Amal Clooney to visit jailed ex-leader of Maldives

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Colombo, Sep 3: London-based human rights lawyer Amal Clooney will soon visit Mohamed Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives whose incarceration has sparked widespread international condemnation, his office said today.

Clooney -- who has notably defended Mohamed Fahmy, one of three Al-Jazeera journalists sentenced to jail in Egypt -- will travel to the Indian Ocean archipelago with her Washington-based co-counsel Jared Genser next week to meet with Nasheed.

Amal Clooney

The former president was in March sentenced to 13 years in jail on terror charges. Clooney and Genser will "visit president Nasheed in Maafushi jail where he is currently being held", the statement said, without giving the pair's exact travel plans.

It quoted Clooney as saying: "My co-counsel and I will continue to pursue all legal and diplomatic strategies to secure our client's release, including through the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention."

Nasheed announced in April that Clooney would be part of his high-profile legal team, along with Genser -- who has previously represented Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi -- and Ben Emmerson, a judge on war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

The United Nations, the United States, European Union and India have all expressed concern at the jailing of Nasheed for ordering the detention of a judge in 2012 when he was still president. Last week, the US pressed the Maldives to release Nasheed after he was returned to prison, despite an order in July commuting his 13-year term to house arrest.

The Maldivian authorities have said the order commuting the sentence was a fake, a claim disputed by Nasheed's lawyers. The ex-president's sentence was formally commuted to house arrest on July 19 as part of closed-door talks with the government aimed at defusing political tension, according to his Maldivian Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, in a bizarre twist, the government has sought to distance itself from his conviction, with the prosecutor-general saying he would lodge an appeal with the court.

Nasheed, the country's first democratically-elected leader and a climate change activist who was also imprisoned during the three-decade rule of former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was elected president in 2008.

He then rose to international prominence by hosting a cabinet meeting underwater to draw attention to the dangers facing the islands' existence from global warming. But he was toppled in February 2012 after a mutiny by police and troops that followed weeks of protests over the arrest of a top judge. Nasheed's jailing and the subsequent unrest have tarnished the image of the Maldives as an upmarket tourist destination. 

AFP

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