India, UK politicians continue to voice concern over Nasheed’s imprisonment

Politicians from the United Kingdom and India this week continued to voice concerns over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s 13 year jail term for terrorism offences.

“We have a number of serious concerns about increasing political tensions in the Maldives and the arrest of former President Nasheed,” Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire told parliament this week.

Meanwhile, Indian diplomats have called the trial a foregone conclusion, while the French government has added its voice to growing international concern over the trial.

On March 16, UK Conservative Party MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown questioned Swire about discussions held with Maldives foreign minister Dunya Maumoon regarding Nasheed’s rushed trial.

In response, Swire said the trial was not conducted in “accordance with due legal procedure.”

“Despite calls from the international community for due process to be followed, we are concerned that the former President’s trial has not been conducted in a transparent and impartial manner nor in accordance with due legal process,” he added.

Last week, Lord Alton of Liverpool asked the UK government for its assessment of the Criminal Court’s decision to deny Nasheed rights of appeal in relation to his initial arrest, and asked what discussions had taken place with the Commonwealth over the rule of law in the Maldives.

Conservative peer Baroness Joyce Anelay referred to Swire’s statements expressing concern over irregularities in Nasheed’s trial, saying the UK continues to monitor the situation closely.

“It is important for international confidence in Maldives that Mr Nasheed, like all other citizens, is seen to be enjoying due legal process and respect for his fundamental rights,” she said.

International concern grows

Nasheed was charged with terrorism over the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012. The Criminal Court’s refusal to allow Nasheed legal counsel, adequate time to prepare defence, or to hear defence witnesses has caused international concern.

The United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union expressed concern with the lack of due process, while Amnesty International has said Nasheed’s conviction “after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.”

The French Embassy for Sri Lanka and the Maldives has been the latest to join the increasing international chorus of concern.

“France wishes to reiterate the importance of the right to a fair trial, which is a founding principle of democracy. We call on the Maldivian government to stand by its international commitments in this field,” a statement issued on Wednesday read.

Meanwhile, several Indian Diplomats told India’s Economic Times that the outcome of the trial had been a foregone conclusion, with the verdict written long before Nasheed was arrested and charged with terrorism.

“Every hearing at the court has been a blow to the rule of law,” said an unnamed Indian official.

“It is apparent that Yameen’s government, despite being seen as strong and stable, has seeds of instability within itself due to Yameen’s narrow outlook which has led to sustained efforts on the part of his coterie to neutralize other potential power centres and prospective threats,” the official said.

Government defends trial

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, at a press conference in Colombo on Monday (March 16), called upon India and Sri Lanka to defend the Maldives from “unjust criticism” from the international community.

Dunya and Attorney General Mohamed Anil maintained the trial was fair and just, insisting that the government does not interfere with the judiciary.

Arresting Judge Abdulla was a “serious crime,” Dunya said.

“We feel, that some people are a lot stricter on us because we are a small nation,” said Dunya. “There are countries with bigger issues than the Maldives.”

Dunya has previously condemned international statements of concern, stating: “Those who prefer to issue public statements about an on-going legal case, or on a domestic political situation, are advised to do a basic fact-check, before bandwagoning on to accusations made by a political party.”

In a statement issued last week, Dunya said that President Abdulla Yameen’s administration “will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country.”

President Abdulla Yameen has meanwhile called on all parties to respect the Criminal Court’s verdict.

In a statement released by the President’s Office on Sunday (March 15), President Yameen noted that the opposition leader has “a constitutionally guaranteed right of appeal” to challenge his conviction on terrorism charges at the High Court.

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives said the former president was denied fundamental rights that guarantee a fair trial in line with the Maldives’ obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Moreover, human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network urged the UN apecial rapporteur on the independence of judges to intervene in order to prevent a “slide back to autocracy,” whilst Transparency Maldives expressed “grave concern”, stressing that Nasheed was denied legal representation, the right to appeal, and sufficient time to mount a defence.

Related to this story

Former President Nasheed found guilty of terrorism, sentenced to 13 years in prison

“This is not a court of law. This is injustice,” Nasheed tells the Criminal Court

US, EU, and UK concerned over lack of due process in Nasheed trial

Foreigners cannot meddle in domestic affairs, declares President Yameen

Global change makers demand a fair trial for Nasheed


World Music Day concert rocks Male’ City Hall

Male’ City Hall was transformed into a music venue last night by the Alliance Française Maldives (AFM), which hosted free musical performances by Maldivian and French musicians in celebration of World Music Day.

The Alliance Française Maldives (AFM) has organised annual Fête de la Musique (World Music Day) events in Male’ since 2009, with music performed in public spaces “for everyone to enjoy” as part of this worldwide celebration, AFM Director Cécile Le Breton told Minivan News today (June 30).

Although World Music Day began as an initiative of the French Ministry of Culture in 1982, since its inception the event has become such a “big success” that over 500 cities in 100 countries organise free music performances to mark the beginning of summer, according to Breton.

“In Male’, people are waiting, expecting and looking forward to something like this – an event that offers a break from their daily lives,” said Breton. “This year was quite a huge success, we were very happy so many people showed up.”

“A lot – a lot – of young people came to this event, you could see on their faces that they are really looking for this kind of stuff; something entertaining that’s different from what’s been happening,” she continued.

“There is not that much happening for youth, nothing really interesting, no big music or cultural events,” she noted. “They were so happy to have a chance to musically express themselves.”

“So many people came up to me saying ‘you should organise a concert like this every month’,” she added.

Over 200 people attended last night’s (June 29) event, which featured traditional Maldivian drumming, singing and dancing by Habeys Boduberu Group, energetic performances by Maldivian rock banks Wave Damage and Velvet Flames, as well as a French gypsy jazz band, Caravan Quartet.

“Cultural events are quite successful because they offer csomething different to experience,” said Breton. “This is one of the biggest events AFM holds every year and it is open to everyone.”

“People could hear from the street and a lot came in. It was a pretty good location, although not a very big venue,” she added.

Due to “poor weather conditions and political events” taking place throughout Male’, AFM hosted the event in the Male’ City Hall building located on the capital’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu, however last year World Music Day festivities took place in Sultan Park.

According to AFM, the event setting gives the original ambiance of Fête de la Musique in France, as during the world music day every musician is free to express their artistic talent in countless public places – streets, parks, squares, museums, restaurants – creating a festive atmosphere. Musical performances even take place in “unusual” locations, such as prisons or hospitals.

“We are very proud of this event,” said Breton. “Organising it took a lot of time and energy and you never know if an event like this is going to work in the Maldives.”

“It was very difficult to find sponsors because they kept saying ‘its not the right time’. They were so afraid and discouraged holding cultural music events,” she lamented.

“I think they were reluctant because we are not Maldivians, but Alliance Française received so much positive feedback, especially from youth. We definitely have a role to play holding events like this that are accessible to everyone,” she continued.

Alliance Française Maldives is an NGO based in Male’ since 2009, teaching the French language and giving an insight into French culture, and promoting cultural diversity. AFM holds a variety of diverse cultural events throughout the year, including movie screenings, poetry readings, photography exhibitions, and cooking workshops.

“We are a non-political, non-religious, non-profit organisation trying to bring something different and open people’s minds,” explained Breton. “Part of our primary mission is to offer cultural programs, which is why the organisation was created and has branches worldwide.”

According to the AFM 2013 website, the group has chosen to organise monthly events with a view to maintain coherence within the francophone and francophile groups, to facilitate meetings among like minded individuals and spark creative projects.

Founded in Paris in 1884, Alliance Française is a non-profit association giving the opportunity to anyone to learn French language and enjoy the culture of French speaking-countries worldwide, with over 1000 centres across 136 countries.


MVR 85 million sanitation facility to be established in Laamu Gan

An agreement has been signed to establish a sanitation facility in Laamu Gan, local media has reported.

Ministry of Environment and Energy’s State Minister Abdul Matheen Mohamed signed the agreement with Male’ Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) Mohamed Ahmed Didi.

The project, which is funded with loan aid from French Development Agency, is to be completed within 18 months of the signing date of the agreement.

“Today we have signed an agreement with MWSC to implement the work to establish a sanitation facility in Laamu Gan. This is a project worth MVR 85 million (US$5.5 million).

Funding for the project was obtained from France with the assistance of the French government,” Matheen was quoted as saying in Sun Online.


Police bust cash card fraud network in joint operation with Sri Lanka

Police have busted a cash card fraud network reported to have stolen more than Rf700,000 (US$45,000) in expensive luxury items through the use of forged cards.

Police have arrested and identified five Maldivians in the network as Abdul Gany Abdul Majeed, 30, Thoriq Jameel, 30, Abdulla Akram, 22, Nadheem Masoodh 32, Ali Ahmed 28.

Speaking to the press today at police headquarters, Inspector Mohamed Riyaz said that Abdul Gany and Thoriq were arrested inside a casino in Sri Lanka in a joint operation conducted with the Lankan Police.

The two arrested in Sri Lanka had VIP cards for the casino they were arrested inside, noted Riyaz, adding that Gany was arrested in possession of Rf 4845, Sri Lankan Rupees 250,090 and US$5128, while Thoriq was arrested with 31,580 Srilankan Rupees and US$500 in his pockets.

Riyaz said Ali Ahmed was arrested at Male’ International Airport when he arrived in the Maldives from India on September 20.

He added that some of the credit and debit cards they had forged were made to resemble membership cards for certain venues and were hard to identify with a cursory glance.

Thorig, a shareholder of a famous movie shop ‘Club Infinity’, had membership cards of the shop which was actually a debit and credit card, Riyaz told the press.

Riyaz said some of the cards were made in the name of customers of banks in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, China and France – cards that appeared in the form of Maldivian cash cards but had the data of foreign banks’ customers encoded to them.

Police confiscated the electronic machines used to conduct the fraud, which the police said had the ability to obtain all information of any magnetic card and edit the information.

Police believe they might have used the cards and bought products from other countries as well, and said that they may have connection to a foreign network.

Police have been investigating the fraud network for six months, Riyaz noted.


New French Ambassador meets President Nasheed

The new French Ambassador to the Maldives, Christine Robichon, presented her credentials to President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday afternoon.

President Nasheed and Ambassador Robichon discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and way to strengthen cooperation.

The president thanked the government and people of France for their assistance to the Maldives, especially their cooperation towards the democratisation and reform process.

The ambassador said the French government supported President Nasheed and his effort to combat climate change, as well as the new democratic government of the Maldives and their respect of human rights and good governance.

She added the French government was willing to continue building strong relations between the two countries that had been established during the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009.