Clooney arrives in Maldives in bid to free jailed ex-leader

Reuters , Monday 7 Sep 2015

Amal Clooney
International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney during the trial of Al-Jazeera English journalists in Cairo, Egypt on Aug. 29, 2015. (Photo: AP)

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney arrived in Male on Monday to try to secure the release of jailed former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed, who was convicted of terrorism in a case that has drawn international criticism.

Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected leader, was ousted in 2012 for ordering the arrest of a judge. He is a serving a 13-year jail term after a rapid trial in March.

The United Nations, the United States, and human rights groups have said President Abdullah Yameen's government failed to follow due process and that the case against Nasheed was politically motivated.

Clooney, who is married to actor George Clooney, will meet Nasheed in a high-security prison in Maafushi Island, where he was taken on Aug. 23 from house arrest.

"Nasheed, who fought so hard to bring human rights and democracy to this country, is now a political prisoner here, one of many unfortunately," Clooney told reporters.

"I am arriving in Male unfortunately at a time when the human rights situation, the security situation, is deteriorating by the day."

Shauna Aminath, an aide to Nasheed, told Reuters that Clooney will pursue legal and diplomatic means to secure his release.

U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein last week called on Yameen's government to release Nasheed.

He also called for a review of criminal cases against several hundred of Nasheed's party supporters who have been arrested in protests since May in the Maldives, an Indian Ocean island nation popular with rich tourists.

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