The government’s refusal to release jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed, despite a UN opinion declaring his detention arbitrary, can only be regarded as a kidnapping, the opposition has said.
Mohamed Shifaz, the vice president of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), urged the government to adhere to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s (WGAD) ruling at a press conference today.
“If the government refuses to abide by the recommendations and decisions of the UNWGAD, we will proceed with direct street action. MDP will protest relentlessly day and night,” he said.
The foreign ministry has called the UNWGAD’s decision premature and flawed, and said Nasheed must seek redress through domestic courts.
The opinion of the five-member panel was delivered to the government on September 17. It was due to be communicated with Nasheed on October 5. The foreign ministry had only said the UNWGAD had ruled in the opposition leader’s favor, but did not reveal details.
The government said it “does not accept the decision” and “will not be made to act on the basis of a non-binding opinion.”
Nasheed’s heavyweight international lawyers have threatened to lobby for targeted sanctions if he is not freed.
Commenting on the government’s refusal to accept the WGAD’s recommendations, MP Mariya Ahmed Didi said that the government’s “defiant stance” would only result in increased diplomatic pressure and sanctions.
“We understand that the government’s actions will only end up ostracizing Maldives from the international community and the eventuality will be made to face sanctions and other pressures,” Mariya said.
She added that MDP is working to ensure that the situation does not escalate to that extent.
Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, a former MP, described the WGAD’s decision on Nasheed’s detention as a clear pronouncement that the Maldivian judicial and political system has failed.
“President Yameen must bear full responsibility for all the trouble that will follow their refusal to free Nasheed,” he said.
MDP has restarted its anti-government campaign with a protest march on September 11 after a three-month hiatus. It has resumed its street gatherings at night, and plans to hold mass rallies in southern Addu City this weekend and mass protest marches across the country on October 9.
A moratorium on street protests was part of a deal made with the government in exchange for the release of Nasheed and other jailed politicians as well as withdrawal of charges against 1,700 opposition supporters and reforms to the judiciary and independent institutions.
Nasheed, who was under house arrest for the duration of talks, was returned to jail in August, resulting in a break down in talks.
He was sentenced to 13 years in prison on a terrorism charge, relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure. His imprisonment had triggered mass protests and drawn international criticism.
The appeal is now with the Supreme Court. A three-judge panel at the High Court rejected the case on the grounds that it was the PG who had filed the appeal instead of Nasheed.
In a bizarre twist, the ruling, issued after a single preliminary hearing, also went on to declare the lower court’s verdict valid, despite never having heard oral arguments.