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.


Macron fires bodyguard filmed beating protester; critics say too late

Updated 5 min 21 sec ago
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Macron fires bodyguard filmed beating protester; critics say too late

  • Alexandre Benalla, who as Macron’s top bodyguard has long been a fixture by his side, was taken into custody for police questioning over the incident, which took place when Benalla appeared at May Day protests in a riot helmet and police tags.
  • Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the lenient initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron fired the head of his personal security detail on Friday but faced criticism for failing to act sooner, after a video was released showing the man posing as a police officer and beating a protester while off duty in May.
Alexandre Benalla, who as Macron’s top bodyguard has long been a fixture by his side, was taken into custody for police questioning over the incident, which took place when Benalla appeared at May Day protests in a riot helmet and police tags.
He had initially been suspended for just 15 days and allowed to return to work. Just days ago he was seen in public helping to organize security for celebrations for the return of France’s World Cup champion soccer team.
Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the lenient initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.
In the footage, which was released on Wednesday by Le Monde newspaper, Benalla can be seen dragging a woman away from a protest and later beating a male demonstrator. On Friday, French media released a second video which showed Benalla also manhandling the woman.
He had been given permission by the president’s office to attend the protests as an observer of the security operation, but had no authorization to take part in police work.
The president’s office brushed off accusations that it had responded only because the nearly three-month-old videos had become public. It said the decision had now been taken to fire Benalla because the bodyguard had improperly obtained a document while trying to make his case over the accusations.
“New facts that could constitute a misdemeanour by Alexandre Benalla were brought to the president’s attention,” an official at the presidential palace told Reuters. “As a result ... the presidency has decided to start Alexandre Benalla’s dismissal procedure.”
Critics of Macron called the president’s delayed response a characteristic sign that he is out of touch. It follows controversies over government spending on official crockery, a swimming pool at a presidential retreat and cutting remarks by the president about the costs of welfare.
After hours of debate in the lower house on Thursday, lawmakers agreed to launch a parliamentary inquiry.
“Why did he protect this person? Does he head up a parallel police force? Refusing to answer makes (Macron) complicit in these acts of violence,” Eric Ciotti, a senior member of the conservative Republicans party, said on Twitter.