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Nasheed must be allowed to stand for pres polls, UN rights group says

The Maldives government must quash the conviction of self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed and allow him to contest the presidential election later this year, the UN Human Rights Committee said on Monday.

The panel of independent experts, who oversee governments’ compliance with the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, said in a finding that Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges was based on vague laws, contained serious flaws and violated his right to a fair trial.

“Political rights can be suspended or restricted only in exceptional circumstances and under certain conditions. And judicial proceedings that violate the right to fair trial can render the resulting restriction of political rights arbitrary,” committee member Sarah Cleveland said in a statement.

Nasheed lives in self imposed exile most recently in Sri Lanka after he was allowed to leave to the UK on medical leave in an internationally brokered deal following his jailing on terrorism charges.

The committee said it wanted information from the Maldives within 180 days about measures taken to take its views into account, and said those measures should be disseminated broadly in the official languages of the Maldives.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including Nasheed.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdulla Gayoom on February 5 had declared state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.

As the state of emergency approached it final hours, prosecutors got the country's criminal court to remand the suspects until the end of their respective trials which otherwise would have forced authorities to release them after the emergency state ended.

The most high-profile figures remanded until the end of the trial included former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, chief justice Abdulla Saeed and top court judge Ali Hameed - all now on trial charged with terrorism over the alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Prosecutors have also formally charged four opposition lawmakers over the alleged coup plot.

Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon, Jumhoory Party (JP) deputy leader Abdulla Riyaz, Dhangethi lawmaker Ilham Ahmed and South-Machchangoalhi lawmaker Abdulla Sinan have all been charged with terrorism for conspiring to overthrow the government.

The Supreme court, now reduced to three bench judges soon after the arrests, later reversed its decision to quash the convictions of the opposition leaders.

In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the now rescinded order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.

Former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb's uncle Hamid Ismail make up the rest of the list.

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