The US government has called on the Maldives to release former President Mohamed Nasheed, adding to a growing chorus of concern over the opposition leader’s re-imprisonment.
John Kirby, the US State Department spokesman, said the US is “disturbed” by Nasheed’s late-night transfer to prison from house arrest on Sunday.
“We renew our call on the Government of Maldives to release former President Nasheed, end politically motivated trials, and take steps to restore confidence in its commitment to democracy and the rule of law, including judicial independence, and to ensure fundamental rights are respected, including the freedom of speech, press, and peaceful assembly,” he said.
Nasheed was first transferred to house arrest on June 19. The three-day period was extended to eight weeks amidst talks for political reconciliation.
Lawyers said Nasheed’s 13-year jail term on a terrorism conviction was commuted to house arrest on July 19. But the government now denies authorizing the commutation.
When asked whether the US government planned to take any action such as “cutting off aids or holding aids,” Kirby said the US government will wait on the Maldivian governments next course of action and response.
He confirmed that US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Biswal would not be visiting the Maldives in her trip to Sri Lanka this week.
Kirby expressed concern over Nasheed’s safety and well being in custody, noting his trial was “conducted in a manner contrary to Maldivian law and Maldives’ international obligations to provide the minimum fair trial guarantees and other protections under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
He also urged the government to expedite pending cases against former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim and the President of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla.
Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail on a weapons smuggling charge. He maintains he was framed by rogue police officers on the orders of now Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.
His appeal has been stalled since mid-June.
Imran, meanwhile, is charged with terrorism. His trial has not proceeded beyond a first hearing in early June.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has urged the government to consider Nasheed’s release. His re-imprisonment is a “serious set-back” to human rights in the Maldives.
World leaders including UK Prime Minister David Cameron, US Secretary of State John Kerry and prominent US, UK and EU parliamentarians have called for Nasheed’s release.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has withdrawn from talks and is planning to restart street protests.