In­dia ‘dis­mayed’ over jail for Mal­dives ex-prez

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Nation - HT Cor­re­spon­dent let­ters@hin­dus­tan­

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 ▪

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