12 March 2015

The new Chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Fiona Bruce MP, has expressed “grave concerns” over the mistreatment of Mohamed Nasheed, former President of the Maldives, who was arrested on 22 February and is currently on trial on terrorism charges.

Fiona said today: “Mohamed Nasheed is a champion of non-violent, peaceful democracy. Charging him with terrorism is in itself absurd, and blatantly politically-motivated. Furthermore, I am deeply concerned that he has been physically mistreated while in custody. The images of him being dragged along the ground into court were truly shocking. The conduct of his trial is a travesty. He has been denied legal representation, denied his right to appeal, his witnesses have been rejected before they were heard; meanwhile judges have become witnesses for the prosecution, other witnesses have been led by the judges or coached by the police, and any semblance of a fair trial has disappeared. Many of Mr Nasheed’s colleagues and supporters have also been arrested. Today I urge the Government of the Maldives to drop the charges, release Mr Nasheed and engage in a political dialogue to find a peaceful way forward towards the restoration of democracy and respect for human rights.”

In 2006, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission visited Mr Nasheed when he was under house arrest as opposition leader, and published a report on the reform process in the country. The Commission has held several hearings on The Maldives in the last decade, and in 2007 Mr Nasheed addressed a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference alongside the Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague. In 2009, he addressed the full party conference from the main platform.

Mr Nasheed became the first democratically-elected President of the Maldives in 2008, after a transition to democracy following decades of dictatorship. In 2012, he was overthrown in a coup d’etat.

In 2013, fresh elections were held, in which Mr Nasheed won 45% in the first round. The regime then cancelled the election and held a new election several months later. Mr Nasheed again won the first round but fell just short of an overall majority, and lost in the second round to his rival Abdulla Yameen, brother of the former dictator Maumoon Gayoom.

Mr Nasheed has been accused of “kidnapping” the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in 2012, an allegation which precipitated the coup. Mr Nasheed argues that Judge Mohamed faced accusations of political bias having repeatedly acquitted political figures associated with the old regime despite evidence of serious crimes. Mr. Nasheed’s government tried every mechanism available to hold Judge Mohamed accountable, but all efforts were blocked. Finally, the judge’s refusal to honor a police summons led to his arrest.

The Yameen regime appears to be using these allegations to charge Mr Nasheed under the Maldives’ terrorism laws, with a potential prison sentence of up to 15 years. This would leave him unable to contest the presidency again.

John Glen, Member of Parliament for Salisbury, added his support to Fiona’s call for the release of Mr Nasheed.  “From 2006 until 2012, there were real signs of hope in the Maldives. Since 2012, we have seen democracy destroyed, the constitution ripped up and the rule of law left in tatters. In Mr Nasheed’s trial the prosecutor-general is a former associate of Judge Mohamed, and the lead judge had refused to take disciplinary action against Judge Mohamed as deputy head of the Judicial Services Commission. Another judge faces allegations of bribery and the third has a criminal record. What hope can there possibly be of a fair trial? This is a grotesque travesty of justice.”

Fiona called on the international community to consider its response to the crisis. “Britain and the international community cannot afford to be silent in the face of such gross injustice. Targeted sanctions against the international assets of senior members of the regime, as well as a boycott of tourist resorts owned by senior members of the regime or their associates, should be seriously considered. The Commonwealth should consider suspending The Maldives. We must all do everything we can to ensure that Mohamed Nasheed is freed, democracy is restored and justice is done.”