K. Male' | Aishath Shaany | 19-July-2018 | Thursday 14:49 | Shaaknee | Report | 1,925
The government of Maldives maintains that there are no 'political prisoners' in the country and that all those convicted and imprisoned are where they are for a reason, because they are criminals.
The ranks of high-profile figures jailed since President Abdulla Yameen took office in November 2013 include; two former presidents, two Supreme Court justices, two defence ministers, a vice president, leaders of opposition parties, several lawmakers, a judge and the country’s chief prosecutor.
What do they have in common?
Except for former President Mohamed Nasheed who has always been vocal about the government's misdoings, the rest's alleged crimes surfaced only after taking a stand against President Yameen and his administration or because they could expose the incumbent president's misdeeds.
Whatever the facts are for their continued incarceration, President Yameen now insists that the Maldives does not have any political prisoners. That the country's courts and institutions are independent and denies that he nor anyone else from the government has ever tried to meddle in their work.
Hence, while there have been numerous calls to release political prisoners- which was also ordered in Supreme Court's controversial ruling in February- the President claims that there is nothing he can do, as 'it is up to the courts'.
Now, let's take a look at some of the things have gone down recently.
Last month, one of the opposition leaders, Adhaalath Party's Sheikh Imran Abdulla was transferred to house arrest from Maafushi prison, where he was serving a 12-year sentence on terror charges.
Arrested in May 2015, Imran was sentenced to jail in February 2016 over a speech he gave at the 2015 May Day rally. He was accused of inciting violence at the historic rally that saw thousands gathered at capital Malé City. His conviction has been deemed 'unjust' by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) as well.
While the house transfer was made prior to the announcement of the President Yameen's running mate for September's polls, the reports that have been circulating since have put another dent in the President's claims.
President Yameen chose his administration's first Islamic Minister Dr. Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed as his running mate. A former member of Adhaalath Party, this is the same man who claims that he resigned from the government 'for Imran'.
Hence, it is no surprise that less than 24 hours after the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) announced him as the President's running mate, Shaheem called for Imran to join him. He had even gone on to say that there are two people he needed from the party, Imran and influential cleric Sheikh Ilyas Hussain.
That was ten days ago.
On Wednesday reports surfaced that the government has been trying to make a deal with Imran by sending representatives, or negotiators.
While two government officials are to have gone to the opposition leader's residence to sway him, reports indicate that Shaheem was one of the said negotiators and that they are trying to get Imran to rejoin the President and the government. It is reported that he was even given the offer to move abroad with his family.
Not only has Imran rejected this deal, his two teenage daughters made a statement regarding their father's situation on Wednesday. Using their mother's Facebook account, the two girls said that despite wanting to travel abroad with the whole family, that 'fighting and doing what he loves for his country is more important' and that they will always support his work.
While this was the first time 14-year-old Nusaiba binth Imran and 13-year-old Naushan binth Imran has commented on their father's situation, the timing coincides with reports that the government is working to cut a deal with him.
This is not the first time we have seen such a 'coincidence'.
Back in February, hours after former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was arrested his son, Dhiggaru constituency MP Ahmed Faris Maumoon was released. The purpose of Faris' two-day release remains unclear but as per reports, President Yameen had tried to offer his half-brother a deal to join him again. Maumoon withdrew support for Yameen in 2016, and has since been working with his former nemesis, Nasheed. Since both Maumoon and Faris remain in detention, the former president has since been found guilty of obstruction, looks like they had rejected the President's deal as well.
While the President claims to not meddle with the court business, such 'coincidences' say otherwise.
He says that he cannot release 'the so-called political prisoners' because there are none here, and of course because it is up to the courts to release anyone. However, seems like he can, but ONLY if they join him.
Ever since the beginning, President Yameen has been accused of 'being a hypocrite' and having 'double standards'.
Another example? How about when he used the court to delay the Local Council Election last year, because his party was not prepared for it because of internal conflicts? Or how about those employees that were suspended or fired for taking party in opposition activities while those that take part in ruling party events do not face any such issues? Or how about when the government invited foreign diplomats to come and monitor the situation in the country after the declaring a state of emergency in February, only to refuse to meet with them? Or how about using the military to halt the parliament after a no-confidence motion against the speaker was filed, which was supposedly the gateway to President Yameen's impeachment? And how about when the parliament was used to declare a nation-wide state of emergency that curtailed constitutionally guaranteed freedoms after the Supreme Court ordered the release of political prisoners?
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