In­dia ‘dis­mayed’ over jail for Mal­dives ex­prez

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTNATION -

NEW DELHI: In­dia on Thursday ex­pressed its “deep dis­may” over the 19-month prison sen­tence awarded to for­mer Mal­dives pres­i­dent Mau­moon Ab­dul Gay­oom, the sit­ting chief jus­tice and an­other judge for “ob­struc­tion of jus­tice” in a development that will likely add to the strain in ties be­tween New Delhi and the In­dian Ocean ar­chi­pel­ago.

A Mal­dives court sen­tenced Mau­moon Ab­dul Gay­oom to one year, seven months and six days in prison on Wednesday for fail­ing to hand over his mo­bile phone to in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Chief jus­tice Ab­dulla Saeed and an­other Supreme Court judge, Ali Hameed, were also handed the same sen­tence. The three were ar­rested on charges of plot­ting a coup, shortly af­ter a state of emer­gency was de­clared on Fe­bru­ary 5 and fol­low­ing a Supreme Court or­der to re­lease nine po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

In a state­ment, the min­istry of ex­ter­nal af­fairs (MEA) said In­dia re­it­er­ated its “ad­vice” to the Mal­di­vian gov­ern­ment to re­store the cred­i­bil­ity of the elec­toral and po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses by re­leas­ing the po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers, in­clud­ing Gay­oom and the chief jus­tice.

The state­ment said In­dia had re­peat­edly urged the Mal­di­vian gov­ern­ment to al­low all in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing its Supreme Court and par­lia­ment, to func­tion in an in­de­pen­dent man­ner and per­mit gen­uine po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue be­tween all po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

“This has also been the de­mand of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity at large. It is, there­fore, with deep dis­may that we learned that the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Mal­dives as well as the chief jus­tice of the Supreme Court are be­ing sen­tenced to long prison terms with­out fair trial,” the MEA said.

“This casts doubt on the com­mit­ment of the gov­ern­ment of Mal­dives to up­hold the rule of law and will also call into ques­tion the cred­i­bil­ity of the en­tire process of pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in Septem­ber this year,” the MEA said.

Mea­sures taken by the Mal­dives gov­ern­ment in re­cent years have led to deep dis­trust in its ties with In­dia. The Mal­dives re­mains the only mem­ber-coun­try of the South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion that PM Naren­dra Modi is yet to visit.

Gay­oom is the sec­ond for­mer pres­i­dent to be jailed un­der the regime of Yameen Ab­dul Gay­oom. HTC & AGEN­CIES

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