Maldives oppn tells govt to honour deal

Colombo, July  25

The main opposition in the Maldives today demanded immediate release of their leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed, a day after the government announced the unusual step of appealing his controversial conviction.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the government of President Abdulla Yameen must honour commitments made during their closed-door talks earlier this month aimed at ending political unrest.

“Government officials, negotiating on behalf of President Yameen, made a number of promises during the talks,” the MDP said in a statement. “These include the release of high profile political prisoners, including former president Nasheed, and quashing criminal charges against some 1,700 people who have been targeted for their political activities.”

The statement came a day after Nasheed’s international lawyer Jared Genser announced in Colombo that his client’s 13-year jail sentence on a terrorism charge had been commuted to house arrest.

The United Nations had described Nasheed’s jailing in March after a quick-fire trial as “vastly unfair” while Washington had warned the conviction meant the upmarket tourist destination’s fledgling democracy was in danger.

But in a surprise announcement, the government yesterday sought to distance itself from the conviction before later confirming Nasheed was no longer behind bars and could remain under house arrest.

Nasheed had been incarcerated in a prison on a remote island after his sentencing but in June was moved to the main island of Male for medical treatment.

However, the MDP said the decision to commute Nasheed’s sentence to house arrest was not enough. It said it had delivered on its side of the bargain to provide parliamentary support for the sacking of Yameen’s vice president Mohamed Jameel on treason charges.

It also supported Yameen’s legislative programme to allow foreign ownership of land in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

The MDP statement insisted that Nasheed must be freed without any constraints.

The sentencing on March 13 came less than a month after his arrest on February 22. The Maldivian criminal court held that Nasheed had ordered the arrest of a judge accused of corruption before he was forced out by a police and military mutiny in February 2012. The courts said that Nasheed’s order amounted to terrorism.