Opposition supporters gathered at the Malé airport today with a drumming band to welcome jailed former president Mohamed Nasheed’s international lawyer Amal Clooney.
“I’m here to represent President Nasheed, your former president, who fought so hard to bring human rights and democracy to this country, and who is now a political prisoner here, one of many unfortunately,” Clooney told the press.
Clooney, a high profile human rights lawyer and wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, is working with Jared Genser, the founder of the renowned campaign group for political prisoners Freedom Now, and Ben Emmerson, a UN rights chief on counter-terrorism and human rights, to free Nasheed.
“We are hoping to make some advances this week regarding President Nasheed’s case. My colleague Jared Genser will be coming in tomorrow. We will be visiting President Nasheed in prison while we are here and holding meetings with government officials, and I will address the press in due course on the outcome of those meetings,” Clooney said.
Nasheed’s international legal team helped the opposition leader file a petition with the UN working group on arbitrary detention, requesting a judgment declaring his 13-year jail term on terrorism charges arbitrary and illegal.
A ruling is expected in September or October, Nasheed’s office has said.
Clooney and Genser will stay in the Maldives until September 13.
“I’m here unfortunately at a time when the human rights situation and security situation is deteriorating day by day, just three days ago, one of my colleagues, a lawyer and member of President Nasheed’s team, Mahfooz Saeed was brutally stabbed in the street and he’s undergoing treatment at the moment,” Clooney said.
Saeed was stabbed in the head with a diving knife on Friday.
The airport arrival terminal was packed with Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters, leaders and MPs. Clooney’s flight from Dubai landed at 3pm.
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Nasheed was sentenced over the arrest of a judge during his tenure. The trial was widely criticized for lack of due process, and world leaders including UK Prime Minister David Cameron have called for his release.
The opposition leader was taken back to jail on August 23, shortly after the government commuted his sentence to house arrest. The government now denies having authorized the transfer.
Clooney and Genser are to visit Nasheed at a high security prison on Maafushi Jail.
The pair have accompanied Nasheed’s wife, Laila Ali, on visits with Cameron, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and EU parliamentarians as part of a high-profile campaign to free him.
The government in the response to the UN insisted judges followed due process in Nasheed’s trial. Omnia Strategy, chaired by Cherie Blair, the wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, was commissioned to write the response.