Britain could use sanctions to pressure Maldives government

LONDON: Britain could impose sanctions on Maldivian individuals if the Maldives' government fails to take action to free political prisoners, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday.

Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected president, is serving a 13-year sentence on terrorism charges for the alleged abduction of a judge after a rapid trial last March which drew international criticism.

Nasheed and his lawyer Amal Clooney met Cameron at Downing Street in London on Saturday after the former president won permission to travel to Britain for surgery. The Maldives gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1965.

"We want to see a change in behaviour from the Maldivian government to make sure that political prisoners are set free and yes we are prepared to consider targeted action against individuals if further progress isn't made," Cameron said in parliament.

He was responding to a question by lawmaker John Glen on whether Britain would work to build an international consensus on targeted sanctions.

On Saturday, Cameron's office said the prime minister and Nasheed had agreed that a Commonwealth meeting to be held in the Maldives next month would provide an opportunity to press the Maldivian government to engage in "open political dialogue and free all remaining political prisoners swiftly".