MALE, Maldives (AFP) – The Maldives has sentenced a former defence minister to 10 years in prison for detaining a judge in a move that sparked the ouster of former president Mohamed Nasheed, officials said Saturday.
Former defence minister Tholhath Ibrahim was one of five charged under tough terrorism laws for detaining a criminal court judge in January 2012 when Nasheed was in office.
Nasheed was given a 13 year jail term last month, while his then defence minister’s sentencing took place at midnight Friday.
Officials at the court in Male said a three-judge bench found ex-defence minister Ibrahim guilty of complicity in the detention of judge Mohamed Abdullah, which sparked a mutiny by police and troops that eventually forced Nasheed to resign on February 7, 2012.
In an unrelated development, another former defence minister, Mohamed Nazim — who was sacked by President Abdulla Yameen in January for allegedly plotting a coup — was last month sentenced to 11 years in jail.
Current Defence Minister Moosa Ali Jaleel, who was a co-defended along with former president Nasheed, was acquited on Wednesday. A former army colonel was also found not guilty, leaving the court to decide on the fifth man — member of parliament Mohamed Didi — who is abroad.
Nasheed’s trial has sparked international concern for the fledgling democracy in the honeymoon islands after local and foreign rights activists said the former president’s jailing was politically motivated.
Nasheed, the Indian Ocean archipelago’s first democratically elected leader who came to power in 2008, was convicted under tough anti-terror laws.
Since his jailing last month, the capital island Male has seen regular protests. His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said Saturday some 100 SCUBA divers had staged an underwater protest demanding his release.
Nasheed came to power after building a pro-democracy movement with local and foreign support in opposition to the 30-year autocratic rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the half-brother of President Yameen.
Earlier this week, Nasheed announced a high-profile international legal team, including prominent rights lawyer Amal Clooney, will prepare a fresh attempt to secure his release.