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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Government tight-lipped over rumors of a pardon for Nasheed

Attorney General Mohamed Anil today dampened talk of an imminent pardon for former president Mohamed Nasheed and the commutation of ex defense minister Mohamed Nazim’s jail sentence to house arrest, saying he is yet to receive any information on the matter.

“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,” he told the press.

Newly appointed vice president Ahmed Adeeb meanwhile dodged answering repeated questions on Nasheed’s pardon at a press conference held on the ratification of a second constitutional amendment that will allow foreigners to own land in the Maldives.

“Our administration will bring about economic reforms and will show generosity and compassion to the public. And God willing, in the instance we have to issue pardons, we will do so,” he said.

At a separate press conference, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon dismissed rumors that Nasheed had been invited to the official function to celebrate 50 years of independence on July 26.

“Former president Nasheed is currently serving a sentence after being found guilty in court of law so I don’t think an invitation will be sent to attend a ceremony,” she said.

Nasheed was transferred to house arrest in late June. His trial was widely criticised by foreign governments and international bodies including the UN over lack of due process.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the European Union parliament and influential U.S. Senators have called for his immediate release.

The government and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are engaged in negotiations over Nasheed’s freedom, clemency for jailed politicians and withdrawal of charges against some 1400 opposition supporters including the president of Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla.

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the MDP’s parliamentary group leader, suggested last week that Nasheed may be released by July 26. His remarks came following a third meeting of talks between the MDP and the government.

However, at the same press conference, home minister Umar Naseer said the government had made no commitments to release jailed politicians, but reiterated that the government stands ready to make compromises for long-term stability.

The opposition has backed several government proposals this week in the hope of freedom for Nasheed. These include a first amendment to the constitution, which sets new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency, and the impeachment of vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

The age limits allowed President Yameen to replace Jameel with influential tourism minister Adeeb. Some 70 MPs of the 85-member house approved Adeeb’s nomination yesterday.

The backing of some 19 opposition MPs yesterday was crucial to pass the second constitutional amendment on foreign freeholds. The MDP had issued a free whip for the vote.

The fourth meeting of talks between the MDP and the government was scheduled for Tuesday. But it did not take place due to the extraordinary parliament session on foreign freeholds.

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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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‘Drug trafficker’ acquitted on lapses highlighted in former president’s trial

Citing severe procedural irregularities, the Supreme Court on Thursday acquitted a man sentenced to life in prison over drug trafficking charges.

The unprecedented ruling deals with similar lapses noted by former president Mohamed Nasheed and former defense minister Mohamed Nazim, who were sentenced to jail on terrorism and weapons smuggling charges, respectively.

In acquitting Abdulla Unais, the Supreme Court said he was not given access to a lawyer or the opportunity to call defense witnesses.

Unais was arrested in Addu City in May 2012. Police officers found more than 46 grams of heroin in envelopes on the ground at the time of his arrest and in his trouser pockets.

Unais had denied charges and claims he was framed by police officers.

The Supreme Court said the lower courts should have investigated Unais’ claims of a police set-up by verifying if the accused police officer had left any fingerprints on the envelope. The ruling went onto question the validity of the police officer’s testimony.

The criminal court’s sentencing of Unais without providing access to legal counsel contravenes the constitution, which states that the government must set lawyers for individuals accused in serious crimes, the ruling said.

Unais, who had remained in police custody throughout the duration of his trial, had repeatedly told the criminal court he was unable to hire a lawyer, the Supreme Court said.

Nasheed, in a petition to the UN working group on arbitrary detention, noted that he was denied legal counsel at a first hearing. Then, when his lawyers recused themselves in protest over the criminal court’s refusal to provide sufficient time to prepare defense, judges proceeded with hearings, despite Nasheed’s repeated request to hire new lawyers.

The government maintains due process was followed. A ruling is expected in September or October.

Nasheed’s 19-day trial was criticized by foreign governments and UN rights experts. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the EU parliament and high profile US senators have called for his immediate release.

Nazim, meanwhile, contends rogue police officers had framed him by planting weapons during a midnight raid. The criminal court, however, did not allow the former defense minister to call witnesses to prove his case.

Nazim’s lawyers also contend anonymized statements provided by the police officers involved in the raid are inadmissible in court.

Appeal hearings in Nazim’s case have been stalled after the Supreme Court transferred two of the five judges on the panel to a newly created branch in Addu City.

Nasheed and Nazim’s imprisonment triggered a political crisis with daily protests and historic antigovernment marches. The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party is now negotiating with the government for the pair’s release. Nasheed is currently under house arrest.

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Comment: Did former Maldives leader receive a fair trial?

This comment piece by Toby Cadman was first published on Al-Jazeera. Republished with permission.

Cadman is an international lawyer and is currently advising the government of the Republic of Maldives on legal and constitutional reform. In particular, he is assisting the government in responding to the allegations made to the UN by former President Mohamed Nasheed concerning his conviction for an offence of terrorism.  

On March 13, the former president of the Republic of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, was convicted of terrorism. He was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for ordering the army to arrest and detain the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdullah Mohamed. It was alleged that Abdullah was abducted by the army without any lawful order, held incommunicado for 72 hours, and then detained for a further 21 days in a military establishment.

There was national and international outcry at such an unprecedented attack on the judiciary, including statements from the United Nations terming the detention of the judge as arbitrary and in breach of international law.

It has been argued that Nasheed’s actions don’t qualify as terrorist acts. However, if similar actions had been conducted in the United Kingdom, the former president could have been charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment – an offence which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Political turmoil

Regardless of whether or not he was at one point a head of state, all persons – irrespective of political office or other affiliation – should be brought to justice where there is credible evidence to demonstrate that a criminal offence has been committed.

Mohamed Nasheed was elected as president in 2008. While in office, political turmoil erupted. It is believed that he ordered the locking-up of the Supreme Court and ordered Judge Abdullah to be placed under arrest by the army.

Nasheed resigned live on national television, but less than 24 hours later, alleged that he had resigned under duress. An independent inquiry carried out by the Commonwealth, and observed by the UN, concluded that he had resigned voluntarily and that the transfer of power was lawful and constitutional. Therefore, his fall from power cannot be characterised as a coup.

During the former president’s trial, it was alleged that he had ordered the the abduction of a senior judge to prevent him from carrying out his judicial function.

In a BBC Hardtalk interview after his resignation, Nasheed stated in very clear terms that the judge had to be removed and that as president, in the absence of anyone else acting, he had to do it. The judge, in the former president’s words, was becoming a nuisance.

The targeting of the judiciary in such a way by the Executive cannot be accepted in any democracy and such an attack can only be construed as an attack on the constitution.

Allegations of flaws in trial  

It has been argued by the former president and his legal team that there were significant flaws during his terrorism trial and that, as a result, his detention is arbitrary and in breach of international law.

However, rather than appeal the verdict, his legal team filed a communication with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The government has been given until July 11 to respond to the allegations and a decision is expected in September.

The former president is arguing that arrest was unlawful, his trial rushed, and the composition of the panel of judges lacked the requisite independence and impartiality. There have also been allegations that the conditions of his detention breach his human rights.

Ordinarily, many of these matters would be subject to legal challenge through the national courts. However, the former president has elected not to appeal. Contrary to statements issued to date, it is the government’s position that the former president has not been prevented from appealing – he has chosen not to do so.

It is clear that in a politically charged case such as this, the media reporting can take a sensationalist and selective approach. It is essential that what is reported is accurate and balanced as the stakes are extremely high.

Prevention of an appeal 

Much has been made of the fact that Maldivian legislation was amended so as to reduce the time period for the lodging of an appeal from 90 to 10 days, thus alleging that Nasheed has been prevented from appealing.

He has not. The Maldivian authorities have repeatedly maintained that the former president is still able to submit an application for appeal and that it will be for the courts to consider. It is also important to note that the deadline for submitting an appeal within 10 days relates to a notice of appeal, not the full appeal.

It has been further alleged that the former president has been prevented from appealing through the court’s wilfully withholding of documents which are necessary for filing an appeal notice. However, the court records will clearly demonstrate that the judgement of the court and the trial record was provided to the former president and his legal team.

He refused to sign the court record. Notwithstanding this refusal and the expiration of the 10-day deadline, there is a provision in the law for a defendant to submit a late appeal if the delay has been caused by the authorities. Furthermore, there is a provision in the law for the courts to accept a late appeal “in the interests of justice”.

The conditions the former president was purportedly being forced to endure have been called into question. Again, these accusations of unfair or unlawful treatment are wholly false.

Underlying risk  

He was held, up until his recent release on house arrest, away from the general population. However, he is not and has never been in solitary confinement, and was detained in a facility that would not only meet international standards of practise, but arguably far exceed any acceptable level.

As a former president, he is entitled to VIP treatment in custody, which he received up until his release under house arrest.

There is an underlying risk underlining this entire court process – the potential of a trial by media. As with all cases, there are two sides to any argument, but the government’s position has not been given any attention and the offence for which the former president was convicted has been unnecessarily trivialized.

There is a clear obligation on all, be it members of the media, or members of the international community, to acknowledge both positions in relation to any case, and not seek to favour one when the issue is yet to be fully considered and determined by the appropriate tribunal.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to editorial@minivannewsarchive.com

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Government responds to UN on ex-president’s terrorism trial

The Maldivian government, responding to the UN working group on arbitrary detention today, contended that a terrorism conviction against former president Mohamed Nasheed was not politically motivated and said allegations over lack of due process are factually incorrect.

Nasheed’s family had lodged a petition with the UN in April requesting a judgment declaring the opposition leader’s detention illegal and arbitrary. The government was asked to respond before the first week of July.

“Mr Nasheed has not been a victim of a politicised process. He has been properly charged and faced trial for an extremely serious offence, one that was aimed at interfering with an independent judiciary and circumventing the rule of law. The law cannot be applied selectively,” said Ahmed Shiaan, the ambassador of the Maldives to Belgium.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail over the military’s detention of the criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Shiaan and Toby Cadman, a barrister and partner at London-based Omnia Strategy, delivered the response to the UN in Geneva today.

Cadman said any lapses in due process were not “so serious individually or collectively so as to render the entirety of the proceedings a flagrant denial of justice. And thus render the former president’s detention arbitrary. Moreover, it is important to note that any of the irregularities, actual or perceived, are capable of being addressed on appeal.”

The 19-day trial was criticized by foreign governments and UN rights experts. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the EU parliament and high profile US senators have called for his immediate release.

Omnia Strategy, a London-based law firm chaired by Cherie Blair, the wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, was employed for an undisclosed fee to write the response.

Nasheed was transferred to house arrest in late-June in exchange for opposition backing on a constitutional amendment that will allow President Abdulla Yameen to replace his deputy. Talks are now ongoing between the Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party and the government.

Abduction

Speaking to the press in Geneva, Shiaan contended Nasheed’s petition to the UN was an attempt to divert attention from his “abduction” of a sitting criminal court judge.

Nasheed’s lawyers have argued that the trial was rushed and that the criminal court had withheld trial records to block an appeal. Lawyers have also raised concern over the denial of legal counsel at some hearings.

Shiaan, however, said the allegations are factually incorrect and a mischaracterization of reality.

Cadman stressed the trial was “conducted under a process recognized under national and international law” and “not arbitrary by any standards.”

“We are confident they will dismiss the communication by the former president in its entirety,” he said.

Cadman insisted Nasheed could still appeal his conviction at the High Court and denied that the criminal court had deliberately withheld trial records to block an appeal. Nasheed and his lawyers had refused to sign the records, he contended.

Admitting that Nasheed was not given legal representation at the first trial, Cadman claimed the process was legal under Maldivian law. The former president’s lawyers had later boycotted hearings, he said and suggested Nasheed refused to make use of opportunities provided by the criminal court to appoint new counsel.

Nasheed was brought to trial a day after his arrest. He wasn’t allowed legal counsel at first hearing with the criminal court saying it’s regulations requires three days to register lawyers for defendants. Nasheed’s lawyers later recused themselves claiming they could not mount a proper defense with the criminal court rushing the process.

Hearings were often held late at night. The verdict was delivered at 11:15pm.

But Cadman today insisted the trial was not rushed as no new evidence had been submitted against Nasheed.

All the materials had been provided in 2012 when Nasheed was first charged with ordering an arbitrary detention of the judge. “The only difference was the qualification of the offence under national law,” Cadman argued.

While the first offence only carries a few months in prison, the latter charges of terrorism carry at least ten years in prison. Nasheed’s lawyers argued they required more time to weigh the evidence in light of the harsher charges.

The opposition leader contends the criminal court had blocked him from filing an appeal within the shortened 10-day appeal period. The new provisions, dictated by the Supreme Court shortly before Nasheed’s trial commenced, are silent on accepting late appeals, his lawyers have said.

The appellate court, citing lateness, refused to accept an appeal of a murder acquittal filed by the Prosecutor General’s Office in June. The PG office told Minivan News the delay was caused by the criminal court’s failure to provide a record of trial proceedings within the 10-day appeal period.

A ruling by the UN working group is expected in September or October, Nasheed’s lawyers have said.

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Ex-president’s wife continues high-profile campaign in Europe

Former president Mohamed Nasheed’s wife, Laila Ali, is continuing a high-profile campaign in Europe to free her husband.

The former first lady met with the president of the European Union parliament Martin Schulz in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday and met the UN high commissioner on human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

Nasheed’s trial on terrorism charges was widely criticized for apparent lack of due process.

The UK prime minister David Cameron, the European Parliament, and US Senators John McCain and Jack Reed have called for his immediate release.

The opposition leader was transferred to house arrest in late June amidst mounting diplomatic pressure.

“We are hopeful, but cautious,” said Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, the spokesperson of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“President Nasheed is not free, he could be returned to house arrest any minute. There are some 1400 opposition supporters and politicians facing charges. So we must continue our campaign.”

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail over the military detention a judge during his tenure.

The MDP and the government recently commenced talks, but a third meeting was cancelled tonight as some ministers are out of the country. The opposition has also backed a constitutional amendment that would allow President Abdulla Yameen to replace his deputy as a confidence building measure.

An aide who had accompanied Laila on her Europe trip said she had discussed Nasheed’s imprisonment and the human rights situation in the Maldives during her visits. She met with EU MEPs in Brussels on Monday before calling on Schulz and Al-Hussein.

“The government needs to demonstrate its sincerity by freeing all political prisoners, including Nasheed, and ensuring they can fully return to public life,” the aide said.

In April, the EU parliament adopted a resolution calling for Nasheed’s freedom, and requested member countries to warn travelers on the human rights situation in the Maldives.

Shortly after Nasheed was sentenced, Zeid said the trial was rushed and “appears to contravene the Maldives’ own laws and practices and international fair trial standards in a number of respects.”

Heavyweight international human rights lawyers including Amal Clooney, the wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, have taken up Nasheed’s case at the UN working group on arbitrary detention.

A ruling is expected in September or October. The government has hired a law firm chaired by Cherie Blair, the wife of UK’s former prime minister Tony Blair, to respond to the petition.

Meanwhile, Cameron has called for political dialogue in the Maldives and Nasheed’s release following a meeting with Laila on June 25. The former first lady had also met UK MPs and Hugo Swire, the minister of state, foreign and commonwealth office in her visit to London in late-June.

US Senators McCain and Reed, who chair the Senate Armed Forces Committee, on June 2 urged the US government to press for the opposition leader’s release and warned that the Maldives’ decisions are “having serious adverse consequences on its relationships abroad.”

 

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Leaders commit to reconciliation, prepare to begin talks

Representatives of the government and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) made an unprecedented show of commitment to resolving a six-month long political crisis tonight following a preliminary meeting ahead of talks.

“I believe this is the time for a major reconciliation by finding a consensus through talks. The government, to show its sincerity, will make all the concessions we can,” Home minister Umar Naseer told the press.

Naseer and the MDP’s parliamentary group leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih met at the President’s Office at 11:00pm on Wednesday night, and discussed the agenda and structure for the long-awaited negotiations.

“We believe the government is ready to come to a resolution. That is why we are sitting down. I have high hope that we will find a solution,” Ibu said.

The Maldives has been gripped by political turmoil since the arrest and imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

Hundreds were arrested in protests and key figures were charged with terrorism. Diplomatic pressure has been mounting on President Abdulla Yameen’s government to release all political prisoners, including Nasheed.

“We have not spoken on the substance of the talks tonight, meaning on what it is that we will agree on, or what we cannot agree on. We spoke on the design of the talks, and how we will proceed,” Naseer said.

A second meeting will be held on Sunday (July 5) at 10:30pm.

“We noted even tonight that there is common ground. Our two parties are very mature. Both have ruled, and both have been in opposition. Both parties have experienced all there is to experience in the political sphere,” Naseer said.

“This might take some time, but both parties we are starting off with sincerity, with the hope of success.”

The two parties, in their role as opposition, had made mistakes, Naseer said. “In light of those experiences, with the awareness that either of us may be in power, or in opposition in the future, we believe this is the beginning of a very important process to shape the Maldives’ political future.”

Nasheed was transferred to house arrest for eight weeks in June, after the opposition backed a constitutional amendment to allow President Yameen to replace his vice president.

Agenda

The government’s agenda, proposed in mid-May, includes three aspects – political reconciliation, constitutional and judicial reform, and political party participation in development.

MDP has requested tonight that the government agree on five basic rules and a timeline for the talks. The proposed rules include:

  • Agreement to talks between all parties, including ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), the MDP, the Jumhooree Party and the Adhaalath Party.
  • Each party must be able to determine their representatives
  • Talks should proceed in three stages
  • Agreement on a measure to determine success

The MDP also presented Naseer with papers on the government’s agenda points.

The party has requested that the government, in order to establish an environment conducive for talks and to reach political reconciliation, agree to the following:

  • To make concessions on “politically motivated sentencing” of politicians, including Nasheed, Nazim, ex-defence minister Tholhath Ibrahim and MP Ahmed Nazim
  • Withdraw “politically motivated charges” against some 400 protestors
  • Withdraw economic sanctions against businessmen, namely JP leader Gasim Ibrahim
  • Job security for councilors, civil servants and employees of state owned companies
  • Independent inquiry into the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali and the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan
  • Independent investigation of the death threats sent via text messages to politicians and journalists

After an agreement is reached on political reconciliation, the MDP has proposed that the parties begin discussions on judicial and constitutional reform and development.

The MDP has also proposed a constitutional change to a parliamentary system of government

“Our party has governed within a presidential system, and so has the ruling party. Every time, it is the candidate who wins the second largest number of votes who comes to power, through a coalition. But the coalition falls apart soon afterwards and the government is plunged into turmoil. We have experienced this system and we have not seen good results, so lets change to a parliamentary system,” Ibu said.

The paper on political party participation in development includes some 40 proposals, Ibu said.

President Yameen had first proposed talks on May 14. But there was no progress after the government ruled out negotiations over Nasheed and Nazim’s release and vetoed Nasheed as an MDP representative.

When the opposition leader was transferred to house arrest, the MDP said it will continue with talks without Nasheed.

The government tonight appeared to relent on its veto on Nasheed with Naseer saying: “We have not directly decided who will represent the MDP in talks. MDP will decide that.”

Assuring the public of the government’s commitment to a resolution, Naseer said they stand ready to make any concessions necessary by amending laws.

“We have compromised even when it was really hard for us. We will do so in the future. The MDP represents a large portion of the Maldivian public and is among the largest political parties. It will be much easier for this government to achieve the development, progress that we seek with them, in light of discussions with them,” he said.

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