Maldives former dictator, judges charged with terrorism

Supporters of former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed take part in a protest demanding the release of opposition political prisoners in front of the Maldives embassy in Colombo on March 6, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Maldives former dictator, judges charged with terrorism

MALE, Maldives: Maldives authorities on Tuesday charged the country’s former dictator and two top judges with terrorism, amid state of emergency.
Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the 30-year ruler of the Indian Ocean archipelago state; Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed; and Justice Ali Hameed were among nine people charged at the Criminal Court.
Prosecutors did not specify the grounds on which they are charged with terrorism. If convicted, they could be jailed for 10 to 15 years. All three also were charged with obstruction of justice on suspicion of refusing to hand over their phones to investigators.
Saeed, Hameed and another judicial officer were charged with receiving bribes to help overthrow the government.
Gayoom and the judges were arrested last month amid political turmoil that followed a Supreme Court order to release from prison a group of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s political opponents. The president is a half-brother of the former dictator, who are now political enemies.
The group was jailed after facing trials criticized over allegations of due process violations. Saeed and Hameed helped order the release and retrial of the prisoners.
The government declared a state of emergency and arrested the two judges, after which the three remaining judges reversed the order to release Yameen’s political opponents.
Among the prisoners was Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first president elected in a free election. He was jailed for 13 years under the terror law for detaining a sitting judge when he was in power in 2012 but received asylum in Britain when he traveled there for medical treatment.
Had he been cleared, Nasheed could have been a strong rival to Yameen in the presidential election scheduled for later this year. However, Yameen is now poised to run for re-election virtually unopposed with all of his rivals are either jailed or in exile.
Yameen’s half-brother ruled the Maldives between 1978 and 2008, before reforms led to a free election in which Gayoom lost to Nasheed, a pro-democracy activist whom he had repeatedly jailed.
Nasheed resigned in 2012, four years into his presidency, amid public opposition to his order for the military to detain a judge. Nasheed lost to Yameen in the 2013 presidential election and then was jailed for ordering the judge’s detention.
Since being elected, Yameen has rolled back much of the democratic gains and freedoms.
Apart from Nasheed, Yameen’s former vice president and a defense minister are among the many who have been jailed since Yameen took office.
The country’s traditional political alliances have been upended in recent years. Gayoom, who campaigned for Yameen in 2013, is now allied with Nasheed, who unseated him in the 2008 elections.
The Maldives is an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands. Tourism dominates the economy, with wealthy foreigners flown directly to hyper-expensive resort islands.


India’s ruling party seeks to energise workers after state losses

“We realize that rural distress and employment generation are the key issues and we are working on them,” said BJP spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal. (AFP)
Updated 38 min 51 sec ago
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India’s ruling party seeks to energise workers after state losses

  • The government announces so-called minimum support prices for most crops to set a benchmark

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP will try to canvass and galvanize its activists across India before a general election due next May, after losing power in three heartland rural states, senior leaders said after a meeting on Thursday.
Disgruntled voters blamed the slow pace of job creation and weak farm prices for the Hindu nationalist party’s defeat in the states, two of which it had ruled for three straight terms.
“We realize that rural distress and employment generation are the key issues and we are working on them,” said BJP spokesman Gopal Krishna Agarwal, who attended the meeting. “They’ll have to be tackled, and we will take suggestions from wherever needed.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) various wings — representing women, farmers, lower castes, Muslims and young members — will all hold deliberations after losses in the supposed stronghold states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
“These meetings are aimed at preparing for the 2019 election and spreading the party’s message in various sections of society,” Bhupender Yadav, a BJP national general secretary, said after the meeting, which he said had been scheduled before the state election results came out on Tuesday.
He also announced that a planned national convention would be held in New Delhi on Jan. 11 and 12.
Senior BJP minister Nitin Gadkari told the ET Now business channel on Thursday that the agriculture sector may have been neglected under their government.

JOBS AND FARM PRICES
Agarwal, a chartered accountant who is also a director in a state-run bank, said increasing lending for job-generating small businesses was a key focus, as was enhancing procurement of grain from farmers by government agencies at state-mandated prices so there are no distress sales.
The government announces so-called minimum support prices for most crops to set a benchmark, but state agencies mainly buy limited quantities of staples such as rice and wheat at those prices, restricting benefits of higher prices to only around 7 percent of India’s 263 million farmers, according to various studies.
Following the state election setbacks, Modi’s government is expected to announce loan waivers worth billions of dollars to woo farmers, government sources told Reuters this week.
Agarwal said the party’s loss in Madhya Pradesh, known for multiplying agriculture production under three BJP governments, has reinforced its realization that higher output helps consumers by bringing down prices, but can badly hurt farmers.
“The focus has so far been on consumers, like importing onions when prices shot up,” Agarwal said. “Now we need to look at the producers, not just the consumers.”
He also said there was a case for fiscal stimulus, given that inflation fell to a 17-month low in November. Food inflation sank to a negative 2.61 percent from a negative 0.86 percent in October, according to official data released on Wednesday.