Maldives jails opposition leader for terrorism

Photo of South Ari Atoll in the Maldives Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption The Maldives, known for its idyllic island resorts, has seen political upheaval in recent years

A Maldives court has convicted opposition leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla of terrorism and sentenced him to 12 years in jail.

He was found guilty of inciting violence in a speech protesting against the jailing of former president Mohamed Nasheed. His supporters have disputed the charge.

Maldives has seen political upheaval since Nasheed was ousted in 2002.

He was later convicted and jailed, also under anti-terror laws.

But he was temporarily freed earlier this month to travel to London for medical treatment.

'Grossly unfair'

Abdulla, leader of the Islamist Adhaalath Party, had spoken during mass protests last year demonstrating against the jailing of dissidents, during which there were clashes with police.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Nasheed is currently in London undergoing medical treatment for his back

His lawyer, Husnu Suood, told Reuters news agency: "We believe the judgment is grossly unfair because he has not called for violence in his speech."

"He clearly asked the participants at the rally to refrain from violence and had taken all steps to prevent violence."

His lawyers said they would appeal against the sentence.

The Maldivian government has come under intense criticism for its jailing and treatment of political opponents, particularly Nasheed.

A former human rights campaigner, Nasheed became the nation's first democratically elected leader in 2008, ending three decades of rule by former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In 2012, he was detained after being accused of ordering the arrest of a judge. He resigned months later amid an army mutiny and public protests over the judge's fate.

Nasheed alleged that he had been removed by a coup, but this was denied by his vice-president, who replaced him.

The current President Abdulla Yameen was elected in controversial polls in 2013 and is the half-brother of Mr Gayoom.

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