Lawmaker Faris Maumoon was Thursday declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, which said the Maldives government was choking dissent and convicting opposition members in trials that did not meet international standards.
Faris, who is the son of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the nephew of President Abdulla Yameen, faces criminal charges that the rights group has called “trumped up.”
The rights group defines a prisoner of conscience as someone who has not used or advocated violence but is jailed because of who they are or what they believe.
Faris was freed from custody in January while standing trial for bribery, only to be arrested days later on his uncle’s orders for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government with the help of politicians and bribing politicians.
He has denied all the charges against him including identity fraud, for which he was convicted last month and sentenced to four months and 24 days in prison.
The conviction “flies in the face” of a Supreme Court ruling that ordered him and eight other opposition members to be released, Amnesty said.
“Detained for almost a year through unfair trial proceedings, Amnesty International considers Faris Maumoon a prisoner of conscience.”
The government insists there are no political prisoners in the Maldives and has dismissed the consensus among the international community about the “serious deterioration of human rights and the extremely limited space” for civil society.
The ranks of high-profile figures jailed or exiled since Yameen took office now include two former presidents, two Supreme Court justices, two vice presidents, two defence ministers, leaders of opposition parties, several lawmakers and the country’s chief prosecutor.
“Repression of peaceful political activity in the Maldives has gone little noticed in the international community,” Amnesty said.
“Drawing comfort from the fact that tourism has been unaffected, the government has proceeded to entrench itself by choking dissent, convicting members of the opposition in trials that are suspected to be politically motivated and that do not meet international standards.”