The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has decided to launch a national civil disobedience campaign to free imprisoned leader, former President Mohamed Nasheed.
A resolution passed at an MDP national council meeting declared the party does not accept the Criminal Court’s 13-year jail term against Nasheed for his role in the January 2012 military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
The terrorism conviction effectively bars Nasheed from presidential elections in 2018.
“The MDP resolves to free President Mohamed Nasheed from this government’s injustice, to do all necessary to stop the persecution of other politicians, to involve other political parties and other supporters in our work as extensively as possible, to launch a national civil disobedience movement, to reform judiciary and ensure judicial independence, to launch protests and organise petitions, and to accept Nasheed’s last appeal and establish a people’s government,” the resolution said.
Nasheed had called on supporters to confront President Abdulla Yameen’s “dictatorial regime” and “to take all of your lives in your hands and to go out onto the streets in protest.”
Speaking at the council meeting, MDP council members called for targeted boycotts against pro-government resorts and businesses and urged mass protests in Malé.
Nasheed will remain the party’s president and 2018 presidential candidate, MP for Galholhu North MP Eva Abdulla said.
“We, all of us together, we don’t have the sort of courage Mohamed Nasheed does. But we have learnt to take heart from his courage. That is why I say, don’t you dare think we will take a step back,” she said.
Pointing to several irregularities in the trial, MDP council members declared they would not accept the guilty verdict, and called on supporters to have courage.
“I am eight months pregnant, yet I am determined to continue this fight for justice for President Nasheed and Maldivian citizens. If I have the courage, so does every single MDP member,” said Nasheed’s lawyer Hisaan Hussein.
Democracy is won through long hard struggles, many council members noted.
“We must remember, history is rife with such atrocities. Authoritarian rulers, in our neighboring India, Mahatma Gandhi, in South Africa, Mandela, sentenced them to long years in jail in an attempt to destroy their political careers. But ultimately, they came out national heroes,” MP and former Speaker Abdulla Shahid said.
After the meeting, council members led hundreds of supporters in a march through Malé, calling for Nasheed’s release.
When the march ended at approximately 12:30am, hundreds of young men continued calling for Nasheed’s freedom on foot and on motorbikes.
Six protesters were arrested last night, the Maldives Police Services said.
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.
President Abdulla Yameen has meanwhile 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.
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