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2013 - Yaamin Abdul Gayoom

On 17 November 2013 the Maldives inaugurated a new president, a day after his surprise victory, which ended nearly two years of political turmoil. Yaamin Abdul Gayoom and his deputy, Mohamed Jameel were sworn in by the country's chief justice. Gayoom is the brother of former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the archipelago nation with an iron fist for 30 years before being toppled in 2008 elections by Nasheed. Eight days earlier in the first round of presidential voting in the Maldives, Gayoom's opponent, Mohamed Nasheed, received 47 percent of the vote, falling just short of the 50 percent majority needed to win outright. Nasheed conceded defeat and said he was pleased the Maldives finally had a democratically elected president.

But by 2015 the political space in the Maldives was quickly closing as democratically-oriented opposition political parties, civil society groups and journalists have come under increased pressure. Opposition political activists, including former President Nasheed, have been subject to criminal proceedings with no due process. Since his election, Yameen has tightened his grip on power and erased many of the country's democratic gains under Nasheed. Parliament has passed a criminal defamation law with fines and prison terms for journalists and social media users. Gatherings and protests are tightly controlled. Yameen is also accused of using the judiciary, police and bureaucracy to crack down on opponents.

On March 13, 2015 former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison on a conviction of terrorism. A three-judge panel ruled in a rushed trial that Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected president, ordered the illegal arrest of a chief justice when he was in office in January of 2012. Nasheed's supporters said the trial was politically motivated to prevent him from running against incumbent President Yameen Abdul Gayoom in the 2018 election.

The US State Department issued a statement expressing concern that the trial was conducted in a manner contrary to Maldivian law, and expressed concerns regarding the lack of impartiality and independence of the judges. The Maldives' Foreign Minister rejected international criticism of the trial of ex-President Mohamed Nasheed. "The trial was conducted in accordance with the relevant laws and criminal procedures prevailing in the Maldives. Due process was followed and president Nasheed was accorded his rights fully," Foreign Minister Dhunya Maumoon told reporters in Colombo, in nearby Sri Lanka. "A free and fair trial has happened and no person, whether former president or not, is above the law," she said.

However serious the allegations against him, the trial of Nasheed was vastly unfair and his conviction was arbitrary and disproportionate. In the absence of an adequate criminal code, evidence law, and criminal procedures, the Prosecutor-General and the judges had excessive discretionary powers that worked in this case against Nasheed. He learned about the new charge under the Terrorism Act only upon arrest. Following a rushed process that took place over less than three weeks, at night and often without the presence of Nasheed’s lawyers, he was convicted and sentenced. Importantly, the court denied Nasheed the possibility to prepare and present adequate defense, including calling defence witnesses, and examining the evidence against him.

The judicial system as a whole is perceived as politicised, inadequate and subject to external influence. For instance, in addition to the conviction of Mr Nasheed, two former Ministers of Defence, Mr Mohamed Nazim and Mr Tholhath Ibrahim and former MP Mr Ahmed Nazim, also recently received disproportionate sentences in a flawed trials.

On 01 May 2015, some 20,000 protesters in Male marching for the freedom of all political prisoners were met by security forces dressed in riot gear with tear gas and stun guns. More than 100 protesters were arrested.

The parliament in the Maldives voted 04 November 2015 to impeach Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, who was arrested in october on suspicion of being involved in an assassination attempt against the country's president. The vote was 61 members in favor and none against. It came a day after President Abdulla Yameen declared a 30-day state of emergency because of a "threat to national security."

In 2015 President Yameen ratified an amendment to the Prisons and Parole Act prohibiting inmates from holding senior or leadership positions in political parties, effectively stripping former president Nasheed of the MDP presidency. Mohamed Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism on 13 March 2015 and sentenced to over a decade in prison. His supporters said the trial was a ruse to eliminate him as competition for the next presidential race. Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Originally brought up on corruption charges, prosecutors then filed much more serious terrorism allegations. In January 2016 he was permitted to leave prison to have an operation in Great Britain. He said the government let him go because of continued pressure from home and abroad. The UK granted the ex-president of the Maldives political asylum in May 2016 after he travelled to the country for medical treatment on leave from serving a prison sentence.

As a result of a split in the president’s PPM between President Yameen and political rival former president Maumoon, Yameen’s supporters twice vandalized a PPM office being used by Maumoon’s supporters. The first incident occurred 30 October 2016 where the MPS assisted Yameen’s supporters to break the lock and enter the building. The second incident occurred on 03 November 2016 where Yameen’s supporters smeared oil around the office. Opposition supporters publicly asserted these incidents were yet another example of presidential impunity.

Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, said 12 Septemer 2016 from exile in Britain that he had an agreement with the country's former strongman to counter the current president, who was increasing his stranglehold on power. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom ruled Maldives for 30 years with tight controls and repeatedly jailed Nasheed, who was then a pro-democracy activist. The opposition coalition says it will unseat Yameen through legal means, through an impeachment in Parliament or by having him arrested for corruption, to ensure a free election in 2018.

An alliance with former arch-rival and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was the only way to ensure democracy in the Maldives, Opposition leader and former President Mohammad Nasheed said 24 March 2017. Nasheed announced a political front including Mr. Gayoom and leaders of the Jumhooree party as well as the Islamist Adaalath party. Nasheed had 21 members, while the Jumhooree and Adaalath parties had 8, in the 85-member Majlis. Former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom runs a rival faction within the Progressive Party of Maldives, which is led by the current president, his half brother. The PPM had 48 lawmakers.

The Maldivian army locked down the country's parliament after the opposition vowed to move ahead with a vote against a key ally of President Abdulla Yameen. Politicians defied the ban on 24 July 2017, fighting off riot police and scaling metre-high walls to enter the parliament compound. The opposition was hoping to hold a vote to impeach Speaker Abdulla Maseeh, whom they accuse of ignoring allegations of corruption and rights abuses, before the lockdown came into effect. They had secured enough support from government defectors to begin impeachment proceedings earlier in the month. But the ruling party dismissed the motion after Yameen announced that four of the defectors had lost their parliamentary seats.

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Page last modified: 03-01-2018 18:30:54 ZULU