when he was denied the three-month work visa. He departed to Colombo after a few hours in Malé.

Genser is representing Nasheed along with Amal Clooney, the wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, and Ben Emmerson, a UN rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights.

The three helped the opposition leader file a petition with the UN working group on arbitrary detention, requesting a judgment declaring Nasheed’s 13 year jail term on terrorism charges arbitrary and illegal.

Genser is expected to return to the Maldives to meet with Nasheed at a later date, a source familiar with the matter said. Nasheed was recently transferred to house arrest.

The government in the response to the UN working group insisted judges followed due process in Nasheed’s trial.

Diplomatic pressure has been mounting on President Abdulla Yameen’s government to release Nasheed and other jailed politicians, including two former defense ministers, a former MP of the ruling party, and the leader of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

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President requests Majlis counsel on leaving Commonwealth

President Abdulla Yameen has requested parliamentary counsel on leaving the Commonwealth amidst lobby efforts by some member countries for an assessment of Maldives’ alleged violations of the organization’s principles following the imprisonment of opposition politicians, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The president’s letter will be read out and put up for debate at a People’s Majlis sitting tomorrow.

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) parliamentary group held a meeting this afternoon with President Yameen, Attorney General Mohamed Anil and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb to assess the pros and cons of the Maldives staying with the Commonwealth.

PPM parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan told the press the attorney general and the tourism minister briefed MPs on the legal and economic aspects of leaving the Commonwealth. He declined to comment further.

The cabinet on Thursday also called for a review of how Maldives benefits from being part of the Commonwealth.

Earlier this month, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon said the Maldives “will seriously consider its membership at the Commonwealth” if it is placed on the agenda of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) for a second time in four years.

The Maldives was previously placed on the CMAG’s agenda “on an unfair basis, based on false allegations, and the country’s economy and democratic governance suffered significantly as a result,” Dunya said.

The CMAG in early July decided not to review the Maldives.

Former foreign minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed said that the CMAG only granted the Maldives further time to “sort out [the] mess Maldives is in.”

Dunya maintains there are no “serious and persistent violation of Commonwealth political values in the Maldives.”

The Maldives was placed on the CMAG agenda from March 2012 – March 2013 after President Nasheed resigned amidst a police and military mutiny. He later alleged he had been ousted in a coup d’état.

A Commonwealth backed inquiry found the transfer of power to be constitutional.

In mid-June, Canada had called on CMAG to “urgently put the deteriorating situation in the Maldives on its formal agenda.” The Commonwealth’s democracy and human rights arm can recommend measures for collective action to restore democracy and constitutional rule.

Diplomatic pressure has been mounting on President Yameen to release Nasheed and other jailed politicians, including two former defence ministers and a ruling party MP.

Photo: Opposition supporters carry Commonwealth flags at a protest in 2012

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