Maldives rejects U.N. body's call to let ex-president fight election

FILE PHOTO: A supporter of former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed shouts slogans during a protest against the current president of the Maldives Abdulla Yameen, demanding the release of opposition political prisoners in front of the Maldives embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

US-MALDIVES-POLITICS-UN:Maldives rejects U.N. body's call to let ex-president fight election

By Tom Miles

GENEVA (Reuters) - The Maldives rejected a demand by a U.N. human rights watchdog on Monday that former president Mohamed Nasheed be allowed to stand for office, including in a presidential election later this year.

The U.N. Human Rights Committee, a panel of independent experts overseeing states' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said Nasheed's conviction on terrorism charges was based on vague laws, contained serious flaws and violated his right to a fair trial.

"Political rights can be suspended or restricted only in exceptional circumstances and under certain conditions. And judicial proceedings that violate the right to fair trial can render the resulting restriction of political rights arbitrary,” committee member Sarah Cleveland said in a statement.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail but went into exile during a medical trip to Britain. He was disqualified from running in presidential elections for 16 years.

The committee said it wanted information from the Maldives within 180 days about measures taken to take its views into account, and said those measures should be disseminated broadly in the official languages of the Maldives.

But the government swiftly rejected the Committee's report.

"The Government of the Maldives... wholeheartedly refutes that any of these rights have been violated in the case of the former President Nasheed. The Government accepts the conviction of Nasheed as lawful and final," it said in a statement.

It described Nasheed as a fugitive and said the U.N. committee had not given enough consideration to information submitted by the government.

"Having attempted to subvert the course of justice and dismantle the judicial branch of the State, both while in Office and since leaving it, former President Nasheed was charged for having ordered the abduction of a sitting judge," it said.

The Maldives, home to 400,000 people and best known as a tropical paradise for tourists, has experienced political unrest since Nasheed, the island's first democratically-elected leader, was forced to quit amid a mutiny by police in 2012.

The current president Abdulla Yameen imposed a state of emergency in February to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including Nasheed.

During the 45-day emergency, Yameen's administration arrested former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the chief justice, another Supreme Court judge and a Supreme Court administrator on charges of trying to overthrow the government.

All four have been charged under terrorism laws. They have all rejected the charges.

The Supreme court, now reduced to three bench judges after the arrests, went on to reverse its decision to quash the convictions of the opposition leaders.

(Reporting by Tom Miles, additional reporting by Shihar Aneez, Editing by Alison Williams and William Maclean)

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