Quitting Commonwealth will be “a huge mistake,” says vice president

Appealing to lawmakers to support the Maldives’ continued membership in the Commonwealth, vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel has said that quitting the intergovernmental body will adversely affect the Maldivian youth, women and business community.

The People’s Majlis, at the request of president Abdulla Yameen, is set to debate the benefits of Maldives remaining in the Commonwealth today.

Some member states are lobbying the body’s democracy and human rights arm, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), to take punitive action against the Maldives over alleged repeated violations of the organization’s principles, including the jailing of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Quitting the Commonwealth will be a huge mistake, Jameel said in a statement issued from London today. “We should never allow the heat of politics to cause long lasting damage to national interests.”

The vice president noted that many of Maldives’ important partners are Commonwealth member states, including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Continued good relations with Commonwealth member states is vital for the Maldives’ economy and security, he said. “It will be extremely naïve to think that snubbing an association in which our neighbours and partners play a leading role will not undermine our relations with them,” he said.

“It will be particularly foolhardy to quit the Commonwealth to spite the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group at a time when regional countries like India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are sitting on CMAG,” he added.

Jameel is meanwhile facing impeachment by the People’s Majlis. A vote is expected on July 21. He abruptly left the Maldives within a day of the parliament approving a constitutional amendment that will allow President Yameen to replace him with the tourism minister.

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ attempt to impeach Jameel is the latest in a series of dizzying turn of events in Maldivian politics. The opposition backed the constitutional amendment in exchange for opposition leader Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest. Subsequently, the opposition and the government began talks in late June, raising hope of an end to a six-month long political crisis.

Diplomatic pressure has been mounting on President Yameen to release Nasheed and other jailed politicians, including two ex defense ministers, a former ruling party MP and the leader of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

The Maldives was first placed on the CMAG agenda after Nasheed’s ouster in 2012. A Commonwealth backed inquiry found the transfer of power to be legal.

As efforts to place Maldives on the CMAG’s agenda for a second time intensified in July, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon threatened to leave the Commonwealth, claiming the “country’s economy and democratic governance suffered significantly” as a result of the events of 2012.

The CMAG, however, decided not to review the Maldives at a recent meeting in London.

Jameel today praised Dunya for her “policy of engagement” and said her efforts had prevented the Commonwealth from taking punitive steps against the Maldives.

Calling on the Maldives to foster existing relationships, Jameel noted that many of Maldives’ students study in Commonwealth countries and benefit directly or indirectly from opportunities linked to the Commonwealth.

As a developing country, Maldives also benefits from various capacity building programmes in the Commonwealth, he said. The inter-governmental body plays a vital role in supporting the integration of small states into the global economy.

While maritime security is an important priority for Maldives, the partners it relies on for operational capacity and effectiveness are mostly from the Commonwealth, he said.

“At every major challenge the Maldives had faced over the past 30 years, the Commonwealth has proved to be a vital partner, supporting, guiding and assisting us to attain success. These include strengthening national sovereignty through the small state security initiative in 1989, claiming a vast portion of the Indian Ocean and its seabed to expand our national wealth in 2010, or in supporting democracy-building as in 2005-2008, and facilitating national healing through supporting the work of the Commission on National Inquiry in 2012,” he added.

President Yameen in November 2014 had declared a foreign policy shift to the East, claiming that economic cooperation with China does not involve the same challenges to remaining an Islamic state as posed by some Western powers.

The Maldives joined the Commonwealth in 1985.


Maldives threatens to leave the Commonwealth, again

The Maldives “will seriously consider its membership at the Commonwealth” if it is placed on the agenda of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) for a second time in four years, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon has said.

Some Commonwealth members are pushing for the CMAG to assess alleged violations of the Commonwealth’s principles by the Maldives.

Diplomatic pressure has been mounting on the Maldives over the imprisonment of opposition politicians, including ex president Mohamed Nasheed.

In a conversation on Wednesday with Kamalesh Sharma, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Dunya said there are no serious violations in the Maldives and criticized Sharma’s alleged failure to follow due process before considering action.

“I said that the trust that had begun to build between the Maldives and the Commonwealth will be seriously undermined if the Maldives is placed on the CMAG agenda,” Dunya told the press today.

The CMAG can recommend measures for collective action to restore democracy and constitutional rule.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) called on the Maldivian government to “stop being so arrogant.”

“Having to leave the Commonwealth for not abiding by its principles will only isolate the Maldives from the rest of the world. And it will not be very healthy for the Maldives, but detrimental,” MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said.

CMAG agenda

The Maldives was placed on the CMAG agenda from March 2012 – March 2013 after President Nasheed resigned amidst a police and military mutiny. He later alleged he had been ousted in a coup d’état.

A Commonwealth backed inquiry found the transfer of power to be constitutional.

The Maldives was previously placed on the CMAG’s agenda “on an unfair basis, based on false allegations, and the country’s economy and democratic governance suffered significantly as a result,” Dunya said.

Placing the Maldives on the CMAG’s agenda for a second time amounts to selective and unfair treatment and violates the Commonwealth’s own rules, she contended today.

She also said Sharma had not raised questions over violations in the Maldives, or extended assistance for redress as required by the Commonwealth’s rules.

Nasheed was arrested in February and sentenced to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges in March over the arrest of a judge during his tenure. His imprisonment triggered a political crisis with daily protests and hundreds of arrests.

The opposition leader’s imprisonment coincided with the imprisonment of ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim on weapons smuggling charges. Three more key opposition leaders have since been charged with terrorism over a historic anti-government protest on May 1.

The Maldives Supreme Court meanwhile ruled a report submitted to the UN by the state human rights watchdog unlawful, and has barred it from communicating independently with foreign organizations.

Signs of a thaw are emerging between the government and the opposition. Nasheed was transferred to house arrest in late June after the opposition backed a constitution amendment to allow President Abdulla Yameen to replace his deputy.

Representatives of the government and the opposition sat for a preliminary meeting to prepare for talks last night.

In mid-June Canada called on CMAG to “urgently put the deteriorating situation in the Maldives on its formal agenda.”

Dunya urged Sharma to take note of the positive changes in the Maldives in the last few weeks. She also accused Canada of undue influence in the Commonwealth as a donor country.

On February 24, in response to statements expressing concern over Nasheed’s trial, Dunya said:

“We don’t get much aid or development from being a Commonwealth country. In 2012, Maldivians questioned the importance of us remaining in the Commonwealth. I am sure the question will arise again.”


Omnia Strategy helping government respond to UN working group on arbitrary detention

UK-based international law firm Omnia Strategy is providing legal advice to the government in responding to a petition filed by former President Mohamed Nasheed at the UN working group on arbitrary detention.

The opposition leader’s international legal team is seeking a judgement declaring his imprisonment arbitrary and unlawful. The government has been asked to respond before the first week of July.

The government previously said the law firm owned by Cherie Blair, the wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, was hired to “advise on strengthening the legislative framework” for democracy consolidation.

The foreign ministry said today that Omnia Strategy has “carried out a two weeks research mission in Malé and has been invited to review the current legal and constitutional framework in line with international standards and in particular to assist the government in preparing a response to the communication filed by former President Nasheed to the UN working group on arbitrary detention.”

Speaking at a press conference with foreign minister Dunya Maumoon this afternoon, Toby Cadman, a partner at the law firm, said due process was followed in Nasheed’s trial and that the government has prepared its defence.

The former president was sentenced to 13 years in prison over the military’s detention criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

“If the offence had occurred in the United Kingdom the former President could have been charged with an offence of kidnapping or false imprisonment, an offence which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment,” said Cadman.

“Throughout the legal proceedings against former President Nasheed, his constitutional right to effective legal representation has been guaranteed and when his legal representatives boycotted the proceedings, the former president was repeatedly reminded of his right to alternative legal representation”.

Cadman also said that Nasheed was not kept in solitary confinement, but was “detained in a facility that would not only meet international best practices, but arguably far exceed any acceptable level.”

Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges after a 19-day trial was widely criticised over apparent lack of due process. International pressure on the government to release the former president and other “political prisoners” have been mounting in recent weeks.

The European parliament and US Senators John McCain and Jack Reed have called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

Briefing the press in Washington DC after filing the petition in late April, Nasheed’s lawyer Amal Clooney said the terrorism trial violated due process and compromised the basic guarantee of presumption of innocence.

Amal said that the court had said that there was no need to call for defence witnesses because such witnesses “would not be able to refute the evidence submitted by the prosecution”.

“This tells you everything you need to know about the process. Because why call a defense witness, if you already know that the verdict is going to be guilty,” she said.

Following the government’s announcement that it has enlisted Omnia Strategy earlier this month, Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) expressed “disgust” with the law firm’s decision to represent President Abdulla Yameen’s administration.

Omnia Strategy also advises the governments of oil-rich Gabon and Kazakhstan. Gabon’s president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, was elected in 2009, after his father who ruled over the country for 42 years died in 2009.

MDP international spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said the international community was “united in its condemnation of the Yameen regime’s thuggery and un-democratic behaviour.”

“The UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on Judges and Lawyers, India, The US Senate, the European Parliament and Amnesty International and many others have vigorously denounced the abuses to human rights and democracy by Yameen’s regime,” he said.

“It is hard to believe that Cherie Blair would want to keep company with such thugs of ill repute. It is unethical for Blair to work for this regime. No doubt she is being paid a small fortune, to help wash the blood off Yameen’s reputation.”

He added that the current administration “appears to have hired the most unethical and profiteering mercenaries money can buy.”

Dunya told the press today that the law firm’s fees and expenses will be revealed when its work is complete.


Government appeals for ‘fair and objective assessment’ from Amnesty International

The government has urged an Amnesty International delegation currently visiting the Maldives to conduct a “fair and objective assessment of the situation on the ground.”

The human rights organisation had released a briefing report titled ‘Assault on civil and political rights’ after a fact-finding mission in the Maldives from April 17 to 22.

The foreign ministry at the time accused Amnesty of tarnishing the Maldives’ image in collusion with the opposition and dismissed its observations of a “rapidly deteriorating” human rights situation as “preposterous fabrications with zero truth.”

At a press conference today, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon said the government was concerned with the Amnesty delegation’s decision in April to meet with only officials and supporters of the opposition party.

Dunya said the government had offered to arrange meetings with senior officials and to facilitate a visit to former President Mohamed Nasheed in prison at a latter date, “but they didn’t respect our word and came to the Maldives at a convenient time for them.”

Amnesty International’s Maldives researcher, Abbas Faiz, told Minivan News at the time the government was informed on April 2 of the visit planned for later in the month.

“The government suggested that we delay the visit until mid or end of May to better facilitate requested meetings with the authorities,” he said.

“Amnesty International informed the government in response that it will proceed with its visit in April as planned, that this visit will focus on meeting members of civil society, and that we are planning to have another meeting in May to meet government representatives as suggested by the authorities.”

The foreign ministry has since arranged meetings with high-level officials for the Amnesty International team in the Maldives from June 23 to 26.

“Constructive engagement”

Dunya said the government will cooperate with Amnesty International and address its concerns despite the organisation previously spreading “falsehoods” about the Maldives.

“The government reiterates the importance of constructive engagement to avoid one-sided reporting that would tarnish Maldives’ reputation without grounds and affect the stability, development and democratic progress made in the country,” the foreign ministry said in a statement today.

“Again, the government notes the biased and baseless allegations made by Amnesty International in the past.”

The Maldives is “still a young democracy”, it added, and stressed the government’s commitment to legislative and constitutional reforms.

“The government of Maldives expects international partners to recognise the progress made and values collaboration based on constructive engagement so long as any such work does not seek to create division within the Maldivian society,” the foreign ministry said.

Dunya said the human rights situation in the Maldives has been “improving steadily” and that the current administration has “enacted a total of 18 key human rights legislations within a period of less than 18 months, which is an unparalleled record in the history of the Maldives.”

In its briefing report, Amnesty had said that the government was cracking down on peaceful protests, stifling dissent, and “abusing the judicial system” to imprison opposition politicians.

In response, the foreign ministry accused Amnesty of seeking to “undermine and defame the Maldives judiciary and its national institutions.”

Abbas said Amnesty’s recommendations to the government were made “on the basis of solid evidence, as detailed in our press release and briefing.”

“We have highlighted the cases of individuals regardless of their party affiliation. We urge the authorities to address the violations documented in our reports, including the serious breaches of fair trial standards,” he said.

Amnesty had called the conviction of former President Nasheed on terrorism charges in March “a travesty of justice.” The 19-day trial was widely criticised by foreign governments and the UN over its apparent lack of due process.

In recent weeks, diplomatic pressure has been mounting on the Maldives to release “political prisoners.”

The European parliament in April adopted a resolution condemning the “serious irregularities” of Nasheed’s terrorism trial while US secretary of state John Kerry said during a visit to Sri Lanka that the opposition leader was “imprisoned without due process”.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon,” he said.

Earlier this month, US senators John McCain and Jack Reed urged their government to press for the release of all political prisoners in the Maldives.


Blairs take on President Yameen as client

The Maldivian government has 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.”

In a joint press release today, the foreign ministry and the attorney general’s office said the hiring of London based Omnia Strategy LLP “underscores the government’s commitment to strengthen democratic institutions of the State and to promote a culture of respect for human rights in the Maldives, adhering to international norms, while retaining its unique character.”

The foreign ministry declined to reveal the cost and length of the contract or the details of Omnia Strategy’s work in the Maldives.

Omnia Strategy, which has recently opened an office in Washington DC, describes itself as a “pioneering international law firm that provides strategic counsel to governments, corporates and private clients.”

In addition to providing legal counsel, the company specializes in public relations.

The firm advises the governments of oil-rich Gabon and Kazakhstan. Gabon’s president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, was elected in 2009, after his father who ruled over the country for 42 years died in 2009.

The UK’s Telegraph in March 2014 said Blair employs around 50 staff with a yearly wage bill of over US$ 3.5 million.

The firm’s appointment comes amidst growing international criticism of the Maldives government over the imprisonment of politicians, including ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The European Union parliament and US Senators John McCain and Jack Reed have called for Nasheed’s immediate release, while Canada on  Tuesday said the deteriorating rights situation in the Maldives must be discussed at the Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).

Nasheed has also appointed high-profile international lawyers consisting of Amal Clooney, founder of Freedom Now Jared Genser and UN rights chief on counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson.

Former President Mohamed Waheed employed Baroness Scotland for legal advice concerning the Maldives’ suspension from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).

State auditors discovered she was paid £50,000 without signing a formal agreement in addition to a consultancy fee of £75,000 (MVR 1.81 million) agreed upon in the ToR.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom employed UK PR firm Hill and Knowlton during the pro-democracy protests of the mid 2000s and reportedly paid the firm US$ 800,000 in a three year period.


Maldives and Canada in diplomatic spat

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon has accused the Canadian government of hypocrisy after it called on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to place a deteriorating human rights situation in the Maldives on its formal agenda.

“Canada should address the cultural genocide it is alleged to have committed against native Canadians before trying to teach other nations about values of democratic principles and human rights,” Dunya said in a statement on Tuesday.

Canada has condemned the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and police crackdown on several mass protests organized by the allied opposition parties.

In a statement on Tuesday, Canada said it supported the June 12 protest in which protesters called for the release of political prisoners, an independent judiciary, and respect for freedom of expression.

Dunya said Canada’s “selective application of [democratic] principles is a highly hypocritical approach to adopt” after a Canadian truth and reconciliation commission said rules that required Canadian aboriginals to attend state funded church schools was responsible for “cultural genocide.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a historic apology in parliament in 2008, acknowledging the physical and sexual abuse that took place in the schools.

Dunya said the Maldives welcomes constructive engagement and acknowledged that democratic principles, including accountability, is an obligation on all states.

“We would encourage Canada to show good faith and engage positively with the government,” she added.

The CMAG in 2012 suspended the Maldives and placed it on the body’s formal agenda over Nasheed’s ouster in 2012. A Commonwealth inquiry later concluded that the transfer of power was constitutional, but the opposition now says the inquiry was flawed.

Dunya in March slammed unnamed foreigners for working with local opposition politicians of pushing for CMAG action against the Maldives over Nasheed’s terrorism trial.

She has previously said Canadian statements on the ongoing political crisis are “blatantly untrue.”

The Maldives is grappling with increasing international criticism over the prosecution of opposition politicians. In addition to Nasheed, ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim is also in jail over charges of weapons smuggling.

Rights organizations have said the trials lacked due process.

Earlier this month, Dunya criticised the EU, UK, Canada and US over tweets in which diplomats raised concern over fresh terrorism charges against three more opposition leaders.

The European parliament in April adopted a resolution condemning the “serious irregularities” of Nasheed’s terrorism trial while US secretary of state John Kerry said during a visit to Sri Lanka that Nasheed was “imprisoned without due process”.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon,” he said.

Last week, US senators John McCain and Jack Reed urged their government to press for the release of all political prisoners in the Maldives.

President Abdulla Yameen has called for separate talks with the three opposition parties. The Jumhooree Party has held two meetings with government representatives, but there has been no progress with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

In October 2013, then-President Mohamed Waheed wrote a letter of complaint to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, accusing Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird of posing “several harshly worded questions… concerning domestic politics in the Maldives” during a CMAG meeting on September 27.


Foreign minister slams UK, US, EU, Canada over tweets

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon has expressed concern over tweets by the British High Commissioner, the European Union Ambassador and the Canadian and US missions to the Maldives regarding fresh terrorism charges against three opposition leaders.

The Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party’s deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and its council member Sobah Rasheed are accused of inciting violence at a historic antigovernment protest on May 1 and charged with terrorism.

The UK’s new high commissioner to the Maldives, James Dauris, in a tweet on Tuesday expressed hope that judges would follow international standards and said: “Will be watching closely.”

The Canadian high commission said it was watching closely with concern. The US Embassy, meanwhile, suggested the government must take steps to restore confidence in democracy and the rule of law.

In response, Dunya tweeted today from the foreign ministry’s official twitter account saying: “I am concerned by the tweets of some countries.”

The government will not intervene in the judicial process, she said. However, she said justice will be served according to the Maldivian constitution and said “criminal activities and incitement to violence will not be condoned.”

Imran denied charges at a first hearing on Tuesday night. He was arrested from his home on Monday night and is to be kept in police custody until the trial concludes.

Ameen and Sobah’s hearings were cancelled last night. The two are out of the country.

If convicted, the three face between 10 and 15 years in jail.

Nearly 20,000 people took to the streets on May 1, calling for the release of imprisoned former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, whose arrests sparked the ongoing political crisis.

The same three judges who sentenced Nasheed and Nazim are now overseeing Imran’s terrorism trial.

Foreign governments and international bodies, including the UN and Amnesty International, have expressed concern over the apparent lack of due process in Nasheed and Nazim’s trials. The parliament of the European Union has called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

The government, however, insists Nasheed and Nazim were granted fair trials, and condemned foreign governments for criticism of the judiciary.

The new terrorism charges follow President Abdulla Yameen’s invitation for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties, prompting concern over the government’s sincerity.

The president, however, blames lack of progress in talks on the “insincerity” of the oppoisition parties.

The MDP chairperson Ali Waheed was also arrested along with Ameen and Imran, but the PG office has reportedly not made a decision on prosecuting the former MP.

This article was amended on June 4 to include a tweet by the European Union Ambassador to the Maldives


Maldives launches plan to combat human trafficking, content undisclosed

The government has launched today a five year strategic action plan to prevent human trafficking in Maldives, but the ministry of economic development did not disclose details of the plan.

“There will be no room for human trafficking in the Maldives. The government of President Adbulla Yameen will close all the doors open to human trafficking,” foreign minister Dunya Maumoon said at a ceremony this morning.

The action plan will improve the legal framework set by the Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2013 by “implementing the anti-human trafficking law and putting together policies to prevent people from human trafficking,” she said.

A government report in 2011 revealed human trafficking to be the Maldives second most lucrative industry after tourism – worth an estimated US$123 million a year. The US state department said foreign workers in the Maldives experience forced labor, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or nonpayment of wages, and debt bondage.

With the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, the Maldives avoided last year a downgrade to the state department’s lowest tier on human trafficking and possible non-humanitarian and non-trade sanctions.

In March, the government prevented foreign workers from holding a protest over a spate of fatal stabbings.

The immigration department last week said 1,953 undocumented foreign workers were identified and deported in 12 operations conducted in 2015. More than 8,800 undocumented workers were deported last year.

Economic minister Mohamed Saeed, who is the chair of the steering committee on preventing human trafficking, assured today that the government will stop abuse of foreign workers: “We cannot traffic humans. It is an inhumane act. The government of Maldives will do everything to stop it from happening. The labour industry of Maldives should not be abused. The economy of Maldives will set examples to Asia for setting exemplary standards in the labour industry.”

Minivan News requested the economic ministry for details of the plan, but it was not available at the time of going to press.

Meanwhile, commissioner of police Hussein Waheed said the police had investigated eight cases of human trafficking since the anti-trafficking law came into force.

“We have also busted a foreign human trafficking network that was openly engaging in the crime, and have deported the foreigners involved. We are also investigating the cases of Maldivians who were part of it,” he said.

The state department report, released in June 2014, said the Maldivian authorities had not prosecuted any recruiting agencies for fraudulent recruitment practices. Some victims were penalized for offences committed as a result of being trafficked, while thousands were deported without adequately screening for indications of forced labor.

But the Maldives had opened its first shelter for trafficking victims, distributed pamphlets about rights to migrant workers in a number of other languages, and blacklisted some companies for fraudulent recruitment practices.

Police and other officials require training on trafficking, and procedures to identify victims and refer them to protective services, the report said.


Government dismisses US secretary of state’s comments as ‘personal views’

The government has dismissed US Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments over threats to democracy in the Maldives as his personal views.

Speaking to Haveeru, acting foreign minister Mohamed ‘Mundhu’ Hussain Shareef said the US government had not officially shared the concerns with the government and insisted Kerry’s remarks were his own opinion.

“We have strong relations with America,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru.

Kerry’s comments came after clashes erupted between protesters and police following a historic antigovernment protest on Friday. Nearly 200 protesters were arrested.

“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,” Kerry told the press in Sri Lanka on Saturday.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon.”

Shareef was unavailable for comment today.

The president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz also declined to comment.

Nasheed is serving a 13 year jail term on terrorism charges. The trial was widely criticised by foreign governments, international bodies and human rights groups.

Kerry had met with Nasheed’s wife, Laila Ali in Washington before his visit to Sri Lanka.

Nasheed’s international lawyers have asked the UN working group on arbitrary detention to rule the opposition leader’s arrest arbitrary and illegal.

Nasheed’s arrest on february 22 sparked daily protests across the country. The Jumhooree Party and the Adhaalath Party split from the ruling coalition and allied with Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party over increased authoritarian tactics by the government.

Approximately 20,000 protesters took to the streets on Friday against the government’s ‘tyranny.’ The march is the largest antigovernment action in the past decade. Clashes erupted when protesters attempted to enter the city’s main Republic square at dusk.

Police used stun grenades, thunder flashes, tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds and confrontations continued into the early hours. Scores were injured, 193 people arrested and two policemen severely beaten by protesters.

Later that night, police arrested Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, deputy leader of JP Ameen Ibrahim and MDP chairperson Ali Waheed.

The police have said the opposition must give prior notice before holding a protest.

Meanwhile the UN human rights office on Friday said Nasheed’s trial was “vastly unfair, arbitrary and disproportionate.”

Briefing the press in Geneva, Mona Rishmawi, who heads the office on rule of law, equality and non-discrimination, said Nasheed’s 19-day trial was politically motivated and was reached by judges wielding “incredible discretionary powers.”

The European parliament has also passed a resolution urging the government to release Nasheed immediately.

However, the government remains defiant, with the foreign minister saying President Abdulla Yameen’s government will not comply with demands from foreign governments to “meddle” in judicial affairs and release a convict.

In an interview with state broadcaster TVM, Dunya Maumoon said the Maldives would become “enslaved” and lose its independence if the government accepted such demands.

Foreign governments do not wish well for the Maldives, she continued and called on the public to protect the country’s institutions, independence and sovereignty.