Toby Cadman, the barrister who defended the jailing of former President Mohamed Nasheed at the UN on the Maldivian government’s behalf, first approached the opposition leader’s aides and proposed to lobby for a tourism boycott and sanctions on the Maldives for his freedom, The Maldives Independent can reveal.
Before Cadman’s firm Omnia Strategy was hired by the government, he sent a draft contract to Nasheed’s aides, proposing to lobby the governments of the UK, US, EU, and India as well as the UN Security Council to seek his release.
The March contract was submitted under the letterheads of T.M.C. Advisory Group and the International Forum for Democracy and Human Rights, both consulting firms Cadman had founded.
According to Nasheed’s office, Cadman and his associate Charlie Tarr of the public relations firm BTP Advisers dropped their offer when it became clear Nasheed was looking for pro bono services.
The former president went on to hire heavyweight lawyers Amal Clooney, wife of actor George, Jared Genser, founder of renowned campaign group for prisoners of conscience Freedom Now, and Ben Emmerson, a UN human rights expert.
Then in June, Cadman appeared alongside Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon to defend Nasheed’s imprisonment, despite having described proceedings against him as “a politically motivated show trial aimed at cementing further an already authoritarian regime,” in his March proposal.
The government has refused to disclose the value of Omnia’s contract.
As part of his work for the government, Cadman held several press conferences in Malé and Geneva, and penned opinion articles for Al Jazeera and this paper. If the offence for which Nasheed was imprisoned – the arrest of a judge – had occurred in the UK, he would have been sentenced to life imprisonment, Cadman had argued.
In July, he personally submitted the government’s response to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a UN special procedures mechanism he had listed as an avenue to seek Nasheed’s release in the March contract.
When Nasheed’s lawyers said they would lobby for targeted sanctions, Omnia Strategy issued a statement describing Nasheed’s lawyers’ call for sanctions as “inappropriate and unjustified.”
But in the draft contract sent to Nasheed’s aides, Cadman had proposed the same.
Key messages of the campaign, according to the contract obtained by The Maldives Independent, are:
“Mohamed Nasheed took the Maldives on a first step toward true democracy – his arrest and trial is a politically motivated show trial aimed at cementing further an already authoritarian regime.
The government of the Maldives must immediately release Mohamed Nasheed or face international isolation, both diplomatically and economically.
Tourists must boycott the Maldives until the government releases Mohamed Nasheed – it is morally wrong to support a government and country intent on using a highly compromised judiciary to eliminate political opponents. This includes the resort owners, who themselves back the current government.
The international community cannot allow the Maldives to drift towards a pariah state – there are already clear signs of a military dictatorship, rising Islamic fundamentalism and the abuse of women. This is a return to the dark decades of dictatorship under Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The UK Government – and especially the Conservative Party – have worked closely with Mr Nasheed on his election campaign and during his administration. They now must stand up for democracy and free speech in the Maldives, and that includes ceasing international programmes and cooperation through DfID and FCO until Mr Nasheed is released.”
Cadman also proposed to submit a report to the UN Security Council identifying top government officials considered most responsible for crimes committed against civilians in the Maldives.
The Facebook and Twitter campaign urging an international boycott of the Maldives would use the hashtags #freeAnni and #paradiselost, the contract said.
Cadman also offered to appear on major broadcasters, including BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera, to comment on the “worsening authoritarianism in the Maldives. He also proposed to organize a full congressional hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Tarr, Cadman’s associate, who heads BTP Advisers, submitted a separate public relations campaign proposal, to “defend democracy in the Maldives” and secure the dropping of charges against Nasheed.
The document proposed setting up international petitions, launching social media campaigns and compiling campaign videos for Nasheed’s release.
BTP in October and November offered interviews with foreign minister Dunya to media, the UK’s Independent has said. The foreign minister, however, has denied hiring a second public relations firm.
The Independent said BTP officials in November, soon after the declaration of a state of emergency here, had informed them that Tarr was in Malé, and asked the paper to submit written questions for the minister.
BTP and Cadman have denied any wrongdoing in interviews with The Independent.
In addition to Omnia, the Maldivian government in September hired Washington’s most prominent lobbyist firm, Podesta Group, for a sum of US$300,000. The government initially denied making the hire.
Following the government’s announcement that it has enlisted Omnia Strategy, Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party had expressed “disgust” with the law firm’s decision to represent President Yameen’s administration.
The MDP said at the time that the current administration “appears to have hired the most unethical and profiteering mercenaries money can buy.”