Amal Clooney visits ex-leader Nasheed in Maldives jail

AFP , Tuesday 8 Sep 2015

Amal Clooney
Amal Clooney talks to the media after the verdict outside a court in Cairo on August 29, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney spent hours in a high security prison island in the Maldives Tuesday consulting with former president Mohamed Nasheed as part of efforts to secure his release.

Clooney, who arrived in the Maldives on Monday describing the human rights situation in the Indian Ocean archipelago as "deteriorating day by day", stayed for two hours with the incarcerated former leader, local media reports said.

The private Maldives Independent website said Clooney would meet national authorities on behalf of Nasheed whose jailing for 13 years following a highly controversial terrorism conviction in March sparked widespread international condemnation.

"He's pleased that I'll be attending meetings on his behalf with the government this week," Clooney was quoted by the site as saying after visiting the high-security Maafushi prison located on a small islet near the capital Male.

She is part of a high-profile legal team representing Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader who ruled from 2008 to February 2012 when he was forced to resign following a mutiny by police and troops.

Her visit to the honeymoon islands come days after his local lawyer Mahfooz Saeed was stabbed by an unknown attacker.

"I'm here unfortunately at a time when the human rights situation and security situation is deteriorating day by day," she said soon after landing on Monday.

Nasheed's 13-year jail sentence was commuted to house arrest in July, but last month police took him back to prison in a surprise move that drew fresh criticism from the UN and the US.

Clooney is due to be joined by her Washington-based co-counsel Jared Genser on Wednesday, Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said.

Nasheed was convicted for ordering the arrest of an allegedly corrupt judge while he was still president, charges which his MDP described as politically motivated.

The resulting political fallout has damaged the island's reputation as a honeymoon paradise, and brought crowds of protesters onto the streets of Male.

Clooney, a respected human rights lawyer who shot to international stardom when she married actor George Clooney, was named in April as part of Nasheed's international 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.

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