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 and Afghanistan review their strategic partnership

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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India and Afghanistan review their strategic partnership

  • Afghan, Indian leaders “reviewed and positively assessed the progress of the multi-faceted India-Afghanistan strategic partnership”
  • The two countries also decided “to strengthen connectivity, including through Chabahar port and the air-freight corridor.”

NEW DELHI: India and Afghanistan reviewed bilateral civil and military cooperation during a one day of meetings in  New Delhi on Wednesday.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which the two sides “reviewed and positively assessed the progress of the multi-faceted India-Afghanistan strategic partnership.”

A press release from the Indian Prime Minister’s office announced after the meeting: “It was agreed to deepen the New Development Partnership in the areas of high impact projects in this field of infrastructure, human resources development and other capacity-building projects in Afghanistan.” 

 The two countries also decided “to strengthen connectivity, including through Chabahar port and the air-freight corridor.”

 “I would like to thank the Indian people for their commitment to Afghanistan's future,” Ghani said in a speech in New Delhi before leaving for Kabul.

“What India-Afghanistan share is deep and binding trust in democratic institutions,” he added.

Modi supported an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled peace and reconciliation process” and pledged “India's unwavering commitment to support the efforts of the government of Afghanistan to this end, as also for the security and sovereignty of Afghanistan.”

 “Peace with the Taliban is important so that we can concentrate on counter-terrorism. The Taliban is part of Afghan society, ISIS (using another term for the terror group Daesh) is not. We must make that distinction,” Ghani said in his address at the New Delhi-based think tank, India Foundation.

 Commenting on Ghani’s visit, Vishal Chandra of Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), a New Delhi-based think tank, said: “The timing of the visit is significant; he has come at a time when the Afghan forces are under great pressure from the Taliban and Daesh.” He added that Ghani was looking for wider regional support in initiatives to stem the rising tide of terrorism.

Talking to Arab News, Chandra underlined that “there is no question of India involving itself militarily in Afghanistan, but it might step up its efforts to ensure that they have better air capability and they don’t have shortage of ammunition. I don’t expect India to supply heavy weaponry.”

Harsh V. Pant, director of the think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) said: “Despite India scaling up its presence in the defence sector, New Delhi’s military presence in Afghanistan is limited.

“The appetite in India for military involvement is very small; there is no consensus about the military footprints New Delhi should have in Afghanistan. But there is a consensus that New Delhi’s security cooperation with Kabul should be extended and should be robust and that is what India is doing.” 

In his book “India’s Afghanistan Muddle” Pant argued that “India cannot evolve its equity in Afghanistan unless some form of military involvement happens.”

Pant told Arab News: “The visit of Ghani at this time is a sign of a certain maturity in the relationship where Afghanistan feels that India should be kept in a loop. The relationship has grown to an extent that two sides are comfortable with each other in sharing assessment about where the political trajectory is going.”