Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has slammed alleged attempts to place Maldives on the formal agenda of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial on terrorism charges.
Speaking to the press at the President’s Office today, Dunya accused unnamed “foreigners” working alongside local opposition politicians of pushing for CMAG action against the Maldives on the grounds that the opposition leader’s trial was unlawful and unfair.
Nasheed’s trial was proceeding in accordance with laws and regulations, Dunya insisted, arguing that the “issue does not necessarily have to be taken to CMAG.”
Dunya also claimed there was “no international pressure” regarding Nasheed’s trial, stating that other countries would not be allowed to meddle with Maldives’ domestic affairs.
“CMAG placed us on their agenda in 2012. We believe it was not the best action and CMAG also has the same views,” said Dunya.
“Commonwealth does not want to go through the same experience. It was a bitter experience.”
Nasheed is presently on trial at the Criminal Court over the military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Mohamed Abdulla in 2012.
If convicted, the opposition leader faces ten to 15 years of imprisonment or banishment.
Meanwhile, a ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP has proposed amendments to the Prisons and Parole Act that if passed would effectively strip Nasheed of his party membership.
Also speaking at the press conference today, Attorney General Mohamed Anil – who recently flew to Sri Lanka to brief diplomatic missions about Nasheed’s prosecution – said the international community raised a number concerns.
Anil revealed that foreign diplomats inquired as to why the charges against Nasheed were abruptly changed from arbitrary detention to terrorism, while sharing concerns over the swift speed of trial proceedings.
The attorney general said the Maldives delegation responded by explaining that the Judge Abdulla’s detention was not arbitrary detention as he was neither presented at court within 24 hours nor released despite several court orders.
Anil also dismissed Nasheed’s legal team’s claim of insufficient time for preparation, arguing that his lawyers have had access to the prosecution evidence and witness testimony since 2012. The only difference was the charge of terrorism, he said.
Dunya meanwhile said that she recently briefed numerous diplomats regarding the trial during trips to Geneva and the United Kingdom, including Minister of State for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire.
Swire had previously released a statement stressing the importance of following due process and respecting Nasheed’s rights “for international confidence in the Maldives.”
“It is also incumbent upon the Government of Maldives to ensure his safety. We urge calm right across Maldives and we encourage all parties to act with moderation and restraint,” he said.
“The UK will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
Maldives was previously placed on the formal agenda of CMAG after Nasheed controversially resigned in February 2012 in the wake of a police mutiny.
Pro-government MPs at the time alleged that the Commonwealth was being bribed by opposition supporters, with MP Riyaz Rasheed claiming that the United Kingdom was “not a democracy” and that the queen was “physically challenged.”
After the Commonwealth Secretary-General released a statement last month expressing concern with denial of legal representation to Nasheed, Dunya issued a counter-statement expressing regret with “the strategic misrepresentation of basic facts in the Secretary General’s statement.”
“I wish to recall that the Commonwealth Secretariat had misread the situation in the Maldives once before, in 2012 and presented it to the CMAG, which took punitive measures against the country,” Dunya said.
“The Maldives, however, emerged from the situation vindicated by the CoNI Report. The government is hopeful that the Commonwealth will not repeat the same mistakes again.”
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