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US Urges Maldives to Free Jailed Former Leader

mohamed-nasheed_650x400_51440595554The United States pressed the Maldives Wednesday to release former leader Mohamed Nasheed after he was returned to prison despite a court order commuting his 13-year term to house arrest.

US assistant secretary for South Asia Nisha Biswal said Washington was concerned about a move away from democracy in the Indian Ocean archipelago, a popular tourist destination.

Her comments echoed a call by the United Nations on Tuesday for Nasheed’s early release.

 “It is a concern to us that rather than strengthening democratic institutions and processes, the government of Maldives seems to be moving away,” Biswal said while on a visit to neighbouring Sri Lanka.

“We have called upon the government of the Maldives to respect due process.”

Police and prison officials clashed with supporters of Nasheed as they removed him from his home in the capital Male and took him to the high-security prison island of Maafushi on Sunday night.

The US State Department said Nasheed’s trial in March had been conducted contrary to local laws as well as the country’s international obligations.

“We renew our call on the government of Maldives to release former President Nasheed, end politically motivated trials and take steps to restore confidence in its commitment to democracy and the rule of law,” said spokesman John Kirby.

There was no immediate comment from the Maldives government on the move to jail Nasheed again. Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who is representing the former president, has said it showed “complete disregard for the rule of law”.

Nasheed, the archipelago’s first democratically-elected leader, was sentenced to 13 years in jail in March after a court convicted him under tough anti-terror laws.

The charges relate to the arrest of a judge accused of corruption when Nasheed, who was toppled in February 2012, was president.

Nasheed’s sentence was formally commuted to house arrest on July 19 as part of closed-door talks with the government aimed at defusing political tension.

In a bizarre twist, the government subsequently sought to distance it from his conviction, with the prosecutor-general saying he would lodge an appeal with the court.

But this week authorities told Nasheed’s opposition Maldivian Democratic Party the document commuting his sentence appeared to be a “fake”.

Nasheed’s jailing and the subsequent unrest have tarnished the image of the Maldives as an upmarket tourist destination.

Courtesy- NDTV

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