Pro-democracy prisoners on hunger-strike in the Maldives

The Maldivian Democratic Party
Colombo, November 5th, 2004

Pro-democracy prisoners in the Maldives are staging a hunger-strike in protest against their continued detention by the government of President Gayoom. The prisoners, who have been in jail for over 70 days without charge, are refusing to break their traditional Ramzan fast because of what they believe is the political motivation behind their continued detention. Initial reports indicate that 23 prisoners on hunger strike, which started yesterday evening (November 4th) in Dhoonidoo and Maufushi Jails.

The prisoners were arrested along with 500 others – including 14 MPS – following a 12,000-strong peaceful pro-democracy rally in the capital island, Male’ on 12-13 August, 2004. President Gayoom also imposed a State of Emergency and night-time curfews in the crack-down that followed the protest.

Although the State of Emergency was lifted by President Gayoom in October and many of the detainees have had their terms of detention reduced to house arrest, over twenty-five detainees remain in prison, in solitary confinement. Amnesty International and the Maldivian Human Rights Commission have expressed deep concern after reports of some of the prisoners being tortured and sexually abused whilst in jail.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) shares the concerns of the detainees about the political motivation for their continued detention. President Gayoom called parliamentary elections for the 31st December, 2004. In May 2004, the MDP shocked the regime by winning over 70% of the seats in the elections to the constituent parliament. Many of those in prison are would-be MDP candidates for the upcoming election.

The MDP calls on the government of President Gayoom to release all political prisoners in the Maldives immediately and unconditionally. President Gayoom continually tells the international community he is committed to democratic reform in the Maldives. The MDP feels the imprisonment of pro-democracy campaigners is an affront to the President’s much talked-of reforms.