The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has rejected an “exclusive meeting” offered by the government “to explore avenues for the state for a leniency” over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s terror conviction.
The MDP and its ally, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, are demanding the release of jailed leaders as a confidence-building measure before they join government-initiated talks to end the Maldives’ political crisis.
President Abdulla Yameen had convened talks amidst mounting international pressure over human rights abuses. The embattled president has previously refused to address concerns over unfair trials claiming that his opponents were jailed by an “independent judiciary.”
The opposition has branded the talks a mockery and refused to attend two meetings held last week.
Ali Niyaz, vice chairperson of the MDP, said party officials would not attend the meeting scheduled for 1pm tomorrow.
“We have told the government multiple times that will not attend any discussions unless all jailed opposition leaders are released. There is nothing further to discuss,” he said.
He noted that MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz remains in police custody after being arrested from outside the criminal court last week.
AP President Sheikh Imran Abdulla was meanwhile handed a 12 year jail sentence over a speech just days after Yameen called for dialogue.
Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee, Yameen’s representative for the talks, was not responding to calls at the time of going to press. The government has said that it is now seeking the UN’s assistance to bring the opposition to the table.
The MDP and AP have previously said that the government failed to make promised concessions during a first round of talks held in June last year, despite opposition backing for key legislative changes proposed by the government. These included two constitutional amendments that set age limits for the presidency and allowed foreign freeholds in the Maldives for the first time.
But Nasheed, who was transferred to house arrest for the talks, was returned to jail after eight weeks of house-arrest, and charges against Imran were never lifted.
The Commonwealth, EU and UN are urging the government to initiate talks.
Nasheed and his heavyweight international lawyers have launched a campaign calling for targeted sanctions on officials involved in human rights abuses in the Maldives.
An overwhelming majority of the European Union parliament backed the call in December, while Prime Minister David Cameron said that the UK is prepared to impose sanctions if political prisoners including Nasheed are not freed.
The Commonwealth is also set to review the Maldives’ progress on talks in April.
The Supreme Court has meanwhile wrapped up hearings on an appeal filed by the state over Nasheed’s terrorism conviction. Its ruling may provide a way out of the crisis.