Fresh calls for Maldives’ army to release senior judge Abdulla Mohamed

MELBOURNE, Australia — Human rights activists and opposition politicians in the Maldives have again called for the islands’ army to free the Criminal Court’s Chief Judge, Abdulla Mohamed, from its custody, local media are reporting.

Judge Mohamed was arrested on Jan. 16 shortly after he ordered the release of a government critic. The government of the Indian Ocean archipelago, led by President Mohamed Nasheed, accuse him of allowing his judicial decisions to be dictated by his political and personal affiliations.

However, the vice president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, and other opposition figures say the judge’s detention is undermining democracy, and nightly protests have taken place in the capital Male calling for his release.

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The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has also highlighted concerns about the situation. On Wednesday, the local Haveeru Daily newspaper reported that a meeting of the Commission had concluded that the judge’s detention exposed “obvious shortcomings within the judiciary." The Commission’s president, Mariyam Azra, added that they had forwarded a number of recommendations to the relevant authorities.

Azra comments come just days after the United Nations received a request from the government for a group of international jurists to help find a solution to the standoff. According to the Associated Press news agency, the UN responded by saying the Maldives should either release the judge from military custody or charge him with a crime.

Also on Wednesday, the president of the Australian branch of the International Commission of Jurists told ABC Radio Australia that the United Nations did not have the power to intervene. He instead called on the Commonwealth Secretariat, of which the Maldives is a member, to step-in, and said that Australia should also consider providing assistance to its neighbor.

The Maldives has regularly struggled with constitutional gridlock since President Nasheed was elected in 2008, in the islands’ first democratic elections in 30 years.

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