UN rights team calls on ex president

A team from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) met on Tuesday with former president Mohamed Nasheed at his residence, where he remains under house arrest over a terrorism conviction.

Nasheed’s wife Laila Ali met with UN human rights commissioner on human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in Geneva on July 8. The commissioner has previously said the rushed trial appeared to contravene the Maldives’ constitution and international treaties it was signatory to.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail over the arrest of a judge during his tenure. He was transferred to house arrest in a move widely perceived as a deal made with the government for opposition backing on a constitutional amendment that will allow President Abdulla Yameen to replace his deputy.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is now in talks with the government. An MDP representative has suggested Nasheed may be freed by July 26.

Nasheed has filed a petition with the UN working group on arbitrary detention asking for a judgment ruling his imprisonment as illegal and arbitrary. A decision is expected in September or October.

The OHCHR team has also met with the Maldivian foreign secretary Ali Naseer on July 13.

Diplomatic pressure has been mounting on President Yameen’s administration to release Nasheed and other political prisoners.


Government dismisses ‘slanderous’ allegation of plot to assassinate Nasheed

The government has dismissed allegations of a plot by senior officials to assassinate imprisoned ex-president Mohamed Nasheed as “slanderous.”

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said today that credible sources have informed the main opposition party and Nasheed’s family that a senior government official has recently obtained powerful anaesthetics drugs to use against the opposition leader.

“If bringing in medicine for treatment to a prison where president Nasheed is being kept is considered as intended to harm an inmate, that is a big joke,” president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told Minivan News today.

The allegation is baseless and “slanderous,” he added. Muaz suggested the MDP should file cases with the relevant authorities.

Nasheed is serving a 13-year jail sentence relating to the military’s detention of a judge during his administration.

Following his transfer from police custody to a low security jail on Tuesday, Nasheed’s lawyers expressed concern with the police’s failure to inform the former president’s legal team or his family.

Former first lady Laila Ali appealed to president Abdulla Yameen for assurances of Nasheed’s safety last month, saying she had received information from credible sources of a likely attempt on his life.

Home minister Umar Naseer has previously said the government “guarantees the safety, welfare and protection of former president Mohamed Nasheed while in custody.”

Commissioner of prisons Mohamed Husham told Minivan News that a special team is in charge of ensuring Nasheed’s security, including a specially trained officer.

“If we receive information of such a threat we take action for the inmate’s safety. But some people may try to take advantage if details of such procedures are shared with the public,” he said.

The MDP claimed a senior government official obtained anaesthesia medicine, including chloroform, from an official in the health sector some days ago.

An official from the health ministry, who wished to remain anonymous, told Minivan News that anaesthetic drugs were controlled substances and special permits were required before the medicine is released.

The drugs are mainly used by specialist doctors to induce loss of consciousness for surgeries and records are kept of the inventory, the official said.

Meanwhile, responding to Muaz’s remarks, MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy said Nasheed’s trial is considered “a worldwide joke”.

The government broke all domestic and international rules in unfairly sentencing Nasheed, he contended, adding that the information came from a reliable source.

“We cannot believe such rule breakers will not do this. When it comes to such matters we do not know what they may or may not do,” he said.

“This country is run through state-sponsored terrorism. Impunity and lawlessness prevail. This is the kind of government ruling us today. So as long as this government is in power anything is possible.”

Imthiyaz said international best practice requires the state to inform an inmate’s lawyer or family before transfer to a different prison.

The MDP also called on the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, relevant authorities, friendly nations, and international organisations to take steps to ensure the safety of the former president.

Human rights commissioner Ahmed Tholal told Minivan News that members of the commission have visited the ‘Asseyri’ jail in Himmafushi for an inspection.

The members checked Nasheed’s cell and ensured that he was being treated in accordance with prison regulations.

While the members noted some problems, Tholal said the situation overall was “not bad.”

“We do take threats against people who are under state custody seriously and we are going to do everything we can with regard to such threats,” he said.


Calls grow for President Yameen to intervene, resolve political crisis

Following imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed’s decision not to seek an appeal, the Maldivian Democracy Network has called on President Abdulla Yameen to intervene and resolve Maldives’ deepening political crisis.

Nasheed, convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in jail, said he desired a political solution, claiming the judiciary is under executive control and could not assure a fair appeal process.

Hence, “the only state power with the capacity to act equitably on the matter is the President,” MDN said in a statement today.

“We believe President Yameen must take immediate action in light of the manner in which the criminal proceedings were held, with a view to bring an end to the continued civil unrest in the country,” the human rights advocacy group said.

Hundreds have been arrested in opposition protests and police have threatened a crackdown claiming protesters were disrupting local businesses and inciting violence against the police.

Meanwhile, the Elections Commission has fined Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and its ally Adhaalath Party (AP) with MVR 47,000 and MVR 33,000, respectively.

The MDP and former ruling coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) first began daily protests on February 10, against President Yameen’s alleged constitutional breaches. Former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Nasheed were subsequently arrested and brought swiftly to trial over weapons smuggling and terrorism, respectively.

Over 10,000 protesters took to the streets on February 27 calling for President Yameen’s resignation.

The government meanwhile ordered JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group to pay US$100 million in unpaid rents and fines by March 30 on properties leased for resort development.

On March 17, AP withdrew support for Yameen’s administration and joined the MDP in an alliance against brutality. Opposition protests are now entering a seventh consecutive week.

Nasheed was sentenced on March 13 and Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail on March 26.

Explaining Nasheed’s decision not to seek an appeal, lawyer Hisaan Hussein on March 26 said: “As a former President, he is certain the judiciary is not independent, that President Yameen has full control over the judiciary. He is certain he will not gain a fair appeal.”

The Criminal Court’s decision to deny Nasheed legal representation, refusal to call defence witnesses, and refusal to provide adequate time to prepare defence demonstrates the former president would not be assured a fair appeal at the High Court, lawyers said.

High Court judges are “under pressure,” Hisaan said, noting the judiciary had not yet decided which judges were to be relocated to the regional courts in the north and south.

According to a December 2014 amendment to the Judicature Act, pushed through by the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), the nine-judge High Court bench is to be divided into three branches. Only the central branch in Malé could hear matters relating to the interpretation of laws or elections. The regional branches are to only hear appeals.

Hisaan said Nasheed believed the allocation of judges depended on the outcome of his appeal.

“There will be no justice in any of the appeal processes,” she said.

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed on Thursday called on Yameen to show leadership as head of state and pardon Nasheed.

“I call on you, President Abdulla Yameen to use your presidential powers and pardon the opposition leader, pardon him and end this political turmoil,” he said.

Article 29(c) of the Clemency Act states that the President has the discretion, on his own initiative, to commute a sentence of a person convicted on a criminal offence, with regards to their age, health, their status or circumstances or based on a humanitarian perspective.

The President’s Office spokesperson, the Attorney General and the PPM parliamentary group leader were not responding to calls.

President Yameen has previously said the government could neither interfere nor influence the decisions of the judiciary.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul said the trial made a “mockery” of the Maldives Constitution and said: “The speed of proceedings combined with the lack of fairness in the procedures lead me to believe the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the trial was “hasty and apparently unfair” and urged Nasheed be given adequate time to prepare and present his defence during the appeal process.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has since invited the United Nations Secretary General, the Commonwealth, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the EU to send experts to observe Nasheed’s appeal process.


Government invites international experts to observe Nasheed’s appeal hearings

The government has invited experts from the United Nations Secretary General, the Commonwealth, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union (EU) to observe the appeal hearings of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison on March 13 over the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
“On behalf of the Government the invitation was extended by the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Dunya Maumoon,” read a press statement from the foreign ministry.
“President Mohamed Nasheed was sentenced on 13 March by Criminal Court of Maldives for abducting a sitting judge in 2012.”

Foreigners cannot meddle in domestic affairs, declares President Yameen

Foreigners will not be allowed to meddle in domestic affairs of the Maldives, President Abdulla Yameen has declared, slamming opposition politicians for seeking foreign interference.

Addressing youth supporters Sunday night at a private function in Citron Restaurant – reportedly organised by First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim – President Yameen said foreigners could not come to the country to “settle our affairs” as the Maldives was a member of the UN family with the same rights and independence as any other nation.

“We wouldn’t want foreigners from different countries coming here to criticise what we do and telling us what to do. So that is not something we will give any room for,” Yameen is heard saying in a recording obtained by Minivan News.

“So in the work we’re doing in the Maldives we will try to do things in accordance with our laws and Islamic principles. And if the consequence of that is people from distant nations finding it unacceptable, that is their problem. That is their problem. But we are not going to give up an inch of our country’s sovereignty to foreign parties.”

Photo from social media

Yameen’s remarks come amidst a political crisis and anti-government demonstrations sparked by the arrest and prosecution of both former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on terrorism charges.

Last month, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon hit back at statements issued by the UN, EU, India, Canada, and the Commonwealth expressing concern with the arrest and trial of the opposition leader.

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

Yameen meanwhile said protesting on the streets was not a right reserved to the opposition and warned them not to consider the government’s “compassion and patience” as weakness.

“Do not believe at all that it is our weakness when we don’t act or take up problems seriously. It is because we love the Maldivian people. We were patient to prioritise [national] interest, peace and security here. But when it reaches the point where our patience is challenged, then we will say that we will also welcome taking things down the determined path,” he said.

While his administration welcomes protests and free expression within legal bounds, Yameen said opposition politicians inviting foreign governments to take action against the Maldives was unacceptable.

He argued that causing harm to society and imperilling national security could not be justified in the “context of individual liberty.”

Yameen asked youth to consider if it was acceptable to call for tourism boycotts and invite other countries to “meddle in the Maldives’ sovereignty and independence.”

People who cause damage to the country should be given just punishment, Yameen insisted.

Referring to the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party-Jumhooree Party (MDP-JP) alliance’s demands to release “political prisoners,” Yameen said the new constitution separated the three powers of state and the president could not interfere in judicial proceedings.

He also accused the opposition of not attempting to save youth incarcerated for arson and other offences during anti-government protests after allegedly encouraging the crimes.

“But when they feel something is about to happen to a politician over a crime he committed, it is as if the Maldivian sky is falling on our heads,” he said.

“So this is the double standard among us.”

While ordinary Maldivians faced harsh sentences on a daily basis, Yameen said the opposition politicians and lawyers briefing foreign diplomats about the “inadequate system” were unconcerned.

“But when just one case of a politician is filed at court, the entire justice system of the Maldives becomes a corrupt system,” he said.

The Maldives’ judiciary deserves the respect of foreign nations, he said.

He went on to say that former allies the JP and Adhaalath Party who protested against Nashed’s administration now calling for his release was “a riddle.”

All citizens were equal before the law, he continued, and all citizens have a constitutional right to defend themselves in a court of law.

Opposition protests against Nasheed’s administration in 2012 were prompted by the government “destroying the justice system” and arresting Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, Yameen said.

The public “came out in defence of the constitution” when Nasheed defied the Supreme Court’s orders to release the chief judge, he said, adding that the protests were about “a substantial and serious problem” whilst the current protests were “without any substance or basis.”

On the opposition alliance’s demands to release Nasheed, Yameen insisted that the government has not “arrested any politicians” and argued that enforcing the law without bias was in the best interest of the nation.

“Those facing punishment for their crimes happening to be politicians does not mean [we are] taking action against politicians,” he said.

If the president interfered and sought to settle such cases out of court, Yameen asked both the youth and opposition parties to consider if the president should overrule the judiciary once a death penalty verdict has been passed.

“Should President Yameen enforce the judgment differently for different people based on their colour, their faces, and their social standing?” he asked.

“If President Yameen acts differently in the present cases, why wouldn’t he act so in [death penalty cases]?”

Related to this story:

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

Foreign Minister Dunya slams Canada, Commonwealth statements on Nasheed prosecution

Former President Nasheed arrives in court with arm in makeshift sling


Nasheed arrest “domestic matter” for Maldives: Chinese Foreign Ministry

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest and trial on terrorism charges is a “domestic matter” for the Maldives and the Chinese government would not interfere, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Spokesperson Hong Lei has said.

The spokesperson was asked at a regular press conference on Wednesday (February 25) about China’s view on the situation.

“The issue you asked is the 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,” Hong Lei replied.

Following Nasheed’s arrest and surprise trial on terrorism charges, the Commonwealth, India, Canada, UN and the EU issued statements expressing concern with the developments in the Maldives.

However, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon dismissed the statements as biased and factually inaccurate.

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

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


UK alerts British tourists to protests in Malé

The United Kingdom has alerted British nationals travelling to the Maldives to take security precautions and to avoid large gatherings in Malé following the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on february 22.

“Take care, remain vigilant, take appropriate security precautions and avoid large gatherings, protests and rallies,” read the travel advice updated yesterday (February 23).

The advisory read that all British nationals should contact the British High commission in Sri Lank for any consular assistance, and that the honorary consul in capital Malé can liase with the British High  Commission in Sri Lanka in case of emergencies .

The alert also noted that there is a general threat of terrorism in the Maldives, saying that attacks could be indiscriminate, in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers including tourists, and urged travelers to take comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.

Read the full travel advice here


Nasheed meets South Korean president while attending IDU meeting

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has met with South Korean President Park Geun-hye while visiting the country for the International Democratic Union’s (IDU) Party Leaders Meeting in Seoul.

Geun-hye thanked thanked Nasheed for accepting the IDU’s invitation as well a commending him for his pro-democracy work in the Maldives.

Taking place just once every three years, PLM is the most prestigious event on the IDU Calendar bringing together a number of heads of government and party leaders from around the world.

The IDU is a collection of over 54 centre-right political parties from around the globe who meet to discuss and exchange policy ideas. The group’s leadership includes former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and former UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.


JP open to negotiations with PPM, says Gasim

The Jumhooree Party (JP) is open to discussions with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) as the party does not believe the coalition agreement has been terminated, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim has said.

Speaking at a press conference at the JP headquarters in Malé yesterday (June 17), Gasim said he was pleased that President Abdulla Yameen had said that the parties could discuss problems with the coalition agreement, adding that the JP was ready to join discussions at a time and place of the PPM’s choosing.

“We are ready to go forward in the best interest’s of the nation’s peace and stability,” the business tycoon said.

Unlike other political arrangements, Gasim stressed that the coalition agreement between the parties was signed in the presence of witnesses with the signatories swearing by God to uphold the agreement.

“How can it be said that such an agreement has been dissolved without any just reason? I am certainly frightened that they decided that such an agreement has been dissolved,” the MP for Maamigili said, adding that he feared the “wrath of God” as a result of the PPM’s actions, which would affect “innocent people” as well.

He noted that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had signed the agreement on behalf of the PPM in his capacity as the party’s leader.

Gasim said that the JP has yet to be officially notified in writing of the termination of the coalition agreement.

The PPM had announced in a press statement that the party’s council decided unanimously on May 26 that the agreement “has been brought to an end by the Jumhooree Party as of today” after Gasim contested for the post of Majlis speaker.

Holding up the agreement and reading out clauses at the press conference, Gasim said that the PPM had so far not been able to explain which part of the agreement that the JP breached.

Gasim also contended that the PPM had violated the agreement by failing to either consult the coalition partner before nominating individuals to independent institutions – such as President Yameen’s nephew Maumoon Hameed for prosecutor general – or provide 33 percent of political posts in the executive as stipulated in the agreement.

Campaign trail

After initially announcing that the party would remain neutral, the JP’s council decided to endorse Yameen three days before the second round of the presidential polls on November 16 after JP candidate Gasim finished in third place in the first round with 23.37 percent of the vote.

Gasim claimed yesterday that he had spent MVR20 million on Yameen’s campaign ahead of the run-off polls on November 16 as the coalition agreement stated that the parties should support each other.

Gasim said he gave part of the money at the request of Yameen and his running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed while the rest was spent for JP members to visit islands on campaign trips.

Moreover, Gasim claimed to have spent a further MVR20 million for the PPM during the parliamentary election campaign.

“I sent an amount no less than MVR20 million to President Maumoon and President Yameen,” he said.

Of the coalition candidates to whom Gasim provided financial assistance, the JP leader said former MP for Kinbidhoo, Moosa Zameer, was the only PPM candidate to have lost.

Gasim went on to criticise the two JP MPs  – Milandhoo MP Hassan Mufeed Abdul Gadhir and Nolhivaram MP Hussain Afeef – who signed for the ruling party this week, noting that the pair had signed an agreement under oath to remain in the JP until the end of their five-year terms.

He noted that members of coalition partners switching parties was a violation of the agreement.

Gasim said he had heard that the pair were given MVR10 million each to switch allegiances as well as suggesting that the MPs had told him the government had threatened to cease development projects in their constituencies.

Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim and Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed had also told the JP leader that they decided to sign for PPM as they could not continue their work without doing so, Gasim said.

JP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed meanwhile argued that the ministers should have resigned from the cabinet before signing for the ruling party as the pair had been appointed to JP slots.