Maldives court releases ex-president in stunning blow to regime

Maldivian opposition protestors shout slogans demanding the release of political prisoners during a protest in Male, Maldives, on Friday. (AP)
Updated 02 February 2018
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Maldives court releases ex-president in stunning blow to regime

MALE, Maldives: The Maldives’ top court Thursday ordered the release of nine key political prisoners in a surprise move that cleared the way for exiled former leader Mohamed Nasheed to run for president.
The atoll nation’s joint opposition welcomed the surprise ruling, which has also granted them a parliamentary majority and stunned the government of strongman President Abdulla Yameen.
“The Supreme Court’s verdict effectively ends President Yameen’s authoritarian rule,” the opposition said in a statement calling for his resignation.
The Maldives’ popular image as an upmarket holiday paradise had been severely damaged by a major crackdown on dissent under Yameen, who has overseen the jailing of almost all the political opposition.
Yameen’s spokesman, Ibrahim Hussain Shihab, said the court had made its decision without hearing out the government.
“While the ruling makes significant implications on various points of constitutional import and criminal justice procedures, it was issued without representation of the state from either the Attorney General or the Prosecutor General,” Shihab said in a statement.
However, he said the administration “will work to engage, and consult with, the Supreme Court in order to comply with the ruling in line with proper procedure and the rule of law.”
On the tiny streets of the capital Male, there were celebrations. Hundreds of opposition activists took to the streets and were quickly pushed back by police who fired teargas.
Nasheed, who is currently in neighboring Sri Lanka, urged his supporters to avoid confrontation with the police.
“President Yameen must abide by this ruling and resign,” Nasheed said on twitter. “Urge all citizens to avoid confrontation and engage in peaceful political activity.”
Nasheed, who is living in self-imposed exile, was sentenced to 13 years in jail on a terrorism charge widely criticized as politically motivated.
In its order, seen by AFP, the Supreme Court said the “questionable and politically motivated nature of the trials of the political leaders warrant a retrial.”
The court ordered authorities to immediately free nine jailed leaders.

The Maldives police said in a tweet that it will abide by court orders, but within minutes the government announced the sacking of police chief Ahmed Areef.
Attorney General Mohamed Anil told a hurriedly summoned press conference at the military headquarters in the capital that Yameen sacked the police chief because he was uncontactable after the court order.
Anil said they were also in the process of “verifying the validity” of the court order.
The court also restored 12 dissident members of parliament who had been controversially expelled in July for defecting from Yameen’s party. The latest order gives Yameen’s opponents a majority in the 85-member parliament.
Earlier this week, opposition figures jointly petitioned the court to remove Yameen over alleged corruption.
Opposition figures including Nasheed and another five dissidents named in Thursday’s order have united against the president.
Among those who petitioned the top court was Yameen’s half-brother and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whose legislator son, Faris Maumoon, had been arrested. He was among those whose release the court ordered.
Also among them is Ahmed Adeeb, Yameen’s erstwhile deputy, who is serving a 15-year jail term after being convicted on a charge of attempted assassination in September 2015.
Another key dissident, Qasim Ibrahim, who helped Yameen in the 2013 run-off election, was also ordered to be released.
He, however, is not in the Maldives. Like Nasheed, he also obtained prison leave for medical treatment and has remained in Europe.
Almost all key opposition leaders and a number of ruling party dissidents have either been jailed or gone into exile in the Maldives in recent years under Yameen.
The president took office in 2013 after winning a controversial run-off vote against Nasheed.
The former president was jailed in 2015, but granted prison leave in 2016 for medical treatment in London, where he secured political asylum.
Last year he announced his intention to return and run for president in elections due later this year, but he was prevented by the criminal conviction against him.
The United States has said democracy is under threat in the strategically located archipelago of 340,000 Sunni Muslims, which sits on key international shipping lanes.


Major powers, Iran meet to salvage nuclear deal without US

European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy High Representative Federica Mogherini is seen at the start of a meeting on Libya hosted by France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 15 min 53 sec ago
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Major powers, Iran meet to salvage nuclear deal without US

  • Highlighting just how difficult it will be for the Europeans to come up with concrete solutions, French state-owned bank Bpifrance on Monday abandoned its plan to set up a financial mechanism to aid French companies trading with Iran

UNITED NATIONS: Iran has ample reason to stay in the 2015 nuclear deal despite the US withdrawal and the remaining parties on Monday will discuss ways to blunt the effect of impending US sanctions on Tehran, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said.
Speaking before a gathering of senior officials from Britain, China, Germany, Russia and Iran, the EU’s Federica Mogherini made the case for Iran remaining in the deal that US President Donald Trump abandoned on May 8.
“An essential part of the agreement and its implementation regards Iran having the possibility of benefiting from the lifting of sanctions, and this is exactly why we are discussing tonight, operational concrete steps that we can put in place,” Mogherini told reporters before the talks at the United Nations.
“Iran has good arguments and good reasons to remain in the agreement. ... the more operational decisions we will manage to take and ... implement, I believe the more Iran will have reasons to do,” she added.
The European Union, however, has so far failed to devise a workable legal framework to shield its companies from US sanctions that go into effect in November and that, among other things, seek to choke off Iran’s oil sales, diplomats said.
Highlighting just how difficult it will be for the Europeans to come up with concrete solutions, French state-owned bank Bpifrance on Monday abandoned its plan to set up a financial mechanism to aid French companies trading with Iran.
The crux of the deal, negotiated over almost two years by the administration of former US President Barack Obama, was that Iran would restrain its nuclear program in return for the relaxation of sanctions that had crippled its economy.
Trump considered it flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s ballistic missiles program or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.
The United States began reimposing economic sanctions this summer and the most draconian measures, which seek to force Iran’s major customers to stop buying its oil, resume Nov. 5.
Their impending return has contributed to a slide in Iran’s currency. The rial has lost about two-thirds of its value this year, hitting a record low against the US dollar this month.
There are limits to what the EU can do to counter the oil sanctions, under which Washington can cut off from the US financial system any bank that facilitates an oil transaction with Iran.