The supreme court’s verdict on former President Mohamed Nasheed’s appeal against a terrorism conviction may show the way out of the Maldives’ protracted political crisis, President Abdulla Yameen has suggested.
Yameen, who is facing pressure over a crackdown on democracy, said he intends to request the apex court to speed up issuing a ruling in the opposition leader’s terrorism case.
Appeal hearings had concluded last March.
Speaking on the island of Gan in Laamu Atoll on Monday, Yameen said: “In the ongoing talks involving the UN Secretary General’s envoy, their foremost request is for government to appeal to the Supreme Court to speed up the court processes for President Nasheed and other politicians. I will appeal for this. But even if I do not, it will go ahead that way too. It will happen through the existing system. The judiciary is obliged to do so.”
He added: “From then on, we will once again know how things will proceed.”
The UN had sent in last month a senior official for proximity or indirect talks to negotiate a way out of a stalemate between the government and the opposition over Nasheed and other opposition leaders’ release.
The opposition is refusing to sit down until key political figures – including the President of the Adhaalath Party, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim – are freed.
The UN official’s visit ended without any apparent sign of progress, although the government labeled his efforts successful.
Yameen urged the opposition to come to the table, noting his opponents had now been released to house imprisonment, ostensibly because of renovation work at the jail they were held at. Nasheed, meanwhile, is in the UK on government-authorised medical leave.
“We must find peace at the table,” Yameen said.
“I will make that appeal, then we can decide on how to move forward. But the truth we must accept is that when such heinous crimes occur, justice will be served someday.”
Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail on charges of abducting a judge in a trial UN rights experts have called politically motivated.
Yameen went on to liken former Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s 22-day detention to the abduction of a child from outside his or her school. The president had used the same analogy before.
He said: “I know for a fact that any mother would be deeply anxious if her child did not come home from school. She will feel that her child has disappeared… This is why we decided the arrest of persons without their consent constitutes an act of terror. Because that is her child.”
A second option to secure Nasheed’s release was through the amending of laws, he continued, saying: “What the president can do, if the political parties feel the [law] must be changed, I can send it to the People’s Majlis asking for public opinion. So even if Western countries or others speak to the government, it is us who will decide what is in our best interest. To do so, we will mostly depend on our laws.”
Yameen struck a markedly conciliatory tone in the three different speeches he gave in southern Laamu Atoll on Monday.
He had previously used public appearances to rail against what he called efforts by Western countries to destroy Islam in the Maldives, allegedly extended in the guise of promoting democracy.