Amal Clooney downplays husband George's concern over Maldives

London-based human rights lawyer Amal Clooney meets members of the media at a hotel in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo.
London-based human rights lawyer Amal Clooney meets members of the media at a hotel in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo.AFP

COLOMBO (AFP) - Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney downplayed her actor husband George's fears for her safety on Friday, after he voiced his concern on a US talk show following an attack on one of her co-counsel in the Maldives.

Clooney had been on a four-day visit to the elite honeymoon destination, where she was defending jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed, this week when she learned some of the "horrifying" details of the attack on her co-counsel, local lawyer Mahfooz Saeed.

Saeed was stabbed in the head by unknown assailants on Saturday in the capital Male.

Doctors have said he narrowly escaped with his life, and is now recovering in hospital. No arrests have been made.

Speaking on the premiere episode of Late Night with Stephen Colbert in the US Thursday, George Clooney told the audience that although the Maldives sounded like a nice place "it is not so nice there now".

"Nasheed is a pretty amazing man," the Hollywood actor said, adding: "It's a tricky place to be right now. Her co-counsel was just stabbed in the head a few days ago... It's a dangerous place to be right now. I'm very concerned with her being there, quite honestly."

When asked by host Colbert if he wanted to catch the next flight to the Maldives, Clooney quipped: "Yes I do. She won't let me go."

And Amal Clooney, who was in Sri Lanka for a visit Friday, told reporters in Colombo when asked if she had felt threatened during her stay in the Maldives that "it isn't about me".

"This is a much bigger issue," the lawyer said.

"We were obviously very concerned as a team to learn of Mahfooz Saeed's attack, and while I was in the Maldives we heard some of the horrifying details about it."

The knife had been stuck in the side of Saeed's head, she said, and had "almost" penetrated his brain. She described his escape as "miraculous".

FLAWED TRIAL

Amal Clooney and her other international co-counsel, Jared Genser, left the Maldives on Thursday accusing the local authorities of tapping their conversations with Nasheed during prison visits in violation of client confidentiality.

The government has denied the charge.

She stopped in Sri Lanka to meet with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other leaders before she is scheduled to return home on Saturday.

Clooney, who also met with Colombo-based diplomats, said she will press for sanctions against the Maldives unless it frees Nasheed, who has been controversially jailed for 13 years.

The charge against Nasheed relates to the ordering of the arrest of an allegedly corrupt judge when he was still president in 2012. The UN had said his rushed trial earlier this year was seriously flawed.

His 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.

Faced with mounting international pressure, Maldivian authorities tried to distance themselves from the controversial judgement, and said that the state will take the unusual step of appealing Nasheed's conviction.

However the Maldivian High Court on Thursday rejected the state's appeal, effectively confirming his prison sentence.

The nation of 1,192 tiny coral islands scattered across the equator depends on upmarket tourism.

However, its image has suffered in recent years due to prolonged political unrest.

Nasheed was the country's first democratically elected leader. He ruled from 2008 to February 2012, when he was forced to resign following a mutiny by police and troops.

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.