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.”


There’s nothing more conservative than conserving the planet, Nasheed tells Huffington Post

“[T]here’s nothing more conservative than conserving the planet, and if you want to deconstruct what conservatism is, that very much maps onto good environment living and issues and policies,” former President Mohamed Nasheed told the Huffington Post.

“I would argue again and again with conservative politicians as well, that if you look into the economics of it, this makes far more sense than what we are doing now. And another very important issue is, we will soon have millions of people on the move because of climate change and as climate refugees.”

Nasheed was interviewed during a trip to the United States where he received the Sylvia Earle Blue Mission award in recognition of his climate change advocacy and efforts to raise public awareness.

“There’s no plan B, even if we wanted to leave people will not leave. We are not only talking about the Maldives, Manhattan is as low as the Maldives. Now, can you see all these people leaving this island? No, I can’t see that. And in my view they would go in for more adaptation measures, so we must be looking at more technology for adaptation.”

Read the full interview here.


“This was a coup, yet it has been accepted as a legitimate transfer of power”: Huffington Post

Mention the Maldives, and an image of an idyllic holiday paradise, clear blue water, pristine beaches and luxury resorts comes to mind, writes Jared Genser, a human rights lawyer and adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Centre, for the Huffington Post.

The Indian Ocean archipelago with a population of little more than 300,000 rarely features on the world’s political agenda. On February 7, however, the tiny nation was gripped by political turmoil as its nascent democracy was strangled in its infancy. Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives’ first democratically-elected president, was forced to resign at gunpoint by a cabal of rebel police, Islamists, and his own deputy, with the former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom pulling the strings.

This was a coup, yet it has been accepted as a legitimate transfer of power. Reactions from around the world have been astonishing in their weakness. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake visiting Male’ merely said “some people say it was a coup, some people say it was a peaceful and constitutional transfer of power. That is not for the U.S. to decide, that is for the Maldivians.” Yet, even the new president’s own brother Naushad Waheed Hassan resigned from his position as Acting High Commissioner of the Maldives in the United Kingdom stating, “I cannot serve a regime that brought down the democratically-elected government in a coup d’etat” saying to his brother, “[D]o the right thing — resign and hold fresh elections. Let the people of Maldives decide.”

As president, Nasheed set about cleaning up the country’s corrupt institutions, instituting democracy and fighting climate change. Greeted as a hero by environmentalists for his efforts to secure an agreement on climate change at the Copenhagen summit, he warned that the Maldives would cease to exist due to rising water levels if the issue was not tackled. He became a role model for democratic transition in the Muslim world, and was a precursor to the Arab Spring.

It was his determined effort to take on vested interests in the Maldives, however, that led to his downfall. The judiciary is stacked with Gayoom’s appointees, who have done everything they could to obstruct reform and protect corrupt members of the old regime. A month ago, he ordered the arrest of Abdullah Mohamed, chief judge of the criminal court, on charges of corruption and political bias. The judge had a track record failing to follow the law, and now it was their turn to protect him. Demonstrations began, stirred up by Islamists who see Nasheed as too liberal.

Read more


The Commonwealth should threaten to expel the Maldives: Mark Seddon

Writing for the Huffington Post, UK journalist Mark Seddon has suggested that the Commonwealth should to threaten to expel the Maldives, following what the nation’s former government called a military coup d’etat on Tuesday, February 7.

“The Commonwealth should immediately threaten to expel the Maldives, as it did when the military seized power in Fiji. And the behemoth that is the European Union should threaten sanctions unless Mohamed Nasheed and his supporters are freed and returned to their rightful place – in government,” Seddon writes.

In his article, Seddon accuses the UK government of “waxing on about the importance of democracy in the Maldives while parading the accepted wisdom that Nasheed had somehow stepped down of his own volition, and been replaced by his vice president.”

“Prime minister David Cameron, despite having boldly declared that ‘Mohamed Nasheed is a friend of mine’, a few months back echoed this pusillanimity with his own: ‘this country does have strong links with the Maldives’, said Cameron, onion in hand, ‘and a good relationship with President Nasheed, but we have to be clear. President Nasheed has resigned, and we have a strong interest in the well-being of several thousand British tourists and in a stable and democratic government in the Maldives.’

“On the basis of that performance, just who would want to be a friend of David Cameron?” Seddon writes.

Observing that “The ‘Maldives Spring’ pre-dated that of the Arab Spring by six years,” Seddon continues that Maldivians “surely deserve a whole lot better from the international community? The mealy mouthed response from the British in particular just will not do. Diplomatic relations should be immediately suspended until the rule of law is once again established.”

Read more on the Huffington Post online.