India on Thursday expressed its “deep dismay” over a Maldivian court’s decision to sentence the island nation’s former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Supreme Court Chief justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed to 19 months in prison without a “fair trial”.
They were among nine people accused of instigating a coup against the government by passing a Supreme Court order on February 1 for the release of nine Opposition leaders, including exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed. President Abdulla Yameen, Gayoom’s half-brother, defied the court’s order for four days before imposing a 45-day state of emergency.
The three were were charged for obstructing justice after they allegedly refused to hand over their mobile phones to the police, Maldives Independent reported. The judge pressed ahead with the trial even though all defence lawyers had walked out of the trial over “grave procedural defects”.
The Ministry of External Affairs said the court verdict casts a doubt on the Maldivian government’s commitment to uphold the rule of law and that it will raise questions on the credibility of the presidential elections, which will be held September. “India believes that a democratic, stable and prosperous Maldives is in the interests of all its neighbours and friends in the Indian Ocean,” the ministry said. “It reiterates its advice to the Government of the Maldives to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by immediately releasing political prisoners including former President Gayoom and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and creating the necessary conditions for the participation of all political forces in the Presidential Elections.”