Government seeks international engagement in conciliatory policy shift

The government has assured its commitment to “constructive engagement” with international partners and “structured political dialogue” with opposition parties in a conciliatory shift in policy.

The foreign ministry noted in a statement yesterday that imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed has been transferred to house arrest for eight weeks and pledged to keep the international community informed of the opposition leaders’ condition under a “broader commitment to strengthening transparency and dialogue.”

“This commitment to dialogue and cooperation with the international community is reflected in the government’s desire to foster strong and constructive relations with the opposition political parties in the Maldives,” the foreign ministry said.

“As with the development of reforms, the government recognises that the promotion of open and inclusive dialogue of this kind will take time. The government will continue to engage constructively with its international partners, and in particular with the Office of the UN Secretary General, European Union and the Commonwealth.”

The government had initially reacted to international criticism of Nasheed’s prosecution by dismissing statements expressing concern with the terrorism trial as “biased” and alleging undue interference in domestic affairs.

“The government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country,” foreign minister Dunya Maumoon had declared in February, urging foreign countries and international organisations to “refrain from acts and signals that could undermine the sovereignty of independent states.”

In April, President Abdulla Yameen urged the armed forces to defend his administration claiming international pressure is undermining the Maldives’ sovereignty and weakening the rule of law.

The arrest of former President Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim in February and the pair’s subsequent imprisonment on terrorism and weapons smuggling charges, respectively, triggered a political crisis with daily protests, mass anti-government demonstrations and hundreds of arrests.

Yesterday’s statement noted that President Yameen has asked UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to send a team to the Maldives to help resolve the crisis.

“President Yameen reiterated his pledge to ensure that a process of structured political dialogue with the opposition parties is realised,” the foreign ministry said.

International pressure has been mounting on the government in recent months to release “political prisoners.” Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest this week appears to be a step towards political reconciliation.

In April, the European parliament adopted a resolution calling for Nasheed’s release while earlier this month Senators John McCain and Jack Reed urged the US government to press for the opposition leader’s release.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron became the first head of government to call for Nasheed’s release yesterday.

In a tweet this afternoon, the foreign ministry said that minister Dunya spoke with UK Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, today and offered updates on the Maldives’ situation.

“She noted that there are no political prisoners in the Maldives,” the foreign ministry said.

President Yameen also told the UN secretary general that there are no political prisoners in the Maldives

Jailed opposition politicians were convicted of criminal offences, he said.

According to the foreign ministry, the president assured Ban Ki-moon that the government was ready to engage in talks with Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party.

The conciliatory statements follow the enlistment of 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.”

The foreign ministry said yesterday that the government “considers its obligations towards legislative, constitutional and judicial reform as an integral part of its development plans”.

“As is the case for every state, successful and far-reaching reform takes time. This is especially true in a small state with limited resources; however, the Government remains committed to sustaining and building on the current rate of progress that has already been achieved in the Maldives,” the foreign ministry said.


Majlis amends constitution, sets new age-limits for presidency

The parliament today passed the first amendment to the constitution with overwhelming tripartisan support to set an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency and the vice presidency.

A total of 78 MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives-Maldives Development Alliance (PPM-MDA) coalition and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) voted in favour of the proposed change.

The ruling coalition is seeking to replace vice-president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed with tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, who is 33 and ineligible for the post.

The constitution states that presidential and vice presidential candidates must be 35 years of age.

Pro-government MPs have publicly accused Jameel of disloyalty and incompetence, but opposition politicians and some media outlets have claimed that President Abdulla Yameen is seeking a loyal deputy ahead of a life-threatening surgery.

Several PPM MPs have said that Adeeb will become the next vice president, but Jameel can only be replaced if he either resigns or is impeached with a two-third majority of parliament.

The revision to article 109(c) marks the first time the constitution has been changed since its adoption in August 2008. The change will take effect upon ratification by the president.

The amendment was passed with 78 votes in favour and two against. Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof and JP MP Ali Hussain cast dissenting votes.

Mahloof said in a tweet last night that he would vote against the amendment. “I respect JP and MDP’s decision,” he added.

The support of MDP and JP MPs was necessary to pass the amendment as the PPM-MDA coalition has 48 seats in the 85-member house and a three-quarters majority or 64 votes was needed to amend the constitution.

The MDP and JP parliamentary groups issued three-line whips last night for its MPs to back the amendment, prompting speculation of a deal with the government after former President Mohamed Nasheed’s house arrest was extended to eight weeks last night.

MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has said that the main opposition party stood to gain more from backing the amendments than opposing it.

Nasheed, who was serving a 13-year prison sentence at the high-security Maafushi jail, was transferred to house arrest on Sunday. President Yameen authorised the transfer.

Nasheed’s arrest in February and subsequent conviction on terrorism charges triggered a political crisis with daily protests, mass anti-government demonstrations, and hundreds of arrests.

The 19-day terrorism trial was widely criticised over its apparent lack of due process and international pressure has been mounting on the government to release the opposition leader and other jailed “political prisoners.”

JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, who has been out of the country since late April, had urged JP MPs to vote for the amendments and announced his retirement from politics. The amendments bar the business tycoon from contesting the 2018 presidential election as he would be 66 years at the time.

The government has frozen the bank accounts of Gasim’s Villa Group and several subsidiary companies over US$90.4 million allegedly owed as unpaid rent and fines.

Two senior JP members, Ameen Ibrahim and Sobah Rasheed, are meanwhile overseas in self-imposed exile after the prosecutor general pressed terrorism charges against the pair in the wake of a mass protest on May 1.

The JP leaders along with Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla are accused of inciting violence at the 20,000-strong anti-government rally.

During today’s sitting of parliament, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan said ruling coalition MPs will not speak during the final debate on the amendments.

MDP MP Ibrahim Naseer said he backed the amendment as the party has issued a three-line whip for the vote.

The MDP has always advocated increasing opportunities for youth, he said, and lowering the age limit for presidential candidates would enable young people to reach the highest office of the state.

No other MP asked to speak during the debate.

The amendment was submitted earlier this month by MDA MP Mohamed Ismail, who said during the preliminary debate that he proposed the 65-year cap as the president should be “young, intelligent, daring, active, and energetic.”

The deal

The apparent deal between the government and opposition parties has divided opinion among opposition supporters and sparked debate on social media.

While some have condemned amending the constitution to benefit an individual and accused opposition MPs of abandoning principles, others argued the possible release of opposition politicians would justify the move.

MDP MP Fayyaz Ismail and MDP chairperson Ali Waheed defended the party’s stand, but former attorney general Husnu Suood questioned its wisdom.


JP MP Ali Hussain suggested that the opposition has capitulated while JP deputy leader Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan said the MDP and JP has made a “mockery” of supporters who came out to protest under the ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ banner.


President Yameen authorised Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest

President Abdulla Yameen authorised former President Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest today, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has told Minivan News.

President Yameen made the decision at a meeting at 1:00pm this afternoon and sought advice from the attorney general, Adeeb said.

Home minister Umar Naseer was reluctant to approve the transfer, Adeeb added, but the president made the decision.

A family member told Minivan News that Nasheed was brought home around 4:00pm ahead of an appointment for an MRI scan on Thursday.

The opposition leader was brought to Malé around 8:30am this morning to consult a nerve specialist at the ADK private hospital. Nasheed was briefly detained at a custodial centre in the capital before being taken to his wife’s residence Yaagoothuge.

An official from the Maldives Corrections Service (MCS) told local media that Nasheed was transferred to house arrest for three days based on doctor’s advice.

The medical tests recommended by the doctor will take three days, the official said, after which Nasheed will be taken back to the Maafushi prison.

Adeeb said the duration of Nasheed’s house arrest will depend on the doctor’s advice.

The tourism minister is taking over as acting home minister tonight with Naseer due to depart for Singapore.

Nasheed’s lawyers have previously said he was being denied access to specialist medical attention despite recommendations from doctors.

The government had refused to authorise tests after doctors at the Maafushi Jail health centre and at a Malé military clinic recommended in May that he get an MRI scan, the lawyers said.

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism in March over the military’s detention of a judge during his tenure and sentenced to 13 years in jail.

The 19-day terrorism trial was widely criticised over its apparent lack of due process and international pressure on the government to release the opposition leader has been growing in recent weeks.

MCS media official Moosa Rameez told Minivan News earlier today that the prison authorities will arrange the MRI scan.

Senior members of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) along with the former president’s family members and supporters gathered outside the Malé jail this afternoon when Nasheed was brought to the custodial centre from the hospital.

Following his transfer to house arrest, several MDP MPs and politicians have started posting selfies with the former president on Twitter.

Supporters have also taken to social media to express joy over the former president’s reprieve from custody. Nasheed has been held in detention since his arrest on February 22, a day before the surprise terrorism trial.


President ratifies law stripping Nasheed of MDP presidency

President Abdulla Yameen ratified amendments to the prison and paroles law today that strips ex-president Mohamed Nasheed of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) presidency.

The changes voted through to the Prison and Parole Act last month by the pro-government parliamentary majority prohibit inmates from holding high-level or leadership posts in political parties.

Nasheed is serving a 13-year jail term following his conviction on terrorism charges related to the detention of a judge during his tenure. The opposition says the trial was a politically-motivated attempt by the government to bar Nasheed from challenging president Yameen in the 2018 presidential election.

President Yameen meanwhile ratified the Maldives Islamic university bill as well as amendments to the new penal code.

The Islamic university legislation seeks to upgrade the existing Islamic college or ‘Kulliya’ to a university while changes to the penal code seeks to bring forward its enactment to July 1.


Government accuses Amnesty of colluding with MDP to tarnish Maldives’ image

The government has accused Amnesty International of tarnishing the Maldives’ image in collusion with the opposition, dismissing its concerns of a crackdown on human rights as “preposterous fabrications with zero truth”.

Amnesty’s observations of a “rapidly deteriorating” human rights situation are “fallacious”, contended foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, accusing the organisation of seeking to “undermine and defame the Maldives judiciary and its national institutions.”

“The general human rights situation in the Maldives has been improving steadily especially following the reform agenda launched in 2004 leading to the ushering in of a modern constitution in 2008,” she insisted in a statement on Friday.

“Additional impetus has been seen during President [Abdulla] Yameen’s government in terms of promotion and protection of human rights.”

The enactment of 18 pieces of legislation under the current administration is “an unparalleled record in the history of the Maldives,” she added.

Amnesty had said in a report last week that the government is cracking down on peaceful protests, stifling dissent, and “abusing the judicial system” to imprison opposition politicians.


Amnesty’s allegation of police attacking peaceful protesters “is ludicrous and an absolute lie”, Dunya said.

The nightly anti-government protests staged by the opposition coalition in the capital “attract an extremely small crowd, and the police are able to control the protest well and ensure peace and security for all citizens of Malé.”

“The opposition MDP have however, by contrast, in the past been responsible for systematic acts of arson and other violent acts,” the ministry claimed.

MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News today that Dunya was speaking on behalf of the Gayoom family. Dunya is the daughter of ex-president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and niece of president Yameen.

“Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon sounds like North Korea when she keeps rejecting any concern raised by any international organisation, be it Amnesty, the Commonwealth, European Union, United Nations or even concerns raised by friendly countries,” he said.

“This says it all. The government has no intention at all to protect human rights in the country and come into line with the internationally recognised standards.”


Amnesty’s briefing report titled ‘Assault on civil and political rights’ was released after a delegation conducted a fact-finding mission in the Maldives from April 17 to 22.

The delegation said it sought meetings with government officials and a visit to Dhoonidhoo detention centre to meet ex-president Nasheed, but the foreign ministry offered to facilitate the meetings in May.

However, Dunya said the delegation visited the Maldives on April 27 despite a mutual agreement to schedule a visit for May and “choose to meet with only officials and supporters of former President Nasheed’s opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).”

The ministry said it has facilitated visits to Nasheed in prison by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Commonwealth, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

“The government of Maldives maintains its engagement first policy and continues to hold constructive dialogue with its international partners, including international non-governmental organisations that are serious about and value such dialogue,” it said.

“Sham trial”

After launching the briefing at a press conference in Delhi last Thursday, Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives researcher, said Nasheed’s imprisonment “came after a sham trial.”

“It is disturbing how far the Maldives government has co-opted the judiciary as a tool to cement its own hold on power,” he said.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison last month after a 19-day trial widely criticised by foreign governments and the UN for its apparent lack of due process.

However, the foreign ministry said Amnesty’s accusations about Nasheed’s trial are “without any basis.”

Nasheed was sentenced for the “abduction and enforced disappearance” of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

“President Nasheed has been tried, convicted and sentenced for this heinous crime as per Maldivian laws,” the ministry said.

“His rights were assured to him and he chose not to appeal the verdict or sentence of Criminal Court. Amnesty through its baseless allegations once again seeks to undermine and defame the Maldives judiciary and its national institutions.”

Amnesty had said it “welcomes the investigation of alleged past human rights abuses committed in the Maldives, but the organisation remains concerned that the case pursued against Mohamed Nasheed was politically motivated and selective” as human rights abuses under both the current and previous presidents remain unaddressed.

“Amnesty International is also concerned that the outcome of the trial appeared to have been predetermined to procure a conviction against Nasheed even before the trial began,” the briefing stated.


MDP MP appeals for Indian pressure to release Nasheed

An opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP has appealed for Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s help to secure the release of imprisoned ex-president Mohamed Nasheed.

The disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, death threats against journalists and human rights defenders, and an arson attack against opposition-aligned Raajje TV are “symptomatic of the Maldives’ slide into tyranny,” MP Eva Abdulla wrote in a letter to the Indian prime minister.

“I hope you can use your good offices to pressure the Maldivian government to release President Nasheed and other political prisoners, return to rule of law, uphold the constitution and protect the basic human rights of all Maldivians,” reads the letter sent on April 22.

Eva’s appeal was echoed by Amnesty International last week, which warned that the human rights situation in the Maldives is “rapidly deteriorating” with the government cracking down on peaceful protests, stifling dissent, and imprisoning opposition politicians.

Raghu Menon, Amnesty International India’s advocacy coordinator, said India as a regional power “has a responsibility to work towards a human rights-friendly environment in the Maldives.”

The ruling coalition has previously condemned calls for Indian intervention as “irresponsible”.

“Urging India to intervene in a sovereign nation’s internal affairs is a betrayal of our constitution. Its results will be bitter, especially on the Maldivian public,” majority leader of parliament Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News after Nasheed urged India before his arrest in February to ensure the security of opposition politicians.

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon has also expressed confidence that India “will not intervene in domestic politics of Maldives.”

Following Nasheed’s arrest and prosecution on controversial terrorism charges, Modi dropped the Maldives from a tour of Indian Ocean neighbours in early March.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison last month on terrorism charges related to the military’s detention of a judge during his tenure. The 19-day trial was widely criticised by foreign governments, the UN, and Amnesty International for its apparent lack of due process.

“Slide towards dictatorship”

Rilwan’s disappearance on August 8 in a suspected abduction “highlights the nature of today’s Maldives, where the rule by fear has taken the place of rule of law,” Eva wrote.

The government’s commitment to finding Rilwan was “questionable” as president Abdulla Yameen refused to comment on the disappearance.

“Of the many human rights abuses that have taken place in the Maldives, Rilwan’s has resonated across the country for its encapsulation of every fear within our society,” she said, adding that the disappearance came after “months of intimidation against journalists, civil society, and independent institutions.”

The public was still awaiting answers, she continued, as police have not “credibly” investigated the murder of former MP Afrasheem Ali, the attempted murder of Raajje TV journalist Ibrahim Waheed ‘Asward’, and the torching of Raajje TV’s studios.

Eva accused the current administration of using its parliamentary majority to “crush dissent, eliminate political opposition and make laws to facilitate executive and judicial tyranny” and offering immunity from prosecution to violent gangs that operate with impunity.

“An impunity and patronage the government makes no attempt to hide,” she added.

She further contended that “confessions through torture, show trials, and state sponsored violence” of the autocratic past have returned under president Yameen.

However, Eva said “Maldivians refuse to be cowed by president Yameen’s authoritarian tactics” and have taken to the streets to protest against “the slide towards dictatorship.”

“In tightening its grip, the regime appears to be losing it,” she suggested.

“More political parties, politicians and activists are leaving the regime and joining the opposition coalition.”

The Indian government has “the power to make a difference in the Maldives” and had been crucial to the success of the democratic reform movement that culminated in the adoption of a rights-based constitution and multi-party elections in 2008.

“The movement cannot end yet, we have come too far to leave this conflict to our children,” she wrote.

“So we ask India’s help again. I believe it is in India’s interest to see the Maldives return to the democratic path. We cannot afford another failed Muslim democracy, nor a front of instability in the Indian Ocean.”


President seeks changes to law barring Nasheed from MDP

President Abdulla Yameen has vetoed changes to the prison and parole law that would have stripped ex-president Mohamed Nasheed of his membership and leadership position in the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

However, the changes are expected to pass through parliament in an adjusted form that would still bar Nasheed from leading the MDP.

President Yameen reportedly advised parliament to adjust the planned changes so that convicts can remain members of political parties and associations, but did not recommend removing a clause barring them from leadership posts.

Critics of the government believe that clause is aimed specifically at Nasheed, who was jailed last month for 13 years on terrorism charges.

The president returned the bill to parliament for reconsideration yesterday and recommended revisions in light of issues raised by the attorney general, the President’s Office said.

Government-sponsored amendments to the Prisons and Parole Act had been passed on March 30 with 42 ruling coalition MPs voting in favour.

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism last month over the detention of the criminal court chief judge in January 2012 and jailed for 13 years. The MDP contends that the charges were politically motivated, while the trial was widely criticised by the international community for its apparent lack of due process.

President’s Office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali and Majority Leader Ahmed Nihan were not responding to requests for comment at the time of publication.

Muaz told online news outlet CNM yesterday that the bill was unclear as to whether inmates could remain members of political parties, because of the ambiguous phrasing of the clause.

Muaz said the president believes the clause conflicts with the constitutional right to establish and participate in political parties.

Stripping convicts of political party membership would pose challenges to the Elections Commission in processing membership forms and maintaining registries of political parties, Muaz said.

President Yameen suggested rephrasing the clause to allow convicts to remain members of political parties and private associations, said Muaz, and to exempt detainees who have not been convicted of a crime.

Muaz noted that according to the constitution, fundamental rights and freedoms can only be limited to any extent “only if demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.

Speaking at a rally last week, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed claimed Attorney General Mohamed Anil had advised parliament that the amendment was unconstitutional.

The chairman of the committee that was reviewing the legislation – ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MP Ibrahim Riza – kept the attorney general’s letter secret from other MPs, Waheed alleged.

Waheed declared that Nasheed remains the party’s leader and its presidential candidate for elections scheduled in 2018.

Voting on the bill meanwhile took place while MDP MPs were protesting inside the parliament chamber.

MDP MP Eva Abdulla told Minivan News at the time that the party would not accept the government using the People’s Majlis as “an extension of its tyranny to strip us of our democratic rights.”

“No amount of backtracking can strip him of the fact he formed the first political party in the country and became its first democratically elected leader. Or the fact that those who vote for this amendment today would not be in a political party if not for the hard work of this man to win them that freedom,” she said.


Government slams UK lord’s op-ed on Nasheed trial

The government has responded furiously to a Huffington Post opinion piece  by a member of Britain’s House of Lords about the trial of former president Mohamed Nasheed, calling it inaccurate, one-sided, and “an act of gross irresponsibility”.

Lord David Alton’s article called for targeted sanctions and a boycott of tourist resorts linked to the government following Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges.

In an open letter to Lord Alton from the Maldives High Commission to the UK, the government said that as a member of the All-Party British-Maldives Parliamentary Group the independent cross-bench life peer had been kept regularly informed about the opposition leader’s trial.

“Nevertheless, you have decided to comment on the trial in such an inaccurate and public manner, that it will further exacerbate the domestic ramifications of the case for our young democracy. This is incredibly disappointing,” reads the letter.

The government was “a firm defender of freedom of speech,” but “it is our opinion that your authorship of an op-ed piece of such inaccuracy and one-sidedness was an act of gross irresponsibility,” it continued.

The response forms part of a diplomatic offensive by the government aiming to counter criticism of Nasheed’s trial by the United Nations, Amnesty International and several governments.

Lord Alton described Nasheed’s terrorism trial as “an extraordinary farce” and a “gross miscarriage of justice” in a piece entitled “We must send the Maldivian regime a clear, unambiguous and robust message: Their behaviour is unacceptable”, published on March 22.

The op-ed contained a “litany of inaccuracies,” the government contended, whilst uninformed commentary in the international media “only serves to perpetuate the spread of misinformation and baseless rumour”.

The High Commission’s letter noted that Nasheed was charged under the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act, for ordering the military to “unlawfully and unconstitutionally abduct Chief Judge Abdullah in January 2012.”

“The government of Maldives would like to make it clear that there is no conspiracy by the government to unwarrantedly convict Mr Nasheed,” it added, reiterating that the executive could “neither interfere nor influence any decision of the Prosecutor General or the judiciary.”

Information wars

The High Commission repeated demonstrably false claims in letters from the government sent both to stakeholders in India and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The letter falsely claimed that Nasheed was presented before a judge a day after his arrest for “a procedural remand hearing” whilst his lawyers were not present as they had failed to register.

However, Nasheed was brought to court for the first hearing of his trial after his lawyers had been told they should have registered two days in advance, despite being unaware of the trial until the opposition leader’s arrest the previous day.

The letter suggested that Lord Alton confused “allegations that two of [the] judges were witnesses for the prosecution with the court’s refusal to hear Mr Nasheed’s defence witnesses.”

The prosecutor general and two of the three presiding judges were at Judge Abdullah’s home at the time of his arrest and had testified in a 2012 Human Rights Commission investigation.

Meanwhile, the presiding judges later refused to call any of Nasheed’s witnesses to the stand, claiming they did not appear to “negate” the prosecution’s case.

The letter also dismissed Lord Alton’s claim that police manhandled Nasheed – which was widely reported and shown on television – insisting that police followed standard procedure.

Lord Alton had meanwhile called for “targeted sanctions” against the Maldives, suspension from the Commonwealth, and Nasheed’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“The European Union should freeze the assets of senior regime officials and their crony backers. A travel ban should be imposed on senior regime leaders,” he wrote.

“And a carefully targeted tourism boycott, aimed at resorts owned by regime associates, is needed. Sir Richard Branson has already called for such a boycott, and others should join that call.”


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.