Foreign minister slams UK, US, EU, Canada over tweets

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon has expressed concern over tweets by the British High Commissioner, the European Union Ambassador and the Canadian and US missions to the Maldives regarding fresh terrorism charges against three opposition leaders.

The Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party’s deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and its council member Sobah Rasheed are accused of inciting violence at a historic antigovernment protest on May 1 and charged with terrorism.

The UK’s new high commissioner to the Maldives, James Dauris, in a tweet on Tuesday expressed hope that judges would follow international standards and said: “Will be watching closely.”

The Canadian high commission said it was watching closely with concern. The US Embassy, meanwhile, suggested the government must take steps to restore confidence in democracy and the rule of law.

In response, Dunya tweeted today from the foreign ministry’s official twitter account saying: “I am concerned by the tweets of some countries.”

The government will not intervene in the judicial process, she said. However, she said justice will be served according to the Maldivian constitution and said “criminal activities and incitement to violence will not be condoned.”

Imran denied charges at a first hearing on Tuesday night. He was arrested from his home on Monday night and is to be kept in police custody until the trial concludes.

Ameen and Sobah’s hearings were cancelled last night. The two are out of the country.

If convicted, the three face between 10 and 15 years in jail.

Nearly 20,000 people took to the streets on May 1, calling for the release of imprisoned former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, whose arrests sparked the ongoing political crisis.

The same three judges who sentenced Nasheed and Nazim are now overseeing Imran’s terrorism trial.

Foreign governments and international bodies, including the UN and Amnesty International, have expressed concern over the apparent lack of due process in Nasheed and Nazim’s trials. The parliament of the European Union has called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

The government, however, insists Nasheed and Nazim were granted fair trials, and condemned foreign governments for criticism of the judiciary.

The new terrorism charges follow President Abdulla Yameen’s invitation for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties, prompting concern over the government’s sincerity.

The president, however, blames lack of progress in talks on the “insincerity” of the oppoisition parties.

The MDP chairperson Ali Waheed was also arrested along with Ameen and Imran, but the PG office has reportedly not made a decision on prosecuting the former MP.

This article was amended on June 4 to include a tweet by the European Union Ambassador to the Maldives


US “deeply troubled” by Maldives’ questionable commitment to democracy, human rights

The United States has called into question the Maldives’ commitment to democracy and human rights following the imprisonment of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and the arrest of three journalists from opposition protests last week.

“The United States is deeply troubled by recent developments in Maldives that call into question that nation’s commitment to democracy and individual human rights,” the US Department of State’s Office of the Spokesperson in Washington DC said on Friday.

Nazim’s “trial was particularly concerning, as it was marred by the same apparent lack of appropriate criminal procedures as the recent trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed,” said the office.

The Criminal Court on Thursday found Nazim guilty of smuggling weapons, and sentenced him to 11 years in jail. On March 13, the court convicted Nasheed of terrorism over the military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012, and sentenced to him to 13 years in jail.

The US noted the Criminal Court’s refusal to call the majority of Nazim’s defence witnesses and said it had “concerns regarding the lack of impartiality and independence of the judges.”

Nazim’s lawyers have said the Criminal Court had obstructed the former Defence Minister from mounting a proper defence, and have said they will appeal the verdict at the High Court as soon as possible.

The US has called on the Maldives “to take steps to restore confidence in its hard-fought democracy and the rule of law, including judicial independence and freedom of press.”

Noting freedom of the press is a fundamental democratic right, the State Department said it was in touch with the government of Maldives to clarify why three journalists were detained without charges last week.

The three are opposition aligned Raajje TV’s Mohamed Wisam and Adam Zareer, and Channel One’s Mohamed Niyaz. They were arrested from the Alliance Against Brutality’s nightly protests on Wednesday and Tuesday, respectively.

The Maldives Police Services said the three journalists were arrested along with several protesters for “obstructing police duties and disobeying police orders.”

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal said the “Maldives’ democratic institutions remain weak and are easily manipulated, while the judiciary has become politicised.”

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific on March 24, Biswal said increasing political turbulence in the Maldives was adding to mounting challenges, namely high youth unemployment, growing religious extremism and social unrest.

The sentencing of Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected leader, calls “into question Maldives commitment to the minimum fair trial guarantees and the rule of law,” she added.

The US will continue to engage with the Maldives on counter-terrorism, maritime security and climate change issues in 2016, she said.

“Maritime security is of great concern due to potential threats posed by narcotics trafficking, piracy in the Indian Ocean, and sea-borne trade in illicit materials that could be potentially used for terrorist activity,” she said.


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  

Nasheed trial “not free or fair,” says Maldivian Democracy Network

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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


US and Maldives hold first bilateral trade talks

The first official trade talks between the Maldives and US governments took place this morning at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Malé.

The meeting was the first bilateral discussion since the signing of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2009 to provide a forum in which bilateral talks can proceed.

“The first meeting discussed procedures for more robust engagement, as well as touched on topics such as labor, intellectual property, and the investment climate,” said the US following this morning’s meeting.

Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed told the US delegation at today’s meetings of the government’s plans to diversify the economy away from its reliance on tourism, as well as the recent changes to the investment climate with the Special Economic Zones Act.

He also noted that further changes to legislation were planned that would ease foreign investment. The US State Department has previously noted that “the ambiguity of codified law acts as a damper to new investment” in the Maldives.

Despite the council not having met before today, total trade between the two countries has more than doubled between 2009 and 2013. Saeed told press today that the Maldives’ major export to the US was fish products, expressing his hope that Maldivian fishermen could take advantage of marketing opportunities within the US.

Speaking at a press conference after today’s meeting, Saeed said the government had plans to more than triple the current amount of fish exports to the US by 2018.

Part of the initial agreement, signed five years ago, stated that both parties would endeavour to hold talks at least once a year. The United States-Maldives Council on Trade and Investment – established by the TIFA – is designed to monitor trade flows, investigate new opportunities, and remove impediments to further investment.

Economic development minister Saeed represented the Maldives alongside State Minister for Economic Development Faris Maumoon, while the US delegation was led by Assistant Trade Representative for South Asia Michael Delaney along with Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Colombo Andrew Mann.

“Our team comes from multiple U.S. government agencies and has been looking forward to returning to the Maldives to learn more about both the trade and investment conditions and the labor environment,” said Delaney in a press release from the Colombo embassy.

The press release noted that the US has TIFA agreements with almost 50 countries in every region of the world.

(SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Foreign Trade)

Not traditionally a key contributor to the Maldives’ billion dollar tourism industry, US visitors represented less than 2 percent of the market share in 2013.

US engagement with the Maldives has traditionally concerned foreign assistance to enhance maritime security, counter terrorism, and counter narcotics cooperation with Maldivian forces.

Officers and crew from the USS Rodney M Davis visited the Maldives earlier this month, with Vice Admiral Robert Thomas noting the critical nature of the Indian Ocean to regional security.

Rumours of a Status of Forces Agreement – opening up the possibility of US forces being stationed in the Maldives – surfaced in 2013, before incoming President Abdulla Yameen announced that any such deal would be likely to damage relations with neighbouring countries.

The US has also pledged to help the Maldives adapt to the negative effects of global climate change, pledging US$7.2 million (MVR111 million) for a global climate change adaptation project last year.

2013 also saw US private equity firm Blackstone acquire both the Maldives’ major seaplane operators for an undisclosed sum, as well as the introduction of the US designed PISCES border control system.

The PISCES system was utilised in the controversial arrest of alleged Russian hacker Roman Seleznyov by US security personnel while in the Maldives in July. Seleznyov was subsequently transported to the US via Guam where he awaits trial.


Unauthorised aircraft identified as belonging to US military

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has told local media that unauthorised aircraft spotted in Maldivian airspace belong to the United States Air Force.

CAA Director Abdulla Rasheed told local paper Haveeru the aircraft had originated from Foalhavahi – also known as the Chagos Islands – home to a US military base.

“No one can enter the area, without our knowing. If anyone were to enter, they would have to gain our permission first,” Rasheed told Haveeru.

The paper reported last week that the unidentified craft had been spotted over Huvadhoo Atoll – over 500 miles north of the base – on two consecutive days. Witnesses reported the aircraft circling the area at low altitude.

It was also revealed last week that the aircraft had dropped two buoys which were subsequently confiscated by the Maldives National Defence Force.

While the Maldives 1996 Maritime Zones Act stipulates that unauthorised foreign military aircraft cannot use Maldivian airspace, the US has previously disputed the legality of this restriction.

The Chagos Islands – a British Indian Ocean Territory – have been home to a US military base in the Diego Garcia atoll since the early 1970s, and are largely uninhabited since the indigenous islanders’ forced migration to Mauritius and the Seychelles.

The US had argued in 2001 that the Convention on the Law of the Sea – ratified by the Maldives in 2001 – grants all aircraft free access to archipelagic sea lanes.

An unclassified US State Department telegram sent to the US embassy in Colombo in 2001 noted that the Maldives’ restrictions on innocent passage “could set an adverse precedent regarding the development of international practice generally”.

Despite this objection, the department has noted that the Maldives offered the free use of its airspace to US aircraft during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, as well as granting similar access during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

A leaked Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) revealed last year that preliminary discussions regarding a potential US base in the Maldives had taken place.

After President Abdulla Yameen was reported in January to have opted against the SOFA agreement for fear of upsetting regional partners, pentagon officials responded by saying that a permanent base had never been considered.

The US did, however, donate the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System – or PISCES – border control system to the Maldives in 2013.

The system, criticised by previous providers of Maldivian border control software as nothing more than a “terrorist tracking system”, came into use 12 months ago and was said to have been used to identify alleged hacker Roman Seleznyov before his controversial detention in June.


Government’s respect for religious freedom declined in 2013: US State Department report

The Maldivian government’s “respect for religious freedom declined” last year, according to the US State Department’s 2013 International Religious Freedom Report published on July 28.

“The authorities did not recognise or respect freedom of religion and it remained severely restricted,” the report observed.

“Governmental pressure to conform to a stricter interpretation of Islamic practice increased, particularly in the lead-up to presidential elections.”

Moreover, press freedom was curtailed by the government using religious grounds, the report found.

“Some Muslims expressed concern about increasing ‘Islamic radicalism,’ though advocates of religious freedom generally believed the public was becoming more aware of the issue,” it added.

The report also noted incidents of “societal abuse and discrimination” based on religion, “including incidents against Maldivians who did not want to conform to a strict, conservative interpretation of Islam.”

“There was an increasing trend among political leaders to call for greater limits on religious groups and activities, and impose criminal punishments in accordance with Islamic law,” the report stated.

“The use of religion in political rhetoric increased substantially, which led to derogatory statements about Christianity and Judaism and harassment of citizens calling for a more tolerant interpretation of Islam. Anti-Semitic rhetoric among conservative parties continued.”

Religious freedom in the Maldives is restricted by law and the constitution, the report explained, which was enforced by the government.

“Restrictions were not enforced for foreign tourists on ‘uninhabited’ resort islands,” it added, noting that foreign workers were allowed to practice their religion in private while congregations, however, were banned.

Officials from the US embassy in Colombo meanwhile emphasised the importance of religious freedom to the authorities, the report noted.

“The embassy advocated the right of all residents of the country to practice the religion of their choice in the manner of their choosing, and encouraged efforts to promote religious tolerance.”

“Government practices”

Among incidents from 2013, the report highlighted the case of a 15-year-old rape victim sentenced to 100 lashes for fornication, which Amnesty International called the “tip of the iceberg” of the country’s treatment of victims of sexual abuse.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs exercised control over religious matters, the report noted, and set standards for imams to “prevent ‘extremist’ teachings from gaining ground.”

The report referred to Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed claiming in February 2013 that Islam was threatened by a “strong psychological war” conducted by Christians and Freemasons.

In his Eid sermon last week, Shaheem reportedly warned of efforts by elements within and without to “destroy” the Islamic ideology of the Maldives through psychological tactics.

The report also noted the Maldives Media Council’s investigation of Minivan News in late 2012 at the behest of the Islamic ministry concerning an alleged breach of the religious unity law by allowing a comment deemed anti-Islamic.

Meanwhile, during 2013, “discrimination, intolerance, and harassment of individuals calling for any discussion of a different kind of Islam increased,” the report observed.

“Politicians manipulated the public discourse by calling into question the Islamic values of political rivals and effectively stopped constructive discourse on social issues,” it explained.

“This created a culture of self-censorship and fear as politicians, civic figures, and journalists were unable to initiate discussions on Islamic values or basic human rights.”

The NGOs Jamiyyathul Salaf and the Islamic Foundation of Maldives “worked closely with the country’s political parties to promote strict, conservative Islam” while the Adhaalath Party (AP) “further limited the civil, political, and religious space for any outlook that did not align closely with Sunni Islam.”

The report referred to street protests in April led by the self-titled ‘National Movement – comprised of NGOs and the AP – “calling for presidential candidate and ex-President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to be ‘hanged’ for apostasy.”

It noted that former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed observed at the time that anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance were “deeply entrenched” in the political discourse.

Moreover, a group of religious scholars issued a pamphlet in October urging Nasheed to “repent” for his alleged anti-Islamic policies, the report noted.

“The religious/irreligious rhetoric grew wider in the lead-up to presidential elections,” the report continued, referring to “laadheenee (irreligious) graffiti targeting MDP supporters” spray-painted on walls across the capital.

“Public pressure for women to conform to a narrow standard of appropriate dress intensified, and women who did not wear a veil were reportedly harassed,” the report observed.

“On the other hand, those who wore a full face-covering veil were subjected to public harassment and derogatory comments.”

Press freedom NGO Reporters Without Borders meanwhile labelled local extremists groups “predators of freedom of information,” the report noted. Such groups were accused of “misusing free expression to promote a religious agenda, using religious arguments as a ‘political and social weapon,’ and ‘resorting to violence, and even murder, to silence dissenting opinions.'”


Seleznyov’s Guam hearing delayed as defence claims Maldives’ arrest was illegal

The lawyer of alleged Russian hacker Roman Seleznyov has alleged his client’s detention in the Maldives was illegal, calling for the termination of his case based on “outrageous governmental misconduct” by the United States.

“The U.S. agents disregarded the U.S. law which prohibits the execution of warrant of arrests on foreign soil, disregarded Maldives law which affords fundamental legal protections, and disregarded well-established principles of international law which prohibit government-sponsored abduction of non-combatants,” Defence Attorney Patrick Civille was quoted as saying by local media in Guam.

Seleznyov was taken to the US territory after being detained at the Maldives’ Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on July 5. Outraged Russian authorities have described his arrest as “kidnapping”.

A removal hearing scheduled in Guam today has been delayed while Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood determines whether she has jurisdiction over the case.

Seleznyov’s attorneys are reported as saying their client was detained by US rather than Maldivian personnel, as well as questioning the validity of the Interpol red notice used to detain him, claiming the notice was only issued on the day of the arrest.

An initial US press release revealed no details of the location of the arrest, though it was clearly stated as having taken place on July 5. A subsequent statement by the US Attorney’s Office in Guam said that Seleznyov had been arrested in Guam on July 6.

Arrested by US personnel

Civille’s motion is reported to have argued that  his client was “in fact taken into custody by agents of the United States Secret Service while physically present in the Republic of the Maldives,” said Kuam News.

“While on foreign soil, Seleznev [sic] was detained, handcuffed and questioned by U.S. law enforcement agents who then quickly spirited Seleznev away from Maldives to Guam on a private jet chartered by the United States,” continued Civille.

“His arrest therefore occurred on foreign soil, not upon the territory of the United States, and thus his presence before this court has been procured in an unlawful manner.”

Assistant US Attorney Marivic David is reported to have argued that the Guam court’s role is simply to positively identify the suspect in order to issue an order for his removal to the Western District of Washington in the US where Seleznyov was indicted in March 2011.

In a statement provided for the District Court of Guam, Seleznyov has described his arrest by US personnel on July 5.

“One of the three Americans screamed loudly that he was with the United States Secret Service and that I was under arrest. When I asked why I was under arrest, a paper was aggressively dangled in front of my face,” Marianas Variety reported Seleznyov as saying.

“None of these individuals was a Maldives law enforcement agent as far as I could determine,” Seleznyov is quoted as saying.

While Russian media have also quoted eyewitnesses who reported non-Maldivians detaining the Seleznyov, President Abdulla Yameen has previously dismissed claims of a US Secret Service operation on Maldivian soil as baseless.

Strained relations

After a high-level government delegation met with Russian diplomats in an attempt to smooth relations, Home Minister Umar Naseer last week said that Maldivian authorities would have acted differently had they know the suspect was the son of a Russian MP.

“Had it been known that he was a high-profile person in Russia, we would have discussed with Russia. We would have talked and found out what they thought of the matter. We don’t want at all to do anything to displease Russia,” Naseer said on TVM’s Raajje Miadhu (Maldives Today) programme Thursday night (July 17).

Selezynov’s father Valery Seleznyov has called on Russian authorities to impose economic sanctions on the Maldives and reportedly offered US$50,000 for evidence proving his son was detained by US intelligence agents.

US officials in have maintained that Maldivian authorities acted under their own laws, expelling Seleznyov from the country before his subsequent arrest.

Seleznyov is accused of bank fraud, identity theft, and other cyber crimes. The US have described him as “one of the world’s most prolific traffickers of stolen financial information”.


MMA denies US suggestion it has knowledge of terrorist funding

The Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has rejected claims by the US State Department that it has any knowledge of funds being used to finance terrorist activities abroad (May 11).

The MMA’s statement came in response to a report from the US government that the authority believed funds from the Maldives were being used to sponsor terrorist activities.

“The MMA has neither received nor communicated any information regarding confirmed operation of terrorist financing activities,” said the MMA.

The US Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 claimed that criminal proceeds were coming from hawala systems (informal money transfer networks) to transfer money between islands.

“Maldivian authorities believe that funds are currently being raised in Maldives to support terrorism abroad; however, there is no reliable information regarding the amounts involved,” read the US report.

“While no official studies yet have been conducted, the Maldivian Central Bank believes that criminal proceeds mainly come from domestic sources, as a large percentage of Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) are related to Maldivians,” it continued.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has today cited the US report as evidence that the government is not doing enough to combat terrorism.

“The Maldivian Democratic Party strongly condemns the government’s failure to bring an end to terrorist and extremist activities as funds are raised in the Maldives to fund terrorism abroad,” read a press release today.

The party suggested that examples of Maldivians engaging in extremism and terrorism was on the rise, suggesting the government was not doing enough to resolve organised criminal activity in the country.

In response to the US report, the MMA has contended they have not received any confirmed suspicious transaction reports related to terrorist financing in the Maldives through formal or informal money transfer networks.

The authority also expressed confidence in the industry’s framework for preventing such operations, adding that any companies that are under their supervision are subject to the Anti-Money Laundering and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations.

AML/CFT legislation drafted by the MMA was passed by the People’s Majlis last month and ratified by President Abdulla Yameen on April 13.

The new law introduced rules governing financial transactions and the inflow and outflow of money from the Maldives.

“We are pleased to note that most of these financial institutions have internal policies, procedures and programs to implement those obligations,” the MMA statement added.

The US State Department had further noted growing concern since 2010 “about the activities of a small number of local violent extremists involved with transnational terrorist groups”.

“There has been particular concern that young Maldivians, including those within the penal system, may be at risk of becoming radicalized and joining violent Islamist extremist groups. Links have been made between Maldivians and violent extremists throughout the world,” the report stated.

The department also suggested that the Maldives has few laws which effectively control the movement of people and money into and out of the country, adding that due to its “sprawling island geography and insufficient technological capabilities” the coastguard could not effectively patrol the territory.