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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 October 2005, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Maldives jail sentence 'not fair'
Protesters in the Maldives
Jennifer Latheef was found guilty of inciting a riot in 2003
International human rights groups have sharply criticised the 10-year sentence handed to a Maldives opposition activist convicted of inciting a riot.

Jennifer Latheef, 32, was found guilty of inciting a riot in September 2003.

Amnesty International has described her as "a prisoner of conscience" and says she did not receive a fair trial.

A Maldives government spokesman denied the accusation, saying her conviction had been based on photographic evidence of her involvement in a violent mob.

Earlier this year the head of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Mohamed Nasheed, was charged with terrorism and sedition.

'Politically motivated'

Ms Latheef's father, Mohamed Latheef, who founded the MDP, described the sentence as "outrageous".

With the executive in charge it makes it very difficult to have a fair trial when politically sensitive charges of terrorism or acts against the state are being considered
Nicholas Howen
International Commission of Jurists

"They have sent my daughter to a jail which is notorious and full with criminals and drug addicts. This is the most infamous prison for torture," Mr Latheef, who lives in exile in neighbouring Sri Lanka, told the Associated Press.

"She did nothing wrong, there is no evidence whatsoever," he said.

Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists and Reporters without Borders have all criticised the sentence.

Amnesty said the charges were politically motivated.

But chief government spokesman, Mohammad Shareef, told the BBC News website that Amnesty International's judgement was based on "gross misinformation".

"Her trial was no different from any other trial in the country," he said.

Mr Shareef said "photographic evidence showed her involvement in the mob".

Amnesty says Ms Latheef was just one of thousands of people who peacefully took to the streets in Male to protest at human rights violations.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has ruled the Maldives for more than 25 years and political parties were in effect banned until early June.

His government has been repeatedly criticised for violating human rights, a charge it strongly denies.



SEE ALSO:
Key Maldives dissidents arrested
02 Jun 05 |  South Asia
Maldives dissident denies crimes
19 May 05 |  South Asia
Maldives defends prison terms
26 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Maldives vote results confusion
27 Jan 05 |  South Asia
Maldives democracy plans welcomed
25 Jan 05 |  South Asia
Country profile: The Maldives
18 Jan 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: The Maldives
07 Aug 02 |  Country profiles


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