Maldives ex-leader refused bail, denied legal access

Maldives ex-leader refused bail, denied legal access

AFP

The charges against the 47-year-old relate to the 2012 arrest of the atoll nation's criminal court chief judge Abdullah Mohamed for alleged corruption

MALE, Maldives – A court in the Maldives on Monday, February 22, refused bail to former president Mohamed Nasheed after he was arrested on terrorism charges and denied access to his lawyers, his party said.

Police forcibly dragged the opposition leader into the court in the capital Male, ignoring his plea to be allowed to walk in himself, and denied him medical attention though the court had ordered “necessary treatment.”

Nasheed told the court that his arm hurt after police violently pushed him to the ground, but the 3-judge bench brushed aside his complaints, only asking police to grant him treatment after the hearing.

Instead of taking him to hospital in Male, however, Nasheed was seen being taken away by boat to the nearby prison islet of Dhoonidhoo. His shirt buttons were missing and he appeared in pain throughout the brief hearing.

“The court ordered president Nasheed to be kept in police custody until the end of the trial,” said Shauna Aminath, a spokeswoman for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The MDP has argued that his arrest on “trumped-up charges of terrorism” is an attempt to shut down growing opposition to the government of President Abdulla Yameen before a planned protest rally on Friday, February 27.

Nasheed’s lawyer, meanwhile, said the charges against him were “blatantly politically motivated” and condemned authorities for refusing him legal access.

The MDP, which said it could not expect a fair trial, said Nasheed had been told that his lawyers should have registered to represent him two days before the hearing – even though he was only arrested and charged on Sunday, February 22.

State prosecutors pressed the court to deny Nasheed bail in relation to the current case after he took refuge at the Indian embassy to avoid arrest in 2013.

Hundreds of party activists took to the streets shouting anti-government slogans after Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected president, was detained on Sunday, February 22.

International concern

The charges against the 47-year-old relate to the 2012 arrest of the atoll nation’s criminal court chief judge Abdullah Mohamed for alleged corruption.

The authorities have yet to issue a comment on Nasheed’s arrest and the subsequent court proceedings.

The Maldives is a major tourist attraction, but political unrest has dented its image as a peaceful island paradise in recent years – particularly since Nasheed’s February 2012 ousting in what he described as a coup.

Regional power India expressed concern over the “arrest and manhandling” of Nasheed.

“We urge all concerned to calm the situation and resolve their differences within the constitutional and legal framework of Maldives,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

US Assistant Secretary of state for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal also voiced concern over his arrest when she spoke to the Maldivian foreign minister on the weekend, a State Department spokeswoman said.

“She (Biswal) urged the government to take steps to restore confidence in…  their commitment to democracy, judicial independence, and rule of law, including respect for the right to peaceful protest and respect for due process,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Nasheed resigned as president in 2012 following a mutiny by police and troops that followed weeks of protest over Mohamed’s arrest.

Since his downfall, he has been plagued with court action over the judge’s arrest.

The former president was detained just days after the state prosecutor dropped criminal charges of abuse of power against him over the arrest.

On Sunday, he was charged again, this time under tough anti-terrorism laws that carry a higher penalty of over 10 years in jail.

Yameen came to power in November 2013 after an election that Nasheed initially led, although without an outright majority. 

Yameen won a controversial run-off election with the help of another eliminated presidential candidate and business tycoon Qasim Ibrahim, who has since become an ally of Nasheed.

The next presidential election is not due until late 2018, but the opposition has been staging regular anti-government demonstrations in Male. – Rappler.com

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