Maldives detains, deports international lawyers sent to study emergency rule

Maldivian opposition supporters scuffle with security forces officers during a protest demanding the release of political prisoners in Male. Maldives President Abdulla Yameen extended a draconian state of emergency by another month on February 20. (AFP)
Updated 28 February 2018
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Maldives detains, deports international lawyers sent to study emergency rule

COLOMBO: The Maldives detained and deported a group of international lawyers who traveled to the troubled honeymoon islands to study the impact of emergency rule, their organization said Wednesday.
Law Asia, a regional lawyers’ association, said it had sent four members in response to an open invitation the government issued two days after President Abdulla Yameen imposed a state of emergency.
That followed a Supreme Court order, later rescinded, to release political prisoners and reinstate sacked lawmakers — a move that would have cost Yameen his majority in parliament.
The president has overseen a major crackdown on dissent in recent years, jailing a series of prominent critics including the opposition leader and sacking MPs who defected from the ruling party.
Earlier this month Yameen sacked the chief justice and another senior judge before imposing emergency rule, sparking international condemnation.
The crisis has hit the image of the Maldives as a peaceful holiday paradise, although it has had little impact on life away from the capital in the upmarket resort islands popular with honeymooners.
The four lawyers were detained on Sunday when they arrived at Male international airport, where they were held and subsequently deported, Law Asia said.
“By such action, the government of Maldives deprived itself of the benefit of an independent and impartial assessment by a fact-finding team not sponsored by any individuals, parties or organizations in the Maldives,” it said.
The government had invited international organizations to send representatives to “assess the situation in the Maldives and witness the safety and security of Male” under emergency rule.
Law Asia said they had been trying for more than two weeks to arrange special visas before deciding to send the delegation after informing the immigration authorities.
Separately, Yameen’s niece Dunya Maumoon resigned late Tuesday as health minister.
She had been under pressure to resign since Yameen ordered the arrest of her father, ex-president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The 80-year-old was president for 30 years until the country’s first democratic elections in 2008 and was initially see as the power behind the throne until he became estranged from his half-brother and backed the opposition.
He was arrested on a charge of trying to topple the government hours after the emergency was declared.


New Zealand orders top-level inquiry into mosque massacres

Updated 25 March 2019
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New Zealand orders top-level inquiry into mosque massacres

  • "One question we need to answer is whether or not we could or should have known more," Ardern said
  • Ardern ruled out New Zealand re-introducing the death penalty for accused gunman Brenton Tarrant

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday ordered an independent judicial inquiry into whether police and intelligence services could have prevented the Christchurch mosque attacks on March 15.
Ardern said a royal commission -- the most powerful judicial probe available under New Zealand law -- was needed to find out how a single gunman was able to kill 50 people in an attack that shocked the world.
"It is important that no stone is left unturned to get to how this act of terrorism occurred and how we could have stopped it," she told reporters.
New Zealand's spy agencies have faced criticism in the wake of the attack for concentrating on the threat from Islamic extremism.
Instead, the victims were all Muslims and the massacre was allegedly carried out by a white supremacist fixated on the belief that there was an Islamist plot to "invade" Western countries.
"One question we need to answer is whether or not we could or should have known more," Ardern said.
"New Zealand is not a surveillance state ... but questions need to be answered."
Ardern ruled out New Zealand re-introducing the death penalty for accused gunman Brenton Tarrant, 28, who was arrested minutes after the attack on the mosques and has been charged with murder.
She said details of the royal commission were being finalised, but it would be comprehensive and would report in a timely manner.
It will cover the activities of intelligence services, police, customs, immigration and any other relevant government agencies in the lead-up to the attack.
The gunman livestreamed the attack online, although New Zealand has outlawed the footage as "objectionable content".
Ardern reiterated her believe it should not be aired.
"That video should not be shared. That is harmful content," she said when questioned about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan showing excerpts of the footage at campaign rallies for local elections this month.
Erdogan had angered both Wellington and Canberra with campaign rhetoric about anti-Muslim Australians and New Zealanders being sent back in "coffins" like their grandfathers at Gallipoli, a World War I battle.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters travelled to Istanbul to meet Erdogan and address an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Peters said OIC members were full of praise for the support New Zealand had offered its small, tight-knit Muslim community in the wake of the killings.
"A number of them were weeping and sobbing at the demonstration (of support) by non-Muslim New Zealand towards the Muslim victims," he told reporters.
"It was dramatic and I was told by countless ministers that they've never seen anything of that type."
The body of an Indian student killed in the Christchurch mosque attacks, meanwhile, was returned Monday to her grieving family in Kochi, where relatives remembered a bright young woman dedicated to her studies.
Ansi Alibava, 25, was the first of at least five Indians shot dead on March 15 to be repatriated.
The family planned to hold a funeral ceremony for the masters student in their nearby hometown of Kodungallur.