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On Maldives, State Dept Tells ICP Concerned at Conviction, Press Freedom

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 27 -- Amid crackdowns in the Maldives, on March 27 Inner City Press went to the US State Department's daily briefing and asked spokesman Jeff Rathke about the conviction of the country's former defense minister Nazim, and threats to deport migrant workers if they protest, amid attacks on free press.

  From the State Department's transcript:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about in Maldives the former defense minister has just been sentenced to 11 years. And I know the State Department has expressed some concern about former President Nasheed’s trial. There’s also a situation in which migrant workers there are being told if they demonstrate about their rights they’ll be deported. So I’m wondering, is the State Department monitoring this? Do you have any comment on developments in the Maldives?

MR. RATHKE: Certainly, we are. I don’t have a comment in front of me. We’re happy to look into that and come back to you.

   While this is often said at the UN - and this week in Washington at the IMF on Inner City Press' question about Haiti -- in this case the US State Department DID come back with a comment, issued as a “Question Taken” later on March 27:

For Immediate Release  TAKEN QUESTION March 27, 2015

Concerns on Recent Developments in Maldives

Question:  Does the United States have any comment on the arrest of the former Maldivian Defense Minister?

Answer:  The United States is deeply troubled by recent developments in Maldives that call into question that nation’s commitment to democracy and individual human rights.  These developments include the conviction of former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison on weapons charges March 26, and the March 25 arrest of Maldivian journalists under allegations of obstructing police duties.

Nazim’s trial was particularly concerning, as it was marred by the same apparent lack of appropriate criminal procedures as the recent trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, including the inability to call the requested number of defense witnesses and concerns regarding the lack of impartiality and independence of the judges.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental democratic right, and we are in touch with Maldivian authorities to clarify why the journalists have been detained without charges.

We call on the Government of Maldives to take steps to restore confidence in its hard-fought democracy and the rule of law, including judicial independence and freedom of the press.

  We'll have more on this -- including, from the new Free UN Coalition for Access, on the situation of the press in the Malvides. Watch this site.


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