COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — The president of the Maldives urged the world community to respect the court verdict that sentenced his main political opponent to 13 years in prison after widespread criticism that the trial was flawed.
President Yameen Abdul Gayoom in a statement Saturday called on "international partners to engage constructively, based on mutual respect and dialogue."
A court on Friday convicted former President Mohamed Nasheed of having a senior judge arrested illegally when he was in office three years ago. It said the arrest was akin to abduction.
Nasheed denied the charge as politically motivated and his lawyers withdrew midway through the trial, saying the proceeding was being rushed and they were not given enough time to prepare their defense. Countries and human rights groups raised concern over the judicial process.
The United States said it was troubled by reports that the trial was conducted in a manner contrary to law. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called on the Maldives government to ensure Nasheed's safety and well-being in custody as well as restore confidence in democracy and the rule of law.
The human rights group Amnesty International called the trial deeply flawed and a "travesty of justice."
Shortly before the court read the verdict, Nasheed called on his supporters to protest in the streets and defy authorities. However, only few activists turned out amid heavy police presence in the capital of Male.
Nasheed had earlier been charged with abuse of power, but prosecutors last month filed more serious charges under the country's terrorism law. The trial was completed after 10 hearings over 23 days.
Nasheed's election as president in 2008 ended a 30-year autocratic rule by the current president's half brother, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Nasheed's alleged order to arrest Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, whom he accused of political bias and corruption, led to weeks of protests.
Nasheed was forced to resign in February 2012, and lost a presidential election one year later to Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
Maldives is an Indian Ocean archipelago nation known for its luxury resort islands. The country's transition to democracy has been difficult, with institutions like the courts often being perceived as loyal to the Gayoom family.