Amal Clooney heads international effort to free former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed from jail

The government of the Maldives has hired Cherie Blair's law firm to counter Ms Clooney's efforts

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The Independent Online

Amal Clooney is part of an international legal delegation that has travelled to the Maldives to try and secure the release of former president Mohamed Nasheed – jailed earlier this after being being accused of terrorism by the current governmnet. The government is in turn being advised a London law firm led by Cherie Blair.

Ms Clooney attended a hearing on Wednesday and held a meeting with the country’s Attorney General, Mohamed Anil. Another member of the team, Jared Genser, took a boat to Maafushi Island and met Mr Nasheed in prison.

"He is in good spirits, but obviously he would rather not be in jail," Mr Genser told The Independent, speaking from Male. "The bigger picture is that he remains very popular and would like to run again for president and the government wants to exclude him from the process."

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Mohamed Nasheed was the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives

The jailing of Mr and the high-profile visit by the international legal team to the overwhelmingly Muslim nation, is just the latest twist in the shifting saga of Mr Nasheed, a former journalist and political prisoner who became the country’s first democratically elected leader in 2008.

After being elected, the British-educated Mr Nasheed, said to be close David Cameron, sought to highlight the threat to his country from climate changes and rising oceans. He also tried to cement democratic change and reform the judiciary.

Yet he ran into repeated problems, and faced challenges from both political opponents and religious groups. His supporters claimed these groups were associated with former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whom he beat in 2008.

In February 2012, he took the decision to stand down after what he and his supporters described as a coup by the country’s police force. After a series of delays and suspensions, a new election was held in October 2013, only for the results to be annulled.

 

A run-off was held in November. Eventually, Abdulla Yameen, a half-brother of former dictator Mr Gayoom, was elected president.

The decision to arrest Mr Nasheed relates to the 2012 arrest of a senior judge when he was still president.

The court said the arrest by the military was akin to abduction, a crime under the terrorism law. Mr Nasheed’s sentencing – and his jailing - sparked nightly protests and drew widespread international condemnation.

The government subsequently began negotiations with Mr Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party. The talks broke down after authorities decided to appeal the case in court and put Mr Nasheed back in jail, saying the house arrest was only a temporary measure in consideration of his health.

The Associated Press said Mr Nasheed told the High Court on Wednesday that the prosecutor general had no authority to appeal, and the prosecutor responded that he appealed on behalf of the state.

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Amal Clooney took a boat to visit Mr Nasheed in jail

The UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein last week called on Mr Yameen’s government to release Mr Nasheed. He also called for a review of criminal cases against several hundred of Nasheed’s party supporters who have been arrested in protests since May in the Maldives.

The government of the Maldives has hired its own international counsel, according to a report in Minivan News and a lawyer from Cherie Blair's law firm, Omnia Strategy, attended the hearing.

After Ms Clooney met with Mr Nasheed on Tuesday, she said was in good spirits, according to Reuters.

"He wanted me to convey to the people of the Maldives that they should remain hopeful that things will improve and that he is pleased that I will be attending meetings with him on behalf of the government," said Ms Clooney, who is married to actor George Clooney.

Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, a senior member of Mr Nasheed's party, claimed the government was returning the country to the days of the "deep state". "Democracy is new in the Maldives, we have never had a proper democracy," he said.

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