The Canadian government has condemned a government crackdown on a mass anti-government protest on May Day.
“In light of clashes at recent protests in Maldives, Canada condemns the crackdown by the increasingly authoritarian government and its evident lack of respect for democracy,” said the Canadian foreign minister, Rob Nicholson, in a statement yesterday.
Tens of thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets on Friday over the jailing of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and government authoritarianism. Clashes broke out when protesters attempted to enter Malé City’s central square, an area where protests are banned, at dusk.
Opposition leaders and 193 protesters were detained in the largest number of arrests from a single protest in a decade. Scores were injured and two police officers were beaten.
The criminal court has remanded over 170 protesters for 15 days.
“Canada stands with the tens of thousands of peaceful Maldivians from across the country who have congregated to call for the release of political prisoners and the restoration of the rule of law,” Nicholson said.
“The trial and treatment of former president Mohamed Nasheed is appalling. An effective and thorough review of the investigation and legal proceedings is vital to ensure that international and domestic obligations related to fair trials and the rule of law are fully respected.
“We urge all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint in the face of violence. At the same time, we underline the need for respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We also urge the government of Maldives to reaffirm its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years on terrorism charges relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure. The trial was rushed and widely criticised by foreign governments, international bodies and human rights groups.
The EU parliament last week called on the government to free Nasheed immediately and has urged member states to warn tourists on Maldives’ human rights record.
The US secretary of state John Kerry added his voice to growing criticism on Saturday, saying Nasheed’s imprisonment is “an injustice that needs to be addressed soon.”
“We’ve seen even now how regrettably there are troubling signs that democracy is under threat in the Maldives where the former president Nasheed has been imprisoned without due process,” he said.
The government, however, remains defiant, dismissing Kerry’s remarks as “personal views” and saying the EU parliament’s resolution is no cause for concern.
Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon on Friday said President Abdulla Yameen’s government will not comply with demands from foreign governments to “meddle” in judicial affairs and release a convict.
Dunya has reacted furiously to statements by Canada in the past, saying they were biased and untrue.