Malice in wonderland: The fate of Maldivian ex-President Mohamed Nasheed

The former President of the Maldives, who ran on a platform of democratic principles, has been replaced by an increasingly authoritarian regime

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The Independent Online

Throughout his career as a dissident journalist Mohamed Nasheed was a thorn in the side of President Maumoon Gayoom, who dominated the politics of the Indian Ocean nation for 30 years.

In 2008, just five years after he formed the Maldivian Democratic Party, Mr Nasheed succeeded in toppling Mr Gayoom, becoming the first Maldives president to come to power through free elections.

Mr Nasheed ran on a platform of human rights and democratic principles. His first act was to destroy the country’s torture centre, having spent several years in jail himself as a political prisoner.

But four years later, Mr Nasheed faced overwhelming pressure from the military after a mutiny by police officers and clashes between demonstrators. He was forced to resign at gunpoint.

In subsequent presidential elections in 2013 he won the first round of voting – but his triumph was annulled by the Supreme Court. Eventually, Abdulla Yameen – Mr Gayoom’s half-brother – was installed in office.

Since taking charge, President Yameen has presided over an increasingly authoritarian regime. Preparations are under way for the reintroduction of executions after more than 60 years – including putting death sentences on children found guilty at Juvenile Court and executing them after they turn 18,

Earlier this year, expectations of a comeback by Mr Nasheed increased when Gasim Ibrahim, who had polled third in the 2013 presidential elections, left the coalition government and joined the MDP. The extra support made Mr Nasheed favourite to resume office at the next election.

Critics argue that as a result the Yameen regime concocted “terrorism” charges against the opposition leader, supposedly connected to the “illegal” arrest of a judge in 2012. Even though there was no evidence that Mr Nasheed ordered the arrest or indeed knew about it in advance, he was jailed for 13 years after a trial condemned for its lack of due process.

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney said: “Nasheed’s conviction for ‘terrorism’ and the crushing 13-year sentence are a mockery of justice.”