India ‘dismayed’ over jail for Maldives ex-prez
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 Co- urt 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 Regi- onal Cooperation that PM Narendra Modi is yet to visit.
Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for three decades, is the second former president to be jailed under the regime of Yameen Abdul Gayoom. He was arrested in February on charges of attempting to overthrow Yameen, his half brother. Yameen, who was elected in 2013, has rolled back much of the democratic gains .
The country of 400,000 people has seen political unrest since its first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed, was forced to quit amid a police mutiny in 2012.
Maldive has faced upheaval since February, when Yameen imposed a 45-day emergency to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including Nasheed.
During the emergency, authorities arrested the three men and a Supreme Court administrator on charges of trying to overthrow the government. They still face those charges. Criminal court judge Hassan Najeeb refused multiple appeals by the defendants to be given time to appoint new lawyers.
Najeeb said it was clear the defendants had mobile phones and refused to comply with a police investigation and requests to hand over their devices.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom ▪