KURUMBA, Maldives (AFP) - Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney warned on Thursday she will press for sanctions against the Maldives unless it frees former president Mohamed Nasheed, who has been controversially jailed for 13 years.
London-based Clooney, who is defending the former leader, wrapped up a four-day visit to the upmarket honeymoon destination vowing that she will not give up until he was released.
“The next stage will be to pursue targeted sanctions, travel bans and any other action and recourse that we have against the government (of the Maldives) until this matter is resolved,” she told reporters at the Kurumba resort near the capital Male.
“It is disappointing that it has come to this.”
She is due to visit neighbouring Sri Lanka Friday, where she will meet with top leaders and discuss Nasheed’s case, official sources in Colombo said.
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 have tried to distance themselves from the controversial judgement, saying that the state will take the unusual step of appealing his conviction.
However, hours after Clooney’s remarks, the Maldivian High Court rejected the state’s appeal, the private Haveeru website reported.
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.
During her stay, Clooney visited the high-security Maafushi prison located on a small islet near the capital along with her Washington based co-counsel Jared Genser and declared that President Abdulla Yameen could end the crisis by granting Nasheed clemency.
She said the country’s attorney-general met with her and they had a “constructive meeting", but the prosecutor-general refused to meet with her.
Genser accused Maldivian authorities of spying on them in breach of client confidentiality. He said that the room where he and Clooney met with Nasheed at the Maafushi prison had been bugged.
He also accused prison guards of filming a meeting between Nasheed and his lawyers.
Four prison guards insisted on staying in the room where Nasheed met with his legal team on Wednesday despite repeated requests for privacy, the private Maldives Independent reported.
It also quoted a spokesman for the Maldives Correctional Service denying that they bugged the conversation between Nasheed and his lawyers.
Clooney on Monday described the human rights situation in the Indian Ocean archipelago as “deteriorating day by day”.
The respected human rights lawyer, who is married to Hollywood 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.