Maldives invites UN to observe ex-president's court appeal

AP News
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Posted: Mar 24, 2015 9:35 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The Maldives government on Tuesday invited the United Nations and other international organizations to observe the former president's appeal of his 13-year jail sentence for ordering a judge's arrest while in office.

The United States, European Union and others have raised concerns about the court process that found Mohamed Nasheed guilty of ordering the arrest of a senior judge when he was in office three years ago. The court said the arrest was akin to abduction under the country's terrorism law.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it has invited the United Nations and the Commonwealth to send representatives to observe the appeal hearing. The invitation did not elaborate, but it comes after U.N human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said last week there were "flagrant irregularities" in the case against Nasheed and urged the Maldives government to allow international jurists to observe the appeal.

Nasheed's lawyers have said the hearing had many flaws. They said the judges did not give them time to prepare their defense and rejected defense witnesses before they heard them and that two judges who heard the case were also prosecution witnesses.

The defense must appeal the sentence by Sunday, but Nasheed's lawyers say the court has still not given them all the documents related to the judgment.

Nasheed in 2008 became the first democratically elected president of this Indian Ocean archipelago state renowned for its luxury resorts. The election ended 30 years of autocratic rule, but he resigned in 2012 amid public anger over the judge's arrest.

In 2013 Nasheed lost the presidential election to Yameen Abdul Gayoom, a half-brother of the longtime autocratic ruler.

Maldives' transition to democracy has been difficult with institutions such as the judiciary being widely perceived as loyal to the Gayooms.