UN official holds talks with Maldives government, opposition

United Nations, Feb 24 (IANS) UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca has held two days of talks in the Maldives with government and opposition leaders to facilitate a dialogue in the Indian Ocean nation riven by political discord and facing Western criticism over its human rights record.

During his visit that ended Monday, Jenca “underscored the importance of building trust, including through strengthening independent democratic institutions and reforming the judiciary”, according to a UN statement.

His visit followed a request by President Abdulla Yameen to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for help in holding dialogue with the opposition political parties.

The UN said Jenca met Yameen, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, Attorney General Mohamed Anil, Legal Affairs Minister Azima Shakoor, members of the ruling coalition, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA), and the pro-government Jumhooree Party (JP).

Jenca also held separate meetings with all parliamentary parties and with members of the opposition Adhaalath Party (AP) and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the UN said.

While in the Maldives, Jenca could not meet MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed, the former president who recived a 13-year sentence on terrorism charges, and is currently in Britain for medical treatment. According to media reports, he has asked for two more months of leave from prison after his 30-day medical leave expired Monday.

Nasheed was elected president in 2008 after the 30-year-rule of Yameen’s half-brother Abdul Ghayoom. Yameen resigned in 2012 amid opposition protests and pressure from the military and police, which he has called a “coup”.

His cause has been taken up by high profile human rights activists like Amal Clooney, a lawyer married to the actor George Clooney. A spokesman for UN Human Rights High Commissioner, Rupert Colville, has called Nasheed’s trial “clearly flawed”, a criticism made also by the United States and other Western countries.

Accompanied by Amal Clooney, he met British Prime Minister David Cameron last month.

Last week a Maldives court sentenced another opposition leader, Sheikh Imran Abdulla of the AP, to 12 years in jail on terrorism charges. Last Wednesday, the US State Department called his trial and conviction “deeply flawed”.

Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said, “Imran is the third prominent politician to receive a lengthy sentence in just the past 12 months.” He added that in each instance the government “failed to provide appropriate procedural and substantive protections in accordance with Maldivian law and Maldives’ international obligations”.

Cameron last month warned in parliament, “We are prepared to consider targeted action against individuals if further progress isn’t made” in the Maldives.

Yameen’s vice presdient, Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor, was arrested last October in connection with a bomb blast on the president’s boat, in which his wife was injured, and is still in custody.

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