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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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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Freedom for ex president on the horizon, suggests MDP

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has raised hope of freedom for convicted opposition leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed by July 26, the day Maldives marks 50 years of independence from the British.

Speaking at a press conference after a third meeting of talks between the MDP and the government, MP Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said: “When we celebrate the golden jubilee of independence on July 26, our aim, our hope is that everyone is able to celebrate the day happily and in freedom.”

Nasheed’s jailing on terrorism charges, relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure, sparked months of daily protests and historic anti-government marches. Diplomatic pressure has been mounting on President Abdulla Yameen to release Nasheed and other political prisoners, including two former defence ministers and ruling party MP.

While Ibu struck a hopeful tone, the government representative, home minister Umar Naseer was more cautious. He said the government had made no commitments on releasing jailed politicians, but reiterated that the government stands ready to make compromises for long-term stability.

Nasheed was transferred to house arrest in late June after the opposition backed a constitutional amendment that will allow President Abdulla Yameen to replace his deputy.

Naseer tonight hailed slow and steady progress in talks and said: “I now believe there is nothing we cannot resolve.”

“On whether political leaders will be released, we did not give any commitments. But we did give one commitment, that is to make concessions, to make compromises where possible. We want to ease political tensions. For there to be engagement and dialogue between the MDP and the government. If such an environment is created, it will be easier for us to make concessions. I cannot directly state that the government will make a specific compromise. But I will say if such an environment is created, the government stands ready to make all compromises. In the past three weeks, we have made compromises, and we have seen progress. This does not happen with just one meeting. This is the third official meeting between MDP and the government. In other countries, it can take 100 meetings,” he said.

Since Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest, the government has removed a freeze on Jumhooree Party leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim’s tourism businesses. Gasim, who had spent nearly three months abroad amidst rumors of impending arrest, returned to the Maldives on Sunday morning.

Gasim’s JP had also backed the constitutional amendment. The parliament is due to vote to impeach vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed by July 26. Many believe the president is seeking to replace Jameel because he wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a major surgery for a life-threatening condition.

Ibu said: “Even if we do not say a specific action will be taken on a specific date, you will see actions from both parties… You will see results. We are not able to share some of the discussion points with the media yet, so we have not shared them, but we are on a good foundation. I am certain of that. Now we have to proceed. And I received that certainty tonight as well.”

The MDP has repeatedly said Nasheed’s freedom is the party’s highest priority.

The two representatives also said they have established a hotline to facilitate communication and to resolve any issues that may come up.

“There’s been progress, You will be able to see this in the future. Talks are proceeding in a friendly and conciliatory environment. I note we are already seeing results. The public will see even more progress when we sit for a next meeting,” Ibu said.

The fourth meeting of talks has been scheduled for July 21.

Naseer meanwhile said the government, at the ongoing talks, is not pressuring Nasheed to appeal his 13-year jail term at a domestic appellate court. The foreign ministry this weekend urged the opposition leader to appeal in a response to the UN working group on arbitrary detention.

Naseer also said the government will look at provisions in the Clemency Act and the Parole Act in reducing jail terms or releasing other jailed politicians, but only after they exhaust appeal processes.

“We can only take measures through the law. We have the Clemency Act, and the Parole Act. We will review that when it gets to that stage. This government wants to calm political tensions, to establish stability and to establish a conducive environment by which we can provide the public with the services and the development they seek. As I said before, these talks are not about the present, but also the political future of the Maldives.”

The MDP has proposed six measures for political reconciliation at the ongoing talks. In addition to asking for the release of politicians and withdrawing “politically motivated charges” against some 1400 opposition supporters, the party has also called for an independent inquiry into the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali and the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

Discussions have not progressed on the latter demand yet.

Naseer meanwhile said the government is reviewing the charges against the 1493 people. “This government does not want to charge and punish those who have committed minor offences in political activities. President Yameen has given me a special instruction on this,” he said.

However, the government does not want to be lenient on individuals who may be pretending to be political prisoners, especially those with criminal records, he said.

The government has also committed to speeding up progress in the separate talks with the JP and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

Another major demand by the MDP in the ongoing talks is a change from the Maldives’ presidential system of government to a parliamentary system. Discussions on the system of governance will take place at a second stage of talks, the representatives said at an earlier press conference.

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Third meeting of talks rescheduled for Sunday

The president’s office has rescheduled a third meeting in ongoing talks with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) for Sunday, July 12.

A meeting was set for Wednesday night, but cancelled at the last minute as some government representatives are out of the country.

The government is due to propose mechanisms to release jailed opposition politicians and withdraw charges against some 1,400 opposition supporters. The long-awaited talks has raised hope of an end to a six-month long crisis triggered by the arrest and imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The opposition leader was transferred to house arrest in late June.

President Abdulla Yameen had proposed three teams of ministers to sit separately with the three allied opposition parties. The Jumhooree Party and the government held two meetings in June, but there had been no progress with the MDP or the Adhaalath Party as the government vetoed some of the proposed representatives.

The MDP had proposed Nasheed and Adhaalath had proposed Sheikh Imran Abdulla, who is in police custody awaiting trial on a terrorism charge.

With Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest, the MDP agreed to begin talks without the opposition leader. Talks are yet to begin with the Adhaalath.

At a second meeting on Sunday, the government conceded to an MDP demand to commence all-party talks at a later stage when constitutional and legal reform are on the table.

The MDP and the government are currently discussing the opposition’s six demands for political reconciliation. In addition to freeing jailed politicians and withdrawing charges against supporters, the party has also called for an independent inquiry into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan and the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali.

The MDP has also proposed that talks conclude within a two-week period.

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Government to begin talks with the Jumhooree Party

President Abdulla Yameen has pledged today to begin talks with the opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) whose senior officials appear to be in self-imposed exile.

JP leader and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim has been in Bangkok since late April, ostensibly to repair a boat. Local media report the criminal court has issued an arrest warrant for Gasim on a charge of financing a historic anti-government protest on May 1.

The JP’s deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed are accused of inciting violence at the May Day protest, and have been charged with terrorism. If convicted, they face between 10 and 15 years in jail.

Both Ameen and Sobah are out of the country. In a video message, Sobah said he is seeking political asylum.

Speaking to the press today, President Yameen said: “God willing we will sit down with Jumhooree Party for talks. We’ve been waiting for Ameen Ibrahim to return to the Maldives and join the talks, but we will go forward even without him.”

Talks will begin within the next two days, he said.

The JP was not responding to calls at the time of going to press.

The president called for separate talks with the JP, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

The overture came after months of continuous protests over the jailing of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges and a US$90.4 million claim on Gasim’s Villa Group

The JP immediately agreed to sit down with the government without conditions. In addition to Ameen, the party has proposed MPs Ilham Ahmed, Abdulla Riyaz, and Hussain Mohamed to represent it at the talks.

President Yameen has ruled out negotiations over Nasheed’s release. His agenda focuses on political reconciliation, strengthening the judiciary and political party participation in socio-economic development.

The MDP has proposed Nasheed, chairperson Ali Waheed and MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as representatives. The Adhaalath Party proposed its president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, who is currently in police custody. He is also charged with terrorism over the May Day protest.

The government has rejected Nasheed and Imran as representatives.

“Adhaalath Party and MDP have not shown me a way of proceeding with this. They have stated they will not talk with the government without certain people. I don’t believe that a party which considers the interest of the whole party or the interest of the public would put forward a person in detention or serving a sentence to discussions with the government,” the president said today.

The government “is obliged to continue applying the law indiscriminately to all,” Yameen said and added: “It will be hard for the people to accept it if we take different actions against different people in different situations.”

The president said he will listen to what the opposition has to say and meet their demands if “it does not compromise the law.”

The government had previously rejected the opposition’s calls for talks because their terms were unacceptable, he continued.

“The political parties had asked me to negotiate with them before. But I rejected them because I could not accept the terms they set. But in my own time, within my reasons, I am looking forward to talk with the parties. It is for the benefit of the people, to establish a peaceful environment for all.”

The government had decided to call for talks in the interest of the public and because the international community “believes there are many issues that needs discussions and need to be solved,” he said.

“Now is the time to build the country. We have lost five years. That’s the truth. This is the chance to start projects to develop all areas of the country. This is the time to provide the youth with employment. My appeal to the people of Maldives is to grab this chance,” he said.

“I want the support of everybody. If I did something wrong I will come before the media and apologise to the people and will try to go forward again.”

President Yameen said corruption and injustice in the Maldives resulted from the discriminate enforcement of the law.

“Critics of my government claim there is corruption within the government. It is not a problem at all. I will not make an exception to anyone in my government. If anyone is involved [in corruption] or if anyone is convicted of a crime, he has to face the law,” he said.

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No obstacle for Nasheed’s involvement in talks, says MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) insists that there is no obstacle for former President Mohamed Nasheed to represent the main opposition party in official talks with the government.

The government had rejected Nasheed as the party’s representative on the grounds that the opposition leader is serving a 13-year jail sentence.

In a letter to President Abdulla Yameen, the MDP said that Nasheed was not sentenced to be “locked up in jail in isolation, unable to meet anyone.”

The government had facilitated meetings with meetings with Nasheed for representatives from the UN and the Commonwealth after his conviction in March, the party noted.

The MDP said that it is essential for all political parties, including the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), to sit down together for the talks.

President Yameen had called for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties – the MDP, the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the Adhaalath Party (AP) – to resolve the ongoing political crisis triggered by the arrest and imprisonment of Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The JP promptly accepted the invitation for talks, but the religious conservative AP proposed its detained president, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, among the party’s representatives.

Imran was released from police custody yesterday and faces charges of encouraging violence during the May Day mass anti-government demonstration.

The May Day demonstration was the second mass protest staged by the opposition calling for Nasheed and Nazim’s immediate release.

The government has ruled out negotiations over the release of Nasheed and Nazim, insisting the president does not have the constitutional authority to release convicts before the appeal process is exhausted.

President Yameen sent official invitations for the talks two weeks after the May Day protest. The proposed agenda for talks focuses on three aspects: political reconciliation, strengthening the judiciary and legal system and political party participation in economic and social development.

“If there is no legal, medical, physical or administrative obstructions regarding the representatives proposed by the three parties, we will proceed with the talks,” president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali tweeted earlier this week.

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HRCM welcomes talks to resolve political crisis

The human rights watchdog has welcomed the government’s calls for talks with opposition parties to resolve the ongoing political crisis.

In a press statement last night, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) urged all political parties to make good use of the opportunity with sincerity and good faith.

The commission said peace and stability are essential for protecting and promoting human rights, urging all parties to work together and to refrain from actions and rhetoric that incites hatred and animosity among the public.

The HRCM also expressed concern with the assault of police officers as well as complaints of police brutality against opposition protesters.

President Abdulla Yameen extended official invitations for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties last week.

However, the government has ruled out negotiations over the release of imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, whose arrest triggered the current political crisis.

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Talks should involve all parties, suggests British High Commissioner

All political parties including the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) must sit down together for the talks between the government and the opposition, the newly-appointed British High Commissioner to the Maldives James Dauris has suggested.

President Abdulla Yameen has called for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties – the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the Jumhooree Party and the Adhaalath Party – to resolve the ongoing political crisis.

“We think it’s important that talks involving all parties should take place. It seems to me to be logical that talks should take place involving all the parties together, both the party in government and parties in opposition,” Dauris said in an interview with Minivan News during a two-day visit to the Maldives.

“Because what the government is talking about is a discussion between parties to talk about how inter-party relations will work. So it certainly strikes me as an observer that there is much to be said for getting all the parties to sit down together.”

In his first visit to the Maldives since his appointment as high commissioner, Dauris presented his credentials to President Yameen on Monday and met leaders of the three opposition parties.

Dauris said he shared the UK’s concerns over “the strength of democracy in the Maldives” with the president and spoke about the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

“President Nasheed is a special interest because he is a former president of your country. The number of countries in the world with former heads of state in prison is small,” he said.

Nasheed’s case is “emblematic,” he said, but the “wider concern” is over the judiciary.

A judiciary that is “visibly and credibly independent” is essential for democracy to flourish, he continued.

Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges in March after a 19-day trial drew widespread international criticism over apparent lack of due process and politicisation of the judiciary.

The government yesterday rejected Nasheed as the MDP’s representative for the talks as the opposition leader is serving a 13-year jail term.

The JP has meanwhile accepted the invitation for talks, but the religious conservative Adhaalath Party proposed its detained president, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, among the party’s representatives.

Imran was arrested in the wake of a mass anti-government demonstration on May 1 and remains in police custody.

The May Day demonstration was the second mass protest staged by the opposition calling for the release of former President Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

However, the government has ruled out negotiations for the release of the pair – whose arrest in February triggered the political crisis – insisting the president does not have the constitutional authority to release convicts before the appeal process is exhausted.

The opposition ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ alliance has called for a third mass protest on June 12.

“Shared interests”

Dauris said the Maldives and the UK has “shared interests” in the areas of climate change, Islamic radicalism, and drug abuse.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which the Maldives currently chairs, should be “ambitious in helping use its influence” at the upcoming climate summit in Paris, he said.

Small island states could play a role to ensure that the international community reaches a “good and ambitious international commitment to work to reduce carbon emissions.”

“Islamic extremism is another shared concern we have. Like the Maldives, we have people in Britain going off to join IS in Syria, often going through Turkey,” he continued.

“We worry for them, for the grief it causes their families, and we worry for the damage it does in their communities, and the potential threat these people could represent when they return home.”

He observed that the Maldives has “a relatively high number” of jihadis in Syria and Iraq. In January, the police said more than 50 Maldivians are in Syria, but the opposition says the figure could be as high as 200.

Dauris was previously the British high commissioner to Peru.

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MDP proposes imprisoned ex-president to represent party in talks

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has proposed imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed, chairperson Ali Waheed and MP Ibrahim “Ibu” Mohamed Solih as representatives for talks with the government.

The main opposition party’s national council adopted a resolution today to accept the government’s calls for dialogue to resolve the ongoing political crisis.

“The [MDP] believes that the anxiety and distress in the country can be resolved by all the opposition parties sitting down at the table for discussions with the government,” reads the resolution.

President Abdulla Yameen’s proposed agenda for talks focuses on three aspects: political reconciliation, strengthening the judiciary and legal system and political party participation in economic and social development

However, the government has ruled out negotiations over the release Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, insisting the president does not have the constitutional authority to release convicts before the appeal process is exhausted.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

However, Muaz told Haveeru before the resolution was passed that the government will go ahead with the talks even if the MDP declines the president’s offer.

During the national council debate on the resolution, MP Eva Abdulla stressed the importance of talks involving all political parties, including the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

“MDP is the first party that called to solve the political crisis. So we are happy the government took the initiative to hold talks and we accept it. But we want to hold the discussions together, not separately as the government has suggested,” she said.

President Yameen had sent invitations to the three allied opposition parties separately and assigned two ministerial teams for the talks.

Eva also argued that the agenda for the talks should be up for discussion.

“We are not going to discussions to talk only about what the government wants. The discussions will include what the government wants, but also what we want. The agenda of the talks also should be set at the discussions,” she said.

Eva also suggested MDP should not join the discussions without the proposed delegation: “I don’t think there is anything we can solve without the delegation MDP proposed.”

Nasheed is currently serving a 13-year jail term at the high-security Maafushi prison following his conviction on terrorism charges in March.

The MDP has maintained that the trial was a politically motivated attempt to bar the party’s president and presumptive candidate from the 2018 presidential election.

Foreign governments and international bodies including the UN have criticized the trial for apparent lack of due process, while the EU parliament has called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

MDP chairperson Ali Waheed was meanwhile released from police custody this afternoon. He had been held in remand detention since his arrest in the wake of the mass anti-government demonstration on May 1.

Police have concluded an investigation on charges of inciting violence and forwarded a case against Waheed to the prosecutor general’s office. A seven-day extension of detention granted by the criminal court expired today.

While the Jumhooree Party (JP) has accepted the invitation for talks, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party proposed its detained president, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, among the party’s representatives.

Imran was also arrested on May 1 and remains in police custody.

Speaking at today’s emergency meeting of the national council, MP Ibu, MDP parliamentary group leader, noted that the acceptance of the government’s invitation does not mean the party trusts the government.

“We are going to sit down with the government not necessarily because we trust them. We should always learn from what has happened in the past. Recently we saw the Ukrainian government sitting down for talks with Russia despite the distrust,” he said.

Ibu said the planned mass protest for June 12 – organised by the MDP –  is also a call for discussions.

“The June 12 protest is also a symbol of negotiations and talks. So I call on the people of Maldives who support our cause to come and join us in discussions,” he said.

Other members of the national council questioned the “sincerity” of the government’s invitation for talks.

“The deputy leader of JP, Ameen Ibrahim, was set free by the High Court but the state once again appealed his case in the apex court to detain him again. So the intent of the government is questionable,” said MP Rozaina Adam.

Ameen is among the five-member team to represent the Jumhooree Party. Some opposition politicians contend the police’s attempt to detain Ameen is an attempt to prevent him from representing the JP.

The resolution was passed with the support of of 42 members with one vote against.

The dissenting member objected referring to Nasheed as the party’s president, arguing that the government might reject the resolution on the grounds that he no longer holds the post.

In late April, the pro-government majority voted through amendments to the Prison and Parole Act that prohibited inmates from holding high-level posts in political parties.

The revised law effectively stripped Nasheed of the MDP presidency.

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