Global change makers have demanded a fair trial for former President Mohamed Nasheed, imprisoned ahead of a terrorism trial over the 2012 military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
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.”
Nasheed was arrested on Februrary 22 after Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin alleged the opposition leader may abscond from an unannounced terrorism trial scheduled for the next day.
Nasheed has denied ordering Judge Abdulla’s arrest. If convicted, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.
The letter’s prominent signatories include, environmentalist and co-founder of 350.org Bill McKibben, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, President of Friends of the Earth Erich Pica, and Oscar nominated documentary film maker Robert Stone.
“We firmly believe that international pressure on the regime can help to end the illegal and politically motivated trial against President Nasheed,” read the letter.
The Commonwealth, UN, EU, Canada, India, UK and Australia have expressed concern over Nasheed’s arrest, denial of legal representation, and mistreatment by the police.
Foreign Minister Dhunya 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.
Also amongst the signatories are Director of acclaimed documentary “The Island President” Jon Shenk and Producers Dan Cogan, Richard Berge and Bonni Cohen.
Speaking to Huffington Post, Cogan called the proceedings Nasheed “a kangaroo court set up to convict him and it should be very concerning for anyone who believes in the rule of law and democratic government.”
Meanwhile, Former US Vice-President and climate change advocate Al Gore tweeted that the “eyes of the world” are watching Nasheed’s trial and said he must be given a “fair and just trial.”
Respected climate advocate Mohammed Nasheed must be given a fair and just trial. The eyes of the world will be watching.
— Al Gore (@algore) March 5, 2015
The government has however claimed it has no influence over Nasheed’s trial, arguing charges were pressed by an independent Prosecutor General. President Yameen taking a stand on Nasheed’s trial amounted to interfering in the judiciary, the government has said.
Addressing the Australian Parliament last week, Senator James McGrath described the trial against Nasheed as a “state planned judicial assassination,” and said President Yameen is becoming the “Robert Mugabe of the Indian Ocean.”
“[Nasheed] has been arrested on trumped-up charges, denied legal representation, assaulted by police and faces an unfair trial that will ultimately end in the denial of his presidential ambitions,” said McGrath.
Mcgrath warned that President Yameen’s administration has “hastened its slide into tyranny,” with police conducting illegal arrests and searches, allegedly planting evidence and breaching constitutionally guaranteed rights.
He further said that the courts have “abrogated their duties under the democratic constitution of the Maldives,” by breaching the separation of powers, denying rights to legal representation and abusing fundamental judicial processes.
“The real purpose behind these actions by the Maldivian state is abundantly clear: to silence all opposition to Yameen’s government,” McGrath claimed.
The Australian senator for Queensland also alleged that the government is “all but refusing help” in the search to find Minivan News Journalist Ahmed Rilwan, who went missing in August last year in what is believed to be an abduction by radicalized gangs.
Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has also dropped the Maldives from an upcoming tour of Indian Ocean neighbours.
The Maldives Foreign Ministry claimed in a statement on Friday that the Prime Minister’s visit “has been postponed to a later date by mutual agreement,” but President’s Office Minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef ‘Mundhu’ told the Associated Press (AP) the Indian government informed the Maldives the visit was cancelled because the “local environment is not conducive.”
Nasheed’s arrest follows the arrest of former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim on charges of terrorism and treason. Nazim is currently standing trial on charges of importing and possessing illegal weapons after police discovered a pistol and three bullets in his apartment during a midnight raid.
Nazim has accused the police of planting the weapons to frame him. The police have dismissed Nazim’s claims.
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