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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
Maldives dissident denies crimes
Fathimath Nisreen
Fathimath Nisreen says she was beaten in custody
A detainee freed in the Maldives has denied government claims she was involved in "criminal activities".

Fathimath Nisreen, who was detained for three years, said the allegation was "a total lie, they could never prove".

Ms Nisreen was jailed in 2002 along with three men for working on an e-mail newsletter exposing alleged human rights abuses and corruption.

A spokesman for the Maldives government insisted that Ms Nisreen was found guilty in a fair trial.

At their trial the authorities accused them of inciting people to commit "violent and illegal acts" against the government.

She was freed earlier this month under a presidential pardon. She said it was a move to try to head off a threatened European Union travel ban on Maldives officials.

We did not have access to a lawyer, although we consistently asked for a lawyer
Fathimath Nisreen

Last year the European Union parliament called for a travel ban on Maldives officials because of the imprisoning of dissidents.

But Maldives government spokesman Ahmad Shaheed told the BBC that the European Union was not planning "any punitive measure" against the Maldives and that it had welcomed recent democratic reforms.

Ms Nisreen says the charges she faced in court were baseless.

"There was no evidence against me at all. The investigators told me they had no proof against me that I had worked on the newsletter.

"Even the judge said in court that he had no proof against me that I took part in the newsletter," Ms Nisreen told the BBC News website.

'Handcuffed, blindfolded'

She denied that she had been given a fair trial, saying she had not had access to a lawyer despite repeated requests.

Ms Nisreen also alleges she was beaten in custody last August after being handcuffed and blindfolded.

Mohamed Zaki - life in prison, sentence later reduced to 15 years, now under house arrest
Ibrahim Lutfy - life in prison, but escaped 18 months into his sentence
Ahmed Didi - life in prison, sentence later reduced to 15 years, now under house arrest
Fathimath Nisreen - 10 years in prison, now released

She said she had been wrongly accused of working as a typist on the electronic newsletter, Sandhaanu.

"All I did was send an e-mail saying they're really courageous to put their lives at risk to help people lead normal lives.

Mr Shaheed defended the court proceedings, saying Ms Nisreen "was tried in an open court... the government does not interfere in the judiciary."

However, he accepted that she "did not have a lawyer in the court because until last year, legal representation was not provided in criminal cases".

Allegations of ill treatment, he said, were being investigated by the Maldives' Human Rights Commission.

Ms Nisreen worked for a company run by one of her three co-accused, Ibrahim Lutfy.

She, Mr Lutfy and two others, Mohamed Zaki and Ahmad Didi, were arrested in January 2002.

The three men were all sentenced to life imprisonment in July 2002, accused of "defamation" and "attempting to overthrow the government".

Mr Lutfy escaped from police custody 18 months into his sentence while receiving eye treatment in Sri Lanka.

Mr Zaki and Mr Didi have been held under house arrest since February 2004.

'Solitary confinement'

Ms Nisreen, who was only 22 at the time of the trial, was jailed for 10 years, later reduced to five years detention on an island south of the Maldivian capital, Male.

She spent five months in solitary confinement, she says, but was not mistreated in jail.

She said she had been allowed to return to Male for medical treatment but was later beaten during anti-government protests on 13 August last year.

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) told the BBC it had found no call to violence in the newsletter.

This is disputed by the Maldives government.

Mr Shaheed stressed to the BBC that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had concluded that there was evidence that some articles in the Sandhaanu magazine incited the reader to violence.

Maldives defends prison terms
26 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Country profile: The Maldives
18 Jan 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: The Maldives
07 Aug 02 |  Country profiles

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