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.


Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

Updated 25 April 2018
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Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

NEW DELHI: An Indian court on Wednesday found a high-profile spiritual guru Asaram Bapu guilty of raping a teenage female devotee in 2013 and he faces a maximum of life in prison.
The verdict against 77-year-old Bapu was read out inside a prison in the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan state because of fears that his followers may resort to violence.
The case is the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India that have fueled public protests and raised questions about how police handle the cases and treat the victims.
In August last year, another popular and flamboyant Indian spiritual guru, Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of raping two female followers.
Judge Madhusudhan Sharma will announce the prison term for Bapu later after hearing arguments from the prosecution and Bapu’s attorneys.
Bapu has denied the rape and can appeal his conviction in a higher court.
The girl in her complaint to the police in 2013 accused Bapu of raping her when she visited his retreat in Jodhpur with her mother. The girl’s family said they had been followers of Bapu for more than a decade.
Bapu has been in prison since his arrest in the case in 2013.
On Wednesday, security was tight around the prison complex and in states where the self-styled guru has a considerable following.
Religious sects also wield considerable political clout in India with several politicians as followers. Asaram is also on trial along with his son Narayan Sai in a separate rape case where two sisters have accused the two men of sexual assault.