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.”


Maldives considered GMR buyout, but lacked funds

The Maldivian government considered buying out the 2010 airport development contract from India’s GMR, but lacking the necessary funds declared the agreement invalid, Minivan News can exclusively reveal.

The Maldives is now facing a payout to GMR, potentially as high as US$803 million or over half of the state budget, after a Singaporean tribunal last year ruled that the agreement was valid and binding.

The government, however, expects the compensation claim to amount to US$300 million. The exact figure is yet to be determined by the tribunal.

Testimony by cabinet ministers and airport company officials – in a separate arbitration between the government and an Indian bank over the airport deal – show that ex-president Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan asked his cabinet to estimate the sum required to buy out the concession agreement from GMR.

Minivan News has obtained the opening submissions by the government and the Axis Bank made in February and March, respectively.

According to the submissions, then-minister of youth and sports, Mohamed ‘Mundhu’ Hussain Shareef, said the cabinet did not “have the necessary information to make a reliable calculation, but the potential figures were intimidating … As it was the country would have had difficulty paying even US$200 million.”

Former defence minister Mohamed Nazim said what the cabinet “did establish was that it was almost certainly more than either MACL [the Maldives Airports Company Pvt. Ltd] or the government was in a position to pay.”

The inability to buy out GMR led to a political impasse, Shareef said.

At the time, the Adhaalath Party had issued a six-day ultimatum to the government to nationalise the airport.

The religious conservative party in alliance with the Progressive Party of the Maldives, the Jumhooree Party and a coalition of NGOs had played a key role in ousting former President Nasheed and bringing his deputy Dr Waheed to power.

Shareef said the coalition’s opposition to the concession agreement was one of the main reasons behind Waheed assuming the presidency.

The emergence of the void ab intio or invalid from the outset argument was a way out from the political impasse, he said.

Ibrahim Mahfooz, a director at the state-owned MACL at the time, said president Waheed had also asked the company for an estimate of the sum required to buyout GMR, but said it was clear to the company’s board that the sum would exceed what they or the government could immediately afford.

If president Waheed has asked the company to buy out GMR, “I expect that we would have asked for time to attempt to borrow the money and if President Waheed had insisted on our acting immediately, I expect that some of us would have resigned, forcing President Waheed to appoint new board members who were willing to comply,” Mahfooz said.

At a cabinet meeting on November 27, 2012, ministers unanimously agreed to terminate the deal with GMR.

“This entire agreement has to be brought to an end, as it is believed by everyone that the agreement is invalid and cannot be continued legally,” Dr Waheed said, according to cabinet meeting minutes submitted to the tribunal.

Then-vice president Mohamed Waheedudeen said: “This cabinet represents a lot of political parties. Amongst them, almost everyone does not want to renegotiate this agreement, and wants to terminate this agreement.

“The decision taken today will be for national independence; this country’s existence as nation in the future and making it possible for the coming generations to inherit this nation. And for these reasons the agreement should be terminated.”

The government’s takeover of the airport led to a cooling of relations between India and the Maldives, with India imposing visa restrictions on Maldivians seeking medical treatment in India and ceasing the export of some construction materials.

In the submissions obtained by Minivan News, the Maldives said GMR and Axis Bank had successfully lobbied India for the sanctions.

The restrictions were only lifted after President Abdulla Yameen assumed power in November 2013.

The Axis Bank is seeking repayment of the US$160 million loan as well as an additional US$10 million as interest and fines from the Maldivian government. The bank contends that state is liable for the loan in the event of an early termination or an expropriation of the airport.

The government first argued that declaring the concession agreement void ab initio did not amount to an early termination.

Following the verdict in the GMR tribunal, which said the government had repudiated or refused to honour the terms of the agreement, the government claimed a repudiation did not amount to an early termination.

The Axis Bank, however, says the GMR arbitration ruling is not applicable in its case, arguing that the bank is not bound by the ruling issued in a separate, private and confidential arbitration.


India steeply increases aid to Maldives

India has increased its aid budget for the Maldives more than sixfold this year.

According to the budget of India’s Ministry of External Affairs for 2015-16, the country allocated INR 250m (US $4m, MVR 61.6m)  for Maldives last year, but this year the figure will shoot up to INR 1.83bn (US $30m, MVR 450m).

Objectives for the Maldives include setting up a police academy and the construction of a composite training centre in Male’, the budget says.

“A large proportion of the budget of the ministry is allocated towards technical assistance programmes in neighbouring countries and other developing countries,” said the budget.

Countries receiving Indian aid and loans include Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, African countries, Latin American countries and Eurasian countries.

India will be giving INR 6.76bn (US $110m, MVR 1.67bn) to Afghanistan this year, less than last year’s INR7.1bn, as New Delhi seeks to help the war-torn country rebuild.


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.


Respect Criminal Court verdict, says President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen has called on all parties to respect the Criminal Court’s verdict against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

In a statement released by the President’s Office last night, 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 government calls on its international partners to engage constructively, based on mutual respect and dialogue in consolidating and strengthening democratic values and institutions in the country,” reads the brief statement.

“The government remains steadfast in ensuring the separation of powers as stipulated under the Maldivian constitution and upholding the rule of law in the country.”

In the wake of the Criminal Court sentencing the opposition leader to 13 years in jail on Friday night (March 13), the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union expressed concern with the lack of due process, while Amnesty International said Nasheed’s conviction “after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.”

Domestically, 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 Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges to intervene in order to prevent a “slide back to autocracy,” whilst Transparency Maldives expressed “grave concern” and stressed that Nasheed was denied legal representation, the right to appeal, and sufficient time to mount a defence.

However, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told Minivan News yesterday that he believed the Criminal Court “would have afforded due process in the conduct of Nasheed’s trial.”

“If you study this case, from the beginning to the end, it is clear the charges are not politically motivated,” Muaz insisted.

President Yameen as head of state could not “interfere in judicial proceedings and is not to blame for court proceedings,” he said.


Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma released a statement yesterday noting that the intergovernmental organisation would continue to closely follow the judicial process after the verdict.

The Commonwealth urged restraint and advised peaceful resolution of “differences of view” through dialogue.

“The Foreign Minister of Maldives, Hon Dunya Maumoon, has made recent public comments welcoming constructive and close dialogue with international organisations,” the statement read.

The Commonwealth assured its commitment to working with the Maldives to address issues of concern.

“All societies should have the space and opportunity for dialogue in order to ensure that universally shared values are advanced, and to create a stable and harmonious future,” the statement continued.

“All societies should also have national institutions that enjoy the confidence, trust and respect of the people they serve. The Commonwealth is committed to offering practical support in a collaborative partnership to achieve these goals in an enduring way.”

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has meanwhile called on the UN to hold an emergency session on the situation in the Maldives.

The ACHR “urged the members of the UN Security Council to take necessary measures to seize assets and freeze accounts of President of Maldives Mr Abdulla Yameen, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin and the three judges overseeing Nasheed’s trial i.e. Abdulla Didi, Abdul Bari Yoousuf and Sujau Usman and other key officials of the regime, impose travel restrictions and trade embargo, and withhold financial assistance and technical cooperation to the Maldives until the release of Nasheed.”

“The trial is a travesty of justice – Judge [Abdulla Mohamed] who claims himself to have been illegally detained for which former President Nasheed was charged under terrorism charges still heads the Criminal Court trying Nasheed and effectively allowed his deputy, Judge Abdulla Didi, to convict Nasheed in a kangaroo trial. If the United Nations and international community fail to intervene now, democracy may never return to the Maldives,” said ACHR Director Suhas Chakma.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) also condemned the verdict and noted that Nasheed was “never investigated for the fresh charges of terrorism before trial.”

“The trial of Nasheed was riddled with numerous violations of basic human rights and fair trial standards, and his conviction must be condemned. This is a clear case of political persecution and therefore the verdict is not surprising, considering the manner in which the court has conducted the trial,” said Forum-Asia Executive Director Evelyn Balais-Serrano.

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

The United States, United Kingdom and the European Union have expressed concern with the lack of due process in the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was convicted of terrorism charges and sentenced to 13 years in prison last night.

“Despite the 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 or in accordance with due legal process,” said UK Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire in a statement.

He added that the UK would be watching the appeal process closely.

“I recognise that this outcome will be deeply worrying for many in the Maldives. I therefore urge calm across the Maldives and encourage all political parties to act with moderation, restraint and within the bounds of the law,” Swire urged.

“We have been consulting closely on our concerns with Commonwealth partners, and we will continue to do so over the coming days.”

The US meanwhile expressed concern with “the apparent lack of appropriate criminal procedures during the trial”.

“We are particularly troubled by reports that the trial was conducted in a manner contrary to Maldivian law and Maldives’ international obligations to provide the minimum fair trial guarantees and other protections under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” reads a statement by the US embassy in Colombo.

“This includes the denial of legal representation to former President Nasheed during the first hearing and concerns regarding the lack of impartiality and independence of the judges.

“We call on the government of Maldives to take steps to restore confidence in its commitment to democracy and the rule of law, including judicial independence, and to ensure fundamental rights are respected including the freedom of speech and of the press as well as the right to peaceful assembly and peaceful protest.  We urge the government to ensure former President Nasheed’s safety and well being in custody, and we hope all Maldivians will express their views peacefully.”

The EU said Nasheed’s conviction “raises very serious questions about due process of law and risks undermining people’s trust in the independence of the judiciary.”

The EU statement also noted that due legal process was obligatory for the Maldives under the ICCPR.

“Should the conviction be appealed, the appeal process must be fair and transparent with former President Nasheed being accorded all his rights, including adequate access to his lawyers,” the EU stated.

“The European Union calls on all sides in the Maldives to act responsibly and uphold constitutional freedoms.”

Indian External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin meanwhile tweeted saying India was “deeply concerned at developments in the Maldives, monitoring situation closely.”

“Travesty of justice”

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon 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.”

Dunya asserted in a statement that President Abdulla Yameen’s administration “will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country.”

Moreover, President Yameen has declared that foreigners would not be allowed to meddle in domestic affairs and the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has condemned the international community’s “hypocrisy and double standards” with regard to Nasheed’s trial.

Meanwhile, in a statement today, Amnesty International said Nasheed’s sentencing “after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.”

“Amnesty International condemns the conviction of Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in jail by judges who were state witnesses during an earlier investigation of this case. This trial has been flawed from start to finish, and the conviction is unsound,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

“Rather than responding to international calls to strengthen the impartiality of the judiciary the government of the Maldives has proceeded with this sham trial for political reasons”.

Amnesty noted that the opposition leader was denied legal representation at the first hearing of the trial and that at latter hearings his lawyers were not given sufficient time to prepare his defence.

Nasheed’s conviction last night received widespread coverage in international media and was greeted with outrage by several prominent figures who have called for his release.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, called the outcome of the trial “beyond a joke” and declared he would not visit the Maldives until the opposition leader was released.


Related to this story

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

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PPM accuses international community of “double standards and hypocrisy” in Nasheed’s trial

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Global change makers demand a fair trial for Nasheed

Indian Prime Minister Modi cancels Maldives trip

EU, UN join international chorus of concern over Nasheed’s arrest, terrorism trial

Foreign Minister Dunya slams Canada, Commonwealth statements on Nasheed prosecution


PPM accuses international community of “double standards and hypocrisy” in Nasheed’s trial

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has condemned the international community’s “hypocrisy and double standards” with regards to an ongoing terrorism trial against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed is accused of abducting Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012. If convicted, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.

Speaking to the press today, MP and PPM Spokesperson Ali Arif said the former president is “close to the international community’s hearts” because he had allegedly “spoken against Islam while abroad.”

The ruling party said “many observers, ‘experts’ and ‘proponents of democratic values’ including many countries and organisations had ignored the many unconstitutional and undemocratic actions of President Nasheed.”

The Commonwealth, EU, Canada, UK, Australia and India have expressed concern over new terror charges against Nasheed, and denial of legal representation and police mistreatment at the trial’s first hearing.

“We wish to ask these observers and organisations whether they really ‘condone the kidnapping of judges.’ Would they call for individuals, and those in positions of authority, to walk free, without any burden of responsibility, after conducting such actions in their own countries?” reads a press statement issued in English.

“Where was the ‘international community’ when the Supreme Court was locked up?” it continued.

The international community had remained “disturbingly silent” when Nasheed “systematically harassed and persecuted” former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, “arbitrarily arrested and detained” then MP and current President Abdulla Yameen, Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim, Adhaalath Party’s Sheikh Imran Abdulla, and current Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, the statement said.

When Judge Abdulla was detained, “only a few organisations released statements condemning this illegal act,” but today “every minor incident in Maldives warrants a statement by some countries and organisations while many serious and deteriorating situations in other countries are ignored,” it added.

The party called on the international community to respect Maldives sovereignty and not to undermine its institutions.

PPM also accused the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and media of defaming President Yameen and former President Gayoom to “undermine the good name and respect the Maldives holds in the region and the international arena.”

Stressing the PPM remained committed to strengthening and consolidating democracy in the Maldives and protecting human rights, the party said it believed “justice should take its course and no man is above the law.”

The ruling party invited all international parties to come forward and observe the “actual situation” in the Maldives, “which despite distortions of facts perpetuated by some media remain calm and normal.”

Meanwhile, the MDP continues to hold daily protests, with MDP MPs disrupting parliamentary proceedings, while party supporters continue numerous protests in Malé, at the airport and at sea.

Police previously informed Minivan News over 77 individuals have been arrested at opposition protests, with 33 of them being released on condition that they do not go to further protests.

Recently, an open letter signed by 31 global activists and film makers, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, called on the international community to use all resources to “pressure the government to free” Nasheed and “desist in all human rights abuses against him immediately.”

Ramos-Horta and Benedict Rodgers, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission in the UK, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on March 9 called for international sanctions against the Maldives.

“Options include targeted sanctions, freezing the overseas assets of senior members of the regime and suspending the Maldives from the Commonwealth. Tourists should consider boycotting the Maldives, especially resorts owned by regime cronies,” they wrote.

Australian Senator James McGrath has also described the trial against Nasheed as a “state planned judicial assassination,” saying that President Abdulla Yameen was becoming the “Robert Mugabe of the Indian Ocean.”

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has previously condemned international statements of concern, saying: “No foreign power can tell Maldives what to do under President [Abdulla] Yameen.”

“To criticize us in public statements with lies or based with having only heard the opposition’s point of view is not acceptable. The government will not accept these statements and will not pay any attention to them,” Dunya said.

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Indian Prime Minister Modi cancels Maldives trip

Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has dropped the Maldives from an upcoming tour of Indian Ocean neighbours.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced in a statement yesterday that the prime minister would visit Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka from March 10 to 14, but gave no explanation for the omission of Maldives from the itinerary.

The cancellation comes amidst nightly anti-government protests and heightened tension sparked by the arrest and prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 22.

The Maldives Foreign Ministry claimed in a statement yesterday that the prime minister’s visit “has been postponed to a later date by mutual agreement.”

“The dates for the visit were being discussed between the Maldives and India and both countries have decided to postpone the visit to a later date to give more time for both countries to prepare well for the visit. New dates will be announced once finalised between the two countries,” reads the statement.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali insisted that there was “no connection between Nasheed’s trial” and the postponement.

However, President’s Office Minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef ‘Mundhu’ told the Associated Press (AP) that Maldives had been on Modi’s itinerary and the country had made extensive preparations for the maiden visit.

Mundhu said the Indian government informed the Maldives the visit was cancelled because the “local environment is not conducive.”

“He says India was not more specific,” AP reported.

Local media had reported last month that Modi was due to visit the Maldives on March 15 during the regional tour whilst Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon announced the trip following a meeting in New Delhi with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has welcomed the prime minister’s decision, characterising the cancellation as “a clear sign of Prime Minister Modi’s commitment to democracy and stability in the Maldives.”

“The people of the Maldives will always welcome the Prime Minister of India to the Maldives. The MDP regrets the authoritarian actions and confrontational nature of President [Abdulla] Yameen that has resulted in the Indian PM Modi cancelling his first visit to the Maldives,” said Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

“The MDP has always believed in strong regional partnerships to ensure stability and security of the Indian Ocean. India has been our closest friend, and we hope that Yameen takes swift action to restore the Maldives-India relationship.”

Domestic issues

Indian media reported diplomatic sources as saying that the Indian government did not want to be seen “involved in domestic issues” of the Maldives.

“Sources said the government was taken by surprise over the treatment of former President Mohammad Nasheed, who was arrested and charged with treason and roughed up by the police on the way to court,” reported The Hindu newspaper.

A day after his arrest, Nasheed appeared in court for the first hearing of his trial on terrorism charges with his arm in a makeshift sling after police manhandled and dragged the opposition leader into the court building when he attempted to speak to reporters.

The incident prompted official spokesperson at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, to express concern over the developments, “including the arrest and manhandling of former President Nasheed,”

“But our concerns haven’t been heeded, and in this situation it makes little sense for the Prime Minister to visit,” a senior Indian official told The Telegraph.

“His trip would be pitched by the Male government as an endorsement of its policies.”

Shortly after Nasheed’s arrest on February 22, the Maldives foreign ministry tweeted: “The impending visit of PM Modi is a clear reflection of the warm friendship between India and President Yameen’s Government – FM Dunya.”

The Telegraph meanwhile quoted a second Indian official as suggesting a Chinese role in the recent developments.

“Without a concrete commitment from the Chinese, there is no way the Maldives would take on India the way they have,” the official was quoted as saying.

“I’m not saying the Chinese are orchestrating this, not at all, but the Maldives government is using China’s support to challenge us.”

Asked at a regular press conference on February 25 about China’s view on the situation, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Spokesperson Hong Lei said the issue was “a domestic matter of the Maldives.”

“China upholds the principle of non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs. We believe the Maldivian side can deal with its domestic affairs properly,” he said.

Foreign Minister Dunya had meanwhile dismissed statements expressing concern with Nasheed’s prosecution by the Commonwealth, India, Canada, UN and the EU.

“The Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country,” she declared.

In his address to the nation on the occasion of Republic Day (November 11) last year, President Yameen slammed “Western colonial powers” and declared his administration was “looking East” towards China.

Related to this story:

Asking Maldives to abide by commitments “not undue interference,” says UK High Commissioner

EU, UN join international chorus of concern over Nasheed’s arrest, terrorism trial

Foreign Minister Dunya slams Canada, Commonwealth statements on Nasheed prosecution

Nasheed calls for Indian protection in state of emergency

Chinese documents show silk route was discussed with India: Foreign ministry


Commonwealth, Canada express concern over denial of legal representation for former President Nasheed

The Commonwealth and Canada have expressed concern over the denial of legal representation to former President Mohamed Nasheed at his trial on terrorism charges yesterday.

The Commonwealth spokesperson noted in a statement yesterday that the intergovernmental organisation was closely monitoring developments in the wake of the opposition leader’s arrest on Sunday (February 22).

“The Secretary-General is concerned to note reports that former President Nasheed was denied the right to legal representation at the court hearing that took place on 23 February. The Commonwealth has also noted the arrest of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on 10 February,” reads the statement.

“The Secretary-General raised his concerns today with the Foreign Minister of Maldives, Hon Dunya Maumoon, and has stressed the importance of ensuring that the rule of law is respected, with adherence to due process, and in accordance with the Commonwealth Charter.”

The statement added that Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma also “reiterated his offer to provide Commonwealth expert assistance in relation to upholding the separation of powers in Maldives, consistent with the Commonwealth’s Latimer House principles on the separation of powers between the three branches of government.”

Nasheed appeared in court for the first hearing of the trial yesterday with his arm in a makeshift sling after police officers manhandled the former president outside the court building when he attempted to speak with journalists.

Canadian Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson meanwhile put out a statement yesterday expressing “grave concern” at Nasheed’s arrest.

“Developments in Maldives and the brutal and unjustified treatment of the former president call into question Maldives’ commitment to due process and democratic principles,” reads the statement.

“Mr. Nasheed’s unlawful detainment and the denial of his constitutional rights, including to legal counsel and appeal, under the politically charged allegation of ‘terrorism’ are abhorrent.

“We expect that Mr. Nasheed will receive medical care without delay. Canada calls on the Government of Maldives to reaffirm its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and it urges that differences be resolved within the constitutional framework of Maldives. As tensions rise in the country, Canada urges calm and restraint on all sides.”

Official spokesperson at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, also expressed concern yesterday over the recent developments, “including the arrest and manhandling of former President Nasheed,” and appealed for peaceful resolution of the political crisis.

Meanwhile, the US State Department revealed yesterday that Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Nisha Biswal had spoken to Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon to express concern over Nasheed’s arrest and subsequent developments.

“She urged the government to take steps to restore confidence in their commitment to democracy, judicial independence, and rule of law, including respect for the rights of peaceful protest and respect for due process,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a regular news briefing.

Right to legal counsel

The Criminal Court yesterday refused to register any of the former president’s five lawyers to advocate on his behalf at the terrorism trial.

Citing new regulations, the Criminal Court informed the legal team on Monday morning that the lawyers had to register at the court two days in advance despite being unaware of the trial until the former president’s arrest less than 24 hours ago.

“How can we submit forms two days ahead for a trial we did not know would take place two days before? It is clear to any sane person this is absolute nonsense,” Nasheed’s lawyer, Hisaan Hussain, told the press.

The legal team was also unable to appeal the Criminal Court’s arrest warrant – which they contended was “arbitrary” and riddled with irregularities – after the court informed the lawyers that the new appeal form was as yet unavailable.

Concluding the first hearing of the terrorism trial yesterday, Judge Abdulla Didi granted Nasheed three days to appoint a lawyer and prepare his defence on charges of ordering the military to detain Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

The judge also ordered police to hold Nasheed in pre-trial detention until the conclusion of the trial.

Related to this story

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