India’s Ministry of External Affairs has said that former President Abdul Gayoom and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed had been denied a “free trial” and that the development casts doubt on the Maldivian government’s commitment to uphold the rule of law, thereby raising questions as to the credibility of the upcoming elections.
New Delhi (Sputnik) — India has expressed disappointment over the emerging political situation in the Maldives after a court pronounced prison terms for the island nation’s former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed.
“Since the beginning of the political crisis in the Maldives, India has repeatedly urged the Government of the Maldives to allow all institutions, including the Supreme Court and the Parliament, to function in a free and independent manner, and to permit genuine political dialogue between all political parties. This has also been the demand of the international community at large. It is, therefore, with deep dismay that we learned that the former President of the Maldives, as well as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, are being sentenced to long prison terms without fair trial,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement on Thursday.
According to Maldivian media, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed were handed prison terms of one year, seven months and six days by a court which found them guilty of obstructing justice.
The Indian government has once again advised 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 for creating the necessary conditions for the participation of all political forces in the presidential elections.
India’s relations with the Maldives weakened in the aftermath of the state of emergency imposed by the Abdulla Yameen government in February this year. During the crisis, the Maldives turned down several Indian requests, including an invitation to participate in a friendly joint military exercise named “Milan” (meaning “meeting” in Hindi) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Milan is a biennial joint naval exercise of the Indian Ocean-RIM Association (IORA).
Last month, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba accepted that the Maldivian government was more inclined to conduct business with China and it presented a major challenge for India.
However, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had asserted that the bilateral relations with the Maldives were not broken and cannot be broken. “There had been ups and downs in the past, there are (ups and downs) now also. But ties with the Maldives are not broken and cannot be broken,” Sushma Swaraj said, a few days after Admiral Lanba’s remark.
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