Mohamed Nasheed is an activist, journalist, and politician who served as the first democratically elected president of the Maldives. After being ousted in a coup in 2012, Mr. Nasheed continued his pro-democracy activism and was sentenced to 13 years in prison on politically-motivated terrorism charges.
Mr. Nasheed made a name for himself as a dissident journalist, regularly challenging the authoritarian regime of former president Maumoon Gayoom (1978-2008). As a result of his outspoken criticism, he was persecuted by the Government. He has twice been named a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International and was the subject of a decision by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 1995, which found that the government was arbitrarily detaining Mr. Nasheed because of his dissenting political opinion.
In 2003, Mr. Nasheed formed the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and in 2008, on a platform of human rights and democratic principles, he was elected president in the country’s first multi-party democratic elections. Mr. Nasheed used his position as a platform for democratic reforms and climate activism. However, his presidency was cut short in 2012 by a coup when he was forced to resign at gunpoint.
Despite this, Mr. Nasheed remained active in politics. In January 2015, the government lost a key coalition partner who switched allegiance to Mr. Nasheed. With this bolstered support, Mr. Nasheed could have enough support to win the next presidential elections. To diminish this threat, the government concocted false charges of terrorism against Mr. Nasheed.
Mr. Nasheed was arrested on February 22, 2015, and within three weeks he was tried, convicted, and sentenced. Before the first hearing, Mr. Nasheed was manhandled by police while speaking to the press. Throughout the proceedings, the court displayed a complete lack of impartiality or respect for due process protections. Mr. Nasheed was completely denied the right to present a defense, and repeatedly denied access to counsel.
Through the court’s guilty verdict, the government not only discriminated against Mr. Nasheed for his political participation, but has also interfered with Mr. Nasheed’s ability to exercise his rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and association. Furthermore, days after his conviction, the Maldivian parliament adopted a new law making it illegal for anyone imprisoned to be a member of a political party.
Mr. Nasheed has been detained since his arrest. He is currently isolated in maximum security at Maafushi Prison, where he was transferred without notice to family or counsel on April 27, 2015. Previously, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives found the facility unfit for prisoners, and his particular cell is of concern as it is located adjacent to the prison garbage dump. Visits from Mr. Nasheed’s family and counsel have been severely restricted.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein voiced strong concern over the “hasty and apparently unfair trial,” suggesting that the “conviction was arbitrary and disproportionate.” Amnesty International characterized the trial as a “travesty of justice.”
Along with Amal Clooney, barrister with Doughty Street Chambers, and Ben Emmerson, barrister with Matrix Chambers, Jared Genser and Maran Turner of Freedom Now represent Mr. Nasheed as his international pro bono legal counsel.
In January 2016, Mr. Nasheed was granted temporary medical leave to travel to the UK for medical treatment. In May 2016, the UK government granted him and his family asylum.
Sens. John McCain and Jack Reed, Chairman and Ranking on the Senate Armed Services Committee respectively, sent a letter to the Secretaries of Defense and State on the need for the Maldives to release all political prisoners, including President Mohamed Nasheed.
Freedom Now statement on visit of President Nasheed's international lawyers
Freedom Now statement on UNWGAD decision on Mohamed Nasheed
A detailed report urging the US to impose targeted financial sanctions and travel bans on serious human rights abusers in the Maldives.
Submitted by Freedom Now, Matrix Chambers, and Doughty Street Chambers on behalf of Mr. Nasheed.
A Senate resolution calling on the Maldives to immediately release former President Mohamed Nasheed from prison and release all other political prisoners in the country.
Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention