Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s lengthy jail sentence on a terrorism conviction was condemned Thursday by the ruling party faction led by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed’s arrest of a judge during his tenure “was not an act of terrorism,” former home minister, Umar Naseer declared on Thursday, revealing the Gayoom faction’s stance on the 13-year-jail sentence handed to their political nemesis.
It is also a reversal of the position Naseer and others of the Gayoom faction had stated earlier.
Naseer’s statement followed Gayoom’s withdrawal of support for his half-brother and incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen, who he accused of authoritarianism and corruption. The two brothers are embroiled in a battle for control of the Progressive Party of the Maldives.
“I do not want Mohamed Nasheed to return to the presidency,” Naseer said in a brief speech following Gayoom’s announcement on Thursday.
“But justice is justice. He abducted a judge. He abducted the judge as the commander-in-chief. That is not terrorism. That is unlawful arrest. The sentence for that is between two to three years in jail. We are advocating for justice.”
Gayoom, whose speech preceded Naseer’s, had also slammed the destruction of democracy and the jailing of opposition leaders, and called on all political parties to unite against Yameen.
Naseer was the only other speaker at the brief ceremony to mark the PPM’s fifth anniversary.
His statement lends credence to long-rumoured claims of an alliance between Gayoom and Nasheed, and signals that the 78-year-old strongman may not want Nasheed to contest the 2018 presidential polls. To be eligible for the presidency, a period of three years must have elapsed since a candidate convicted of a criminal offence was released or issued a pardon.
Naseer, who quit Yameen’s cabinet in June, went on to criticise the jailing of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on weapons smuggling charges and Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla on terrorism charges.
He alleged that the pistol police had discovered at Nazim’s apartment contained former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s DNA. Nazim had long accused Adeeb of framing him.
“It was Adeeb’s DNA that was found on that pistol,” Naseer said. “It was Maldivian police who found that DNA and despite that evidence being forwarded to the prosecutor general, we are yet to see a just verdict.”
He added: “In a just administration, Sheikh Imran cannot be charged with terrorism. Because he was accused of disrupting public order in a protest. That is not an act of terrorism. The punishment for that offence is six months [in jail]. But Sheikh Imran was sentenced to 12 years.”
Speaking out against corruption under Yameen’s three-year rule, Naseer said: “Some may say, even if things are not going well, don’t worry, development work is ongoing. The bridge is being built. Harbours are being dredged and roads are being built. Our PPM does not believe that constructing bridges and roads are licenses for corruption. Development work is not a license for corruption.”
He went on to accuse Yameen loyalists of benefiting from corruption.
“You will see our brothers who have now become rivals on TV. Check each of their backgrounds. See all what businesses they are running, businesses they had built with undue influences. What sort of mechanisms by which they earn money. Are they living on their salaries? Check, this is the extent to which our government has lost its integrity.”
Gayoom’s withdrawal of support for Yameen meant that the president could no longer with the 2018 polls, he added.
The civil war within the PPM was triggered by Gayoom’s refusal to grant Yameen the party’s presidential ticket. Yameen appears to have outmanoeuvred his elder brother, winning supreme court support for his usurpation of Gayoom’s powers as the PPM’s leader.
Meanwhile, some eight MPs loyal to Gayoom have formed a breakaway faction in parliament, a move Yameen’s opponents say will threaten the president’s majority there.