Government sends out letters to international stakeholders with demonstrably false claims

Letters from the government to stakeholders in India as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights concerning the trial and conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed contains several demonstrably false claims.

An open letter dated March 19 – sent from the Maldives High Commission in India to major political actors – along with a letter from Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights were recently leaked online and reported on by local media.

A ‘Timeline of key events in the trial’ in the letter to Indian stakeholders read: “On 23 February 2015, former President Nasheed was given the opportunity to appoint legal counsel, when he was presented before the judge of the Criminal Court for a procedural remand hearing in relation to the amended and re-filed charges.”

“His legal team was not present at this hearing because they had failed to register themselves as per Criminal Court regulations.”

The claim is false as Nasheed was arrested around 2:30pm on February 22 and brought to the Criminal Court for the first hearing of the terrorism trial at 4:00pm the next day, where charges were read out and he was given three days to appoint lawyers.

Nasheed’s lawyers held a press conference at noon on February 23, announcing they were unable to represent the opposition leader, as the Criminal Court had told them they should have registered two days in advance despite being unaware of the trial until the opposition leader’s arrest the previous day.

Moreover, while remand hearings take place within 24 hours of an arrest, Nasheed was brought to court after the 24-hour period lapsed.

At the same hearing, judges ruled Nasheed be held in a location determined by the Home Ministry until the end of the trial. He was subsequently held in police custody at the Dhoonidhoo Island Detention Center.

The High Commission’s letter also justified Criminal Court’s refusal to grant adequate time to prepare for defence stating the court “determined that all the relevant documents relevant for the defence had been issued as far back as mid-2012, and that no new evidence was being put forward by the state prosecutors.”

But Nasheed’s defence team quit half-way through the trial after they were unable to view documentary evidence submitted by the state as some evidence CDs were left blank or were dysfunctional.

“The court repeatedly reminded former President Nasheed to engage legal counsel or the bench would consider that he waived his right to counsel, but advised former President Nasheed that he could engage counsel at any time,” the High Commission’s letter stated.

However, in subsequent hearings, the court refused Nasheed’s repeated request for between ten and 15 days to appoint new counsel and concluded proceedings four days later.

“Rushed process”

Meanwhile, a letter from Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was also leaked online.

In a statement on March 18, the UN human rights chief said Nasheed was convicted after “a rushed process that appears to contravene the Maldives’ own laws and practices and international fair trial standards in a number of respects.”

Asserting the independence of the Prosecutor General and judiciary, Dunya insisted that criminal proceedings against Nasheed were fair, transparent and in accordance with the Constitution.

“I can therefore assure Your Excellency that the independence of the judiciary and the fairness of due legal process remain as sacrosanct in the case against [Nasheed] as they would for any other Maldivian citizen,” the letter stated.

“I can also further assure Your Excellency that the government of Maldives will continue to ensure the inviolability of a citizen’s right to a fair trial, insulated from political interference.”

Dunya also falsely claimed that Nasheed was presented before the Criminal Court on February 23 for a remand hearing.

“His legal team was not present at this hearing because none of them had registered their right of audience for the case,” the letter stated.

While the High Commissioner stated that Nasheed was “constrained from calling witnesses” and noted a conflict of interest as “judges in the case as well as the Prosecutor General were witnesses in the investigation,” Dunya claimed both points were “indeed incorrect.”

Dunya said Nasheed had called two of the presiding judges and the PG as witnesses for the defence.

“Mr Nasheed’s request was naturally overruled by the bench on the basis that these officials could not be called as witnesses on evidentiary rules of relevancy and probative value,” the letter stated.

The PG, and two of the three presiding judges were at Judge Abdulla’s home at the time of his arrest and had testified in a 2012 Human Rights Commission of the Maldives investigation. The PG’s case is built on the HRCM investigation.


The government meanwhile denied a “conspiracy to unwarrantedly convict” Nasheed to prevent the opposition leader from contesting the 2018 presidential election.

In the open letter to stakeholders in India, the government also assured that Nasheed was “afforded a free and fair trial in full accordance with the Constitution and laws” contrary to “speculation and misrepresentation of facts” by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

It suggested that Nasheed’s participation in the 2013 presidential election “amply proves there are no conspiracy theories to eliminate him from the political arena.”

The administration of President Abdulla Yameen could “neither interfere nor influence” any decision by the independent Prosecutor General or the judiciary, it added.

“The independence of the judiciary and the fairness of due legal process have been as sacrosanct in the case against former President Nasheed as they would have been for any other Maldivian citizen. The Maldives government will continue to ensure the inviolability of a citizen’s right to a fair trial, insulated from political interference,” reads the letter.


Maldives’ Ambassador to the UAE resigns

The Maldives’ first Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Ahmed Rasheed, has resigned for what the President’s Office has said are “personal reasons”.

President’s Office Spokesman Abbas Adil Riza explained that Rasheed had been appointed to the mission at the start of the year under the Nasheed government, after having previously been Chief of Protocol for the Foreign Ministry.

Abbas said that Rasheed’s family were strong supporters of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), adding that Rasheed was related by marriage to former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Dr Farahanaz Faisal.

Dr Faisal resigned from her post shortly after the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed in February, as did the Maldives’ Ambassador to the United Nations Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed – then the country’s most senior diplomat.


“You are my brother and I will always love you”: Dr Waheed’s brother resigns from UK post, calls for President to follow

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s brother, the Deputy High Commissioner of the Maldives to the UK, has announced his resignation and called for his brother to follow suit.

“I have resigned from my post of Deputy High Commissioner as of now. I have resigned because I cannot serve a regime that has brought down the democratically elected government of my country in a coup d’état,” said Naushad Waheed Hassan to media assembled on the steps of the High Commission in London.

“Some of you may question why I have not resigned before. When the coup was unfolding in the early hours of February 7, my initial reaction was to resign immediately. However, as you all know, the leader of the current regime, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, is my own brother. So I decided to take time to make my own enquiries before I came to a conclusion. And it is with a heavy heart that I have to say that this is indeed an illegitimate government and I cannot be party to it.”

Minivan News spoke to Naushad this evening, seeking to confirm the report.

“This is not something I have discussed with my brother,” Naushad told Minivan News. “This is my own personal decision. I stood by him. But I after I saw the videos of the torturing, the police brutality, and saw what happened in the atolls, I decided it was not good for me to stay [in the government].”

Naushad said he did not know why his brother had taken the actions that he had.

“From our childhood days, I know he is a nice person. I still believe this. I don’t know why he is favouring Maumoon [Abdul Gayoom]. At this moment I don’t have the details. But I will find out why he took this step. He is someone who has been loved by people for so many years,” he said.

“And I say this to my brother – you are my brother and I will always love you. Do not rob our people of our right to choose our government. Do not be party to this police brutality that is ongoing in the country. Do not join with the people of the autocratic ruler (former) President Gayoom. Do the right thing – resign and hold fresh elections. Let the people of the Maldives decide.”

A staff member in the High Commission described Naushad as “quietly spoken and very friendly. His artwork was up in the commission until this morning so we should have seen it coming. I always noticed that he was happy to talk about his past incarceration [under Gayoom], but he never came across as too bitter.”

The staff member noted that the atmosphere in the High Commission had been a “little terse”, with “differences of opinion between staff that have stronger political, MDP affiliations than others, who see their role in a more purely diplomatic, apolitical sense.”

Maldives Ambassador to UN resigns live on Al Jazeera

Maldives Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, has meanwhile resigned live on Al Jazeera, reading a statement in which he said he was unable to continue his duties due to “certain moral and ethical concerns I had that surrounded the departure of the former President [Nasheed].”

“I listened with much sadness and great pride to the resignation of [President Nasheed] and his decision to step down in the greater interest of the Maldives, bringing to a premature end the maiden term of the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives,” said Ghafoor, one of the Maldives top career diplomats who has also served as defacto non-resident Ambassador to the US.

“The Maldives had yet again shown the world it was able to handle peaceful transfers of power smoothly. I was proud of my President and my country. However the subsequent allegations by the former president – that he was forced to resign – have cast a shadow of doubt on events preceding his announcement,” he stated.

Ghafoor said he accepted Dr Waheed’s government as a legal and legitimate constitutional authority, but said he found himself “in a position that makes it difficult to execute my responsibilities without equivocation based on certain moral and ethical concerns I had that surrounded the departure of the former president.”

“I believe the new president should have the opportunity to have his views and policies served by representatives without reservations or equivocation,” Ghafoor said. “I have therefore conveyed my intention to step down from all my diplomatic postings so that the new president may be better served.”

Ghafoor said that Dr Waheed had accepted his resignation, and had agreed to stay on until a replacement arrived.

“He has also given me leave to speak my conscience in the meantime, and I thank him for that,” Ghafoor said.

Asked by Al Jazeera as to the nature of his “moral and ethical concerns”, Ghafoor reiterated that he had “no reservations about the legitimacy of the current administration.”

“But what has made my conscience troubled is the allegations made by the former President and subsequent events. One concern was the appointment of the current defense minister and police commissioner , who I believe were involved in the negotiations [surrounding Nasheed’s resignation]. This was a troubling event for me.”

Maldives High Commissioner to the UK resigns

Maldives High Commissioner to the UK Dr Farahanaz Faizal also announced her resignation earlier this week.

“They robbed the people of the vote and when I saw the brutality of the police last week, that was the final straw,” she said.

In a letter to the Foreign Minister, Dr Faizal resigned as High Commissioner of the Maldives to the UK and as Ambassador of the Maldives to France, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Palestine.

“I regret to let you know that I cannot serve in a government that has toppled the
democratically elected government of Maldives, in a coup d’etat,” she said.

Honorary Consul to the Maldives, David Hardingham, also announced his resignation.

Minivan News sought to contact both Dr Waheed but he had not responded at time of press. Dr Waheed’s acting spokesperson Musood Imad said the President would be holding a press conference on Thursday at 4:30pm.


Maldives disputes allegations of US “climate bribe” to support Copenhagen Accord

The Maldivian government has hit back at allegations of “climate bribery” in international media this week, disputing claims that it pushed for US$50 million assistance from the US government in exchange for uneqivocally backing the Copenhagen Accord.

A leaked US diplomatic cable detailing an exchange between the Maldives Ambassador to the US, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed and US Deputy Climate Change Envoy Jonathan Pershing on February 23, 2010, was described as a “diplomatic dance” by the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

“Ghafoor referred to several projects costing approximately US$50m. Pershing encouraged him to provide concrete examples and costs in order to increase the likelihood of bilateral assistance,” the Guardian quoted from the cable.

In response to growing criticism – including several questions on the subject directed at President Mohamed Nasheed during his appearance on BBC Hardtalk, the Maldivian government today released several diplomatic documents it claimed “show that the country pledged its support to the Copenhagen Accord unilaterally and without reservations on 19 December 2009, just hours after the climate change negotiations concluded in the Danish capital.”

In a letter dated December 19, 2009, Dr Shaheed writes to the Executive Secretary for the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) to “confirm that the Maldives supports and associates itself with the Copenhagen Accord of 18 December 2009.”

In a second letter, dated January 29, 2010, Dr Shaheed again writes to the Executive Secretary stating that “the Maldives’ submission of its mitigation actions is voluntary and unconditional. However we do wish to state, on the record, that the Maldives will be seeking international support for implementation, and that, at such a tie as we do, we are happy for our request to be recorded in the registry and for our mitigation actions to be internationally measured, reported and verified.”

In a statement released yesterday, Dr Shaheed dismissed as “smear” allegations “by some parties” that the Maldives had said it would only sign the Copenhagen Accord in exchange for US$50 million in assistance, and that the release of the letters was “in the interests of full disclosure” to prove that the Maldives supported the Copenhagen Accord on its own merits.

“In fact the Maldives was actively lobbying other parties, including the US, to associate with the Accord. Not the other way around,” Dr Shaheed said. “President Nasheed spent many hours late at night in the final Heads of State meeting which negotiated the Copenhagen Accord, working with other leaders to try to avoid a total collapse of the negotiations and to ensure that the interests of small island and vulnerable countries were protected.

“Having been so intimately involved in negotiating the document, it was natural that the Maldives signed up to the Accord immediately after the Copenhagen negotiations ended.”

The Maldives had led a “diplomatic offensive” to urge other countries to sign the Accord, Dr Shaheed noted. “To suggest, therefore, that the US somehow paid-off the Maldives to support the Accord defies all logic.”

“Some people are trying to spin this non-story into a scandal in order to undermine the progressive voices of small island states such as the Maldives,” he added.

“We are seeking to play a bridging role between rich and poor nations in the interests of getting a deal that will save our countries from a watery grave. But not everyone supports this effort.”