UK PM is first head of government to call for Nasheed’s release

British Prime Minister David Cameron has urged the Maldives to release jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and other political prisoners.

Cameron is the first head of government or state to demand Nasheed’s release. In a tweet following a meeting with Nasheed’s wife Laila Ali and lawyer Amal Clooney in London on Wednesday, he also called for political dialogue in the Maldives.

Cameron’s tweet appears to signal an important shift in the UK government’s stance on the Maldives. While the UK has continued to raise concern over the apparent lack of due process in Nasheed’s rushed trial on terrorism charges, it had previously stopped short of calling for the opposition leader’s release.

In 2011, Cameron described Nasheed as his “new best-freind.” His Conservative Party has helped Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party with election campaigns and party building.

Nasheed has since been transferred to house arrest for eight weeks on the doctor’s advise. The opposition leader’s imprisonment had triggered a political crisis with daily protests and the arrests of hundreds of opposition supporters.

Diplomatic pressure has been growing on President Abdulla Yameen’s regime over a deteriorating human rights situation in the Maldives.

US Senators John McCain and Jack 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.”

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.

According to a statement by Nasheed’s office, Laila also met with Hugo Swire, the minister of state, foreign and commonwealth office on Wednesday.

In April, Laila also filed a petition with the UN working group on arbitrary detention requesting a judgement declaring Nasheed’s detention illegal and arbitrary. The UN has now asked President Abdulla Yameen’s government for a response.

Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest this week appears to be a first step towards political reconciliation between Yameen’s government and the opposition.

President Yameen maintains he has no constitutional authority to release Nasheed, and says he must exhaust all appeal processes before a clemency plea could be considered.

On June 18, the government announced it had hired a law firm owned by Cherie Blair, the wife of UK’s former prime minister Tony Blair, to “strengthen the legislative framework of the government.”

Meanwhile, UK MPs continue to raise concern Nasheed’s imprisonment at Westminster. Most recently, on June 23, a Labor MP asked for an update on the current political situation in the Maldives.

In a written reply, Swire said he has been in touch with foreign minister Dunya Maumoon and that the UK government receives regular reports on the Maldives, including from the High Commission in Colombo.

“I called Foreign Minister Dunya on 11 June to press for an even handed government response. We understand that the protests remained largely peaceful and were conducted in accordance with police instructions. Nevertheless, twelve men including Mr Ahmed Mahloof MP were arrested,” he said.

“We have expressed our concerns about the rushed trial of former President Nasheed, which appeared to contravene the Maldives’ own laws and practices, as well as international fair trials standards. Nasheed sought for clemency from the President on 15 June.

“The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is currently investigating his case. We are also concerned at the arrests, trials and convictions of other opposition figures and that these also fail to meet local and international standards,” Swire added.

Correction: This article’s headline previously read that the UK Prime Minister is the first head of state to call for Nasheed’s release. PM Cameron is head of the government, not the state. 


Nasheed ‘an innocent man and the Maldives’ great hope’: Amal Clooney

“It may be famous for the pristine holiday beaches of its Indian Ocean coastline but the Maldives has taken a dark authoritarian turn. In 2008, the island nation became a democracy after Mohamed Nasheed was sworn in as president after the country’s first-ever free and fair elections,” writes Amal Clooney in the Guardian.

“A charismatic leader, Nasheed introduced liberalising reforms at home, while calling for global action against climate change in an attempt to combat the rising sea levels that threaten to inundate the low-lying nation. His remarkable story is chronicled in the acclaimed documentary The Island President.

“Seven years later, however, Nasheed is in prison, having been sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for the crime of “terrorism” following a politically motivated show trial.

“As a young man, Nasheed made a name for himself as a dissident journalist who challenged the repressive regime of Maumoon Gayoom, the Maldives’ long-serving dictator. Over a 15-year period, Nasheed was arrested more than 20 times. He was twice named by Amnesty International a prisoner of conscience.”

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Nasheed denied access to international lawyers

The police have denied jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed’s requests to contact his international legal team, stating they must first register with the attorney general’s office.

The opposition leader was sentenced to 13 years in jail last month on terrorism charges in a trial heavily criticised by foreign governments, the UN and Amnesty International for its apparent lack of due process.

Nasheed’s international legal team is made up of heavyweight human rights lawyers including Amal Clooney, who has advised the UN and is the wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, Jared Genser, the founder of renowned campaign group for political prisoners Freedom Now and Ben Emmerson QC, a former UN rights chief on counter terrorism.

The international team is to push for Nasheed’s “freedom from arbitrary detention” through international lobbying mechanisms such as the UN working group on arbitrary detention, the opposition leader’s domestic legal team has said.

The working group’s decision on Nasheed’s detention will affect the international community’s policies towards the Maldives and will inform decisions on possible sanctions, lawyers said.

Speaking to the press today, Nasheed’s lawyer Hassan Latheef said Nasheed had met with a representative from the Commonwealth yesterday.

However, the former president refused to speak about his trial with the British judge Peter Beaumont CBE QC, stating an additional inquiry into his trial will serve no purpose.

“President Nasheed told the delegation he does not believe the commonwealth needs to do an additional inquiry into the Maldivian judiciary. He said the Commonwealth knows very well the state of the Maldivian judiciary and its courts, and so there is no meaning to do an additional report into his trial,” Hassan said.

Nasheed requested the Commonwealth’s aid in reforming the Maldives’ system of governance and criticised the government’s jailing of rivals, including himself and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The result of the Commonwealth-backed inquiry into the 2012 transfer of power had undermined both the government and the opposition’s trust in the organisation, Nasheed reportedly said.

The inquiry was established after Nasheed claimed he had been forced to resign in a coup d’état following a military and police mutiny. But the commission’s report found the transfer of power to be lawful and said there was no mutiny.

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon in February reacted harshly to Commonwealth criticism of Nasheed’s prosecution, stating the organisation had “wronged us in the past and you are still mistreating us.”

But with growing international criticism of the trial and sentence, the government invited representatives from the Commonwealth and EU to observe an appeal process.

However, Nasheed has refused to file an appeal, instead appealing to President Abdulla Yameen for a political solution. His supporters have called on President Yameen to release the former president by exercising powers granted in the clemency law.

The opposition has been protesting daily for two months over Nasheed’s arrest and imprisonment.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said Nasheed’s international lawyers were planning a visit to the Maldives. This is incorrect. Minivan News apologizes to its readers for the mistake.


Amal Clooney and other heavyweights to represent jailed ex President Nasheed

Jailed opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed has unveiled an international legal team including heavyweight human rights lawyers such as Amal Clooney.

Clooney, who has advised the UN and is the wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, is accompanied by Jared Genser, the founder of the renowned campaign group for political prisoners Freedom Now, and Ben Emmerson, former UN rights chief on counter-terrorism and human rights.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail last month on terrorism charges in a trial heavily criticised by observers including the UN and Amnesty International for its apparent lack of due process.

The former president hopes to increase international pressure on President Abdulla Yameen, who has so far remained silent in the face of the opposition’s daily protests, and calls for dialogue and a presidential pardon.

“I am very pleased to have such an extraordinary team agree to take up my legal defence internationally,” he said in a statement today.

Nasheed said he is determined to “ensure the world understands the injustice of my detention and the broader suffering of the Maldivian people under President Abdulla Yameen.”

President Yameen maintains he has no role in the trial, but called on the international community to respect the Criminal Court’s verdict.

The international team will push for Nasheed’s “freedom from arbitrary detention” through international lobbying and legal mechanisms such as the UN working group on arbitrary detention, the former president’s domestic legal team says.

The working group’s decision on Nasheed’s detention will affect the international community’s policy towards the Maldives, and would inform decisions on possible sanctions, they added.

Genser has represented Nobel Peace Prize laureates Aung San Suu Kyi and Liu Xiaobo, while Clooney has counseled political prisoners such as the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko and Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy.

Emmerson, meanwhile, is currently the British judge on international tribunals on Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Nasheed on March 19 announced he would not seek an appeal after the Criminal Court failed to release required case documents on time, and said he is now seeking a political solution involving president Yameen.

The High Court still says Nasheed can appeal, claiming judges are authorized to accept late appeals if a “reasonable justification” is given, but Nasheed’s lawyers say Supreme Court has taken away the discretionary powers to judges in a new ruling in January.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party describes Nasheed’s conviction as part of a broader government plan to silence dissent, a claim Yameen denies.

Since Nasheed’s conviction, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim has been sentenced to 13 years in jail on smuggling weapons and ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim was yesterday sentenced to 25 years in prison on corruption charges.