The UK Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission has called a rushed terrorism trial against former President Mohamed Nasheed a “grotesque travesty of justice,” and urged the international community to consider sanctions against senior government officials.
The opposition leader is accused of ordering the “abduction” of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012. If convicted under the 1990 anti-terrorism laws, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.
The chair of the Conservative Party’s human rights body, MP Fiona Bruce, said Britain and the international community could not afford to remain silent in the face of “such gross injustice.”
“Targeted sanctions against the international assets of senior members of the regime, as well as a boycott of tourist resorts owned by senior members of the regime or their associates, should be seriously considered,” she said in a statement today.
“The Commonwealth should consider suspending the Maldives. We must all do everything we can to ensure that Mohamed Nasheed is freed, democracy is restored and justice is done.”
The Conservative Party has long been an ally of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), assisting with party building and campaigning.
The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has meanwhile slammed the international community for its alleged “double standards and hypocrisy” over Nasheed’s trial.
Bruce expressed concern over the Criminal Court denying Nasheed legal representation at a first hearing, and the police’s manhandling of the former president when he was brought to court on February 23.
Nasheed appeared in court with his arm in a makeshift sling and requested immediate medical attention and legal counsel.
“I am deeply concerned that he has been physically mistreated while in custody. The images of him being dragged along the ground into court were truly shocking,” she said.
“Mohamed Nasheed is a champion of non-violent, peaceful democracy. Charging him with terrorism is in itself absurd, and blatantly politically-motivated,” she added.
She went on to question the impartiality of the Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin and the three judges—Abdulla Didi, Abdul Bari Yoousuf and Sujau Usman—who are overseeing Nasheed’s trial.
“In Mr Nasheed’s trial the prosecutor-general is a former associate of Judge Mohamed, and the lead judge had refused to take disciplinary action against Judge Mohamed as deputy head of the Judicial Services Commission. Another judge faces allegations of bribery and the third has a criminal record. What hope can there possibly be of a fair trial? “
The chairperson called on the government to release Nasheed and engage in political dialogue.
“Today I urge the Government of the Maldives to drop the charges, release Mr Nasheed and engage in a political dialogue to find a peaceful way forward towards the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights.”
Meanwhile, President Abdulla Yameen has declared foreigners must not meddle in domestic affairs, insisting Nasheed’s trial demonstrated the law would be enforced without bias.
In a statement on Thursday, the PPM said “many observers, ‘experts’ and ‘proponents of democratic values’ including many countries and organisations had ignored the many unconstitutional and undemocratic actions of President Nasheed.”
When Judge Abdulla was detained, “only a few organisations released statements condemning this illegal act,” but today “every minor incident in Maldives warrants a statement by some countries and organisations while many serious and deteriorating situations in other countries are ignored,” it added.
The PPM has repeatedly called on the international community to respect Maldives sovereignty and not to undermine its institutions.
Stressing the PPM remained committed to strengthening and consolidating democracy in the Maldives and protecting human rights, the party said it believed “justice should take its course and no man is above the law.”
Local human rights group Maldivian Democracy Network has also highlighted 11 issues of concern with Nasheed’s trial, ranging from alleged witness coaching to Criminal Court’s refusal to provide sufficient time to mount a defence.
The Criminal Court, however, has insisted Nasheed’s legal team had been afforded sufficient time, arguing case documents had been provided three years ago when the former President was charged with arbitrarily detaining Judge Abdulla.
Nasheed’s legal team maintain they require more time to prepare a defence for the new harsher charges of terrorism.
When lawyers quit in protest on March 9, the Criminal Court proceeded without affording Nasheed ten additional days to appoint new lawyers, insisting the former president could appoint lawyers at any time via a phone call.
The Criminal Court is to hear concluding statements tomorrow night. Judges could issue a verdict at their discretion afterwards.
The Commonwealth, EU, Canada, UK, Australia and India have expressed concern over new terror charges against Nasheed, and denial of legal representation and police mistreatment at the trial’s first hearing.
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