UK minister of state meets President Yameen

UK minister of state meets President Yameen
January 17 18:47 2016

Hugo Swire, UK Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, paid a courtesy call on President Abdulla Yameen this morning in an ongoing official visit to the Maldives.

Swire’s visit follows the government’s sudden change of heart in authorising jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed’s travel to the UK for medical treatment. Indian and Sri Lankan media reported today that lobbying efforts by the Maldives’ neighbours were responsible for the government’s u-turn.

Swire also met with Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and leaders of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and Adhaalath Party as well as Indian High Commissioner Akilesh Mishra.

The UK minister’s visit suggests a coordinated effort by the regional powers and the West to secure the opposition leader’s release from prison.

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism in March over the military’s detention of a judge during his tenure. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison after a rushed trial that drew widespread international condemnation.

In June, UK Prime Minister David Cameron became the first head of government to call for the former president’s release. A UN human rights panel has since found his imprisonment arbitrary and politically motivated, but the government insists Nasheed must exhaust the domestic appeal process to be eligible for a pardon.

Nasheed’s international lawyers are meanwhile lobbying the governments of the US and UK to impose targeted sanctions on top Maldivian officials accused of human rights abuses.

The European Union parliament in December had also passed a resolution calling on member states to impose sanctions including asset freezes and travel bans.

During the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta last November, Cameron had called events in the Maldives “unacceptable” and said member states must do more to “hold countries to account when they fail to live up to their responsibilities as member states.”

Briefing UK MPs on the Commonwealth summit, Cameron also revealed that the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group was scheduled to visit Malé in early 2016.

Nasheed is meanwhile expected to depart the Maldives tonight with a travel document instead of his passport. He has been granted 30 days leave to undergo spinal surgery in the UK.