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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 22:28 GMT 23:28 UK
Amnesty blasts 'holiday paradise'
Beach in Maldives
The Maldives
Human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Government of the Maldives of political repression and torture.

In a new report the group alleges that arbitrary detentions, unfair trials and long-term imprisonment of government critics are commonplace in the string of Indian Ocean islands.

It also says that it has uncovered torture and ill-treatment in the criminal justice system.

The Government of the Maldives has strongly rejected the allegations, describing them as "false and baseless".

"The government of Maldives does not engage in the arbitrary arrest of its citizens and does not arrest or detain its citizens for the thoughts they express," the government said in a statement to BBC News Online.

Case studies

Amnesty has called on the government to release prisoners of conscience, investigate torture allegations and reform the criminal justice system.

"Typically perceived as a tranquil 'holiday paradise', the truth is that behind the sun-kissed facade the Maldives Government has a disgraceful record of repressing peaceful opposition," says the group's UK director, Kate Allen.

The Amnesty report highlights the case of Naushad Waheed, a businessman, artist and critic of the government who was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for alleged treason.

Amnesty says that Mr Waheed is currently being held in a cell with 20 other prisoners at Maafushi - an island prison - where he is being denied medical treatment despite suffering from mental health problems and weight loss.

Mohamed Zaki, a businessman, was sentenced to life imprisonment earlier this month having been charged with calling for the overthrow of the government in an internet magazine.

Mr Zaki was allegedly tried without a lawyer and not allowed even pen and paper to prepare an appeal.

Ibrahim Luthfee, another businessman who has since escaped and claimed protection as a refugee, was tortured at the island prison Maafushi according to Amnesty.

He was handcuffed and chained to an H-shaped iron girder which prevented him from moving, sitting up or bending over for 11 days.

Another section highlights the case of Mohamed Nasheed, a reformist member of parliament.

Mr Nasheed was banished to a remote island in November 2001 for two and half years after a trial which lasted only 2 hours during which he was not allowed a lawyer or to speak in his own defence, according to the rights group.

He has since been released, but denied his parliamentary seat.

The Maldives Government says the individuals mentioned in the Amnesty report are "convicted criminals, tried in due process by fair and independent judges for criminal offences.

"They were all tried in open court and had the right to be assisted by a lawyer and the right to appeal their sentences."

All citizens, the government adds, have the right to legal assistance and the right to appeal under the country's constitution.


SEE ALSO:
Maldives defends prison terms
26 Feb 03  |  South Asia
Country profile: The Maldives
02 May 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: The Maldives
07 Aug 02  |  Country profiles



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