Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s high-profile international lawyers Amal Clooney and Jared Genser have alleged that the government spied on their meeting with the opposition leader at the high-security Maafushi prison this morning.
Speaking at a press conference in Kurumba Resort, Genser said the pair had a lengthy conversation with Nasheed to discuss “a sensitive issue” and sought his opinion on the matter.
“And literally on the boat ride back to Malé from Maafushi prison, we got a phone call from [Nasheed’s wife] Madam Laila [Ali] from London, who received a phone call from someone who had spoken to a government official and asked her if the information that they had just heard was in fact accurate,” Genser explained.
Laila was “very surprised” as the information had not been discussed with her, Genser continued, stressing that it could only have come from “the sensitive conversation” lawyers had with Nasheed.
Laila’s friend who had spoken to the government official “indicated in fact that it came from Maafushi prison and the conservation that President Nasheed had just had with counsel,” he added.
“This is a flagrant breach of the right for criminal defendants to confidential attorney-client communication and frankly we have evidence as well that suggests that this was not singular occurrence and that this happens on a regular basis,” he said.
The evidence also suggests that the information is shared with the prosecutor general “to inform his ability to prosecute President Nasheed.”
Asked how he believes the information was collected, Genser said: “I think the room had to have been bugged.”
Genser also suggested that “it clearly had to have been a live feed” because there would not have been enough time to listen to a recording before Laila called the lawyers.
“And the fact that it happened so quickly is incredibly disturbing because it means they are literally moment-to-moment monitoring what we are doing and trying to adjust their strategy accordingly,” he said.
The wiretapping constitutes “a flagrant breach” of both international and domestic law, he added.
Asked about the allegation of secret recordings, Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) spokesperson Moosa Rameez categorically denied to The Maldives Independent that recording devices were hidden in the meeting room.
“I can assure you that nothing of that sort will happen. We fully respect lawyer-client confidentiality,” he said.
Genser meanwhile did not reveal the nature of the “sensitive issue” discussed with Nasheed.
But he said the government official had asked Laila’s friend to ask her “if she was going to follow a particular course of action”.
Genser, the founder of the renowned campaign group for political prisoners ‘Freedom Now,’ is working with Clooney and Ben Emmerson, a UN rights chief on counter-terrorism and human rights, to secure Nasheed’s release.
Clooney, a human rights lawyer and wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, arrived in the Maldives on Monday and met with Attorney General Mohamed Anil on behalf of Nasheed yesterday. She met Nasheed for the first time on Tuesday.
Genser arrived yesterday and promptly traveled to the Maafushi prison to meet Nasheed.
On April 30, the heavyweight lawyers filed a petition with the UN working group on arbitrary detention, seeking a judgment declaring Nasheed’s 13-year jail term unlawful. A ruling is expected next month.
Genser also said today that a prison guard videotaped a meeting between Nasheed’s lawyers yesterday ahead of a preliminary hearing held at the High Court to determine whether to proceed with the prosecutor general’s (PG) appeal of his 13-year jail sentence.
Four prison guards insisted on staying in the room despite repeated requests for privacy, Genser said, and “one them videotaped everything that was being said between counsel and Nasheed”.
Clooney and Genser are due to depart for Sri Lanka tonight to brief the foreign press and hold meetings with diplomats. The pair have previously accompanied Laila on visits with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, US Secretary of State John Kerry, the UN human rights chief and EU parliamentarians.
Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism in March over the military’s detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012. The 19-day trial at the criminal court was widely criticised over its apparent lack of due process.
On August 23, Nasheed was taken back to Maafushi jail after two months under house arrest, prompting the UN human rights chief as well as the American and British governments to renew calls for his release.
The PG office meanwhile announced its intention to appeal the 13-year jail sentence on July 23 amid negotiations between the government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
The main opposition party has since withdrawn from the talks following Nasheed’s transfer back to jail, citing the government’s refusal to honour its commitment to release Nasheed and other jailed opposition politicians
The High Court is due to make a decision on whether to proceed with the state’s appeal. The MDP is meanwhile planning to stage an anti-government demonstration in Malé at 4:30pm tomorrow – the party’s first protest since June 12.