Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s daughter, Meera Laila Nasheed, spoke at the UN Human Rights Council yesterday, expressing concerns over her father’s “politically motivated” prosecution and safety in state custody.
Meera, 18, spoke on behalf of Freedom Now – a renowned NGO for political prisoners – at a plenary session held in Geneva, Switzerland to consider and adopt the outcome of the Maldives’ Universal Period Review (UPR), which took place in May.
“My father, Mohamed Nasheed, former president of Maldives, was imprisoned by the Maldivian government on fabricated charges of ‘terrorism.’ He is the first democratically elected president of the Maldives. Although I know him as my tenacious and also brilliant father, who has tirelessly risked the majority of his life trying to establish basic human rights in our country,” she said.
“My father is also one of my best friends, whose humour and gentle spirit is dearly missed. We worry for his safety, and hope to have him back by our side soon.”
Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism in March over the military’s detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012 and sentenced to 13 years in prison. The opposition leader’s rushed trial and conviction triggered a political crisis and drew widespread international condemnation.
Nasheed was taken back to the high-security Maafushi jail on August 23 after two months under house arrest. Earlier this month, lawyers expressed concern with delays in bringing Nasheed to Malé for an MRI scan recommended by the doctor for an old spinal injury.
At yesterday’s session, several other NGOs, including Amnesty International, UN Watch, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, also expressed concern over the jailing of Nasheed and other politicians.
“Politically motivated criminal trials against former President Nasheed and former Defence Minister Nazim, among others, have involved arbitrary detentions and gross violations of the rights to fair trial and appeal,” said Nikhil Narayan from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
Responding to the criticism, Foreign Secretary Dr Ali Naseer Mohamed, who led the Maldivian delegation, said the statements from the civil society organisations were contrary to the “constructive, non-confrontational, and non-politicised manner in which the UPR is supposed to be conducted.”
On Nasheed’s case, Geela Ali, minister at the permanent mission to the UN, said the former president was found guilty of “ordering the illegal abduction of a judge” and claimed that Nasheed’s lawyers refused to appeal the conviction.
Nasheed’s lawyers, however, maintain that the criminal court refused to provide full transcripts of proceedings before a shortened 10-day appeal period expired in March.
Geela noted that a preliminary hearing is due to take place at the Supreme Court “in the coming days or weeks” on the prosecutor general’s appeal of Nasheed’s conviction after the High Court decided it could not hear the case.
Meera meanwhile went on to say that her father’s prosecution was not only politically motivated, “but there were shocking violations of due process throughout his case in a corrupt court system.”
“Amnesty international described his trial as a ‘travesty of justice.’ The government continues to support this gross infringement of justice along with the cases of about two dozen other political prisoners, and some 1,700 people facing legal charges for their peaceful political activism,” she said.
She noted that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the US Secretary of State, the British Prime Minister, and the European parliament have all called for Nasheed’s release.
In April, Nasheed’s high-profile international lawyers Amal Clooney, Jared Genser, and Ben Emmerson, filed a petition at the UN working group on arbitrary detention, seeking a judgement declaring his imprisonment unlawful.
A ruling is expected in mid-October. Nasheed’s lawyers have said they would pursue targeted sanctions such as asset freezes and travel bans on government officials if the opposition leader is not released following a ruling in his favour.
Meera noted that the government had hired UK-based law firm Omnia Strategy – chaired by Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair – to prepare its response to the working group.
“Because the government has fully engaged in the process, we expect it to fully abide by the working group’s recommendations,” she said.