Maldives arrests key dissident after UN censure

COLOMBO: The Maldives arrested one of the few vocal dissidents still in the country on Thursday, a day after facing censure at the UN Human Rights Council, the main opposition said.

Police seized Adam Azim, the brother of jailed former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, in a pre-dawn swoop on his home in the capital island Male.

There was no immediate word from the authorities, but local media reports said the Criminal Court had issued a warrant on the charge of inciting hatred against the judiciary.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned the arrest of Azim, a key figure in the opposition's shadow cabinet.

"Adam Azim's arrest, on blatantly trumped-up charges, demonstrates once again President (Abdulla) Yameen's refusal to return to the path of democracy and good governance, and his obstinacy in the face of international criticism," the MDP said in a statement.

The arrest came a few hours after Britain, on behalf of over 30 nations, criticised the Maldivian regime at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"Legitimate opposition remains a vital component of a healthy democracy, and it is essential that the freedoms of assembly and expression are granted to all," Britain said in a statement.

It also urged President Yameen to ensure justice for the stabbing to death of a liberal blogger in April and restore the credibility of the tiny nation's judiciary.

Male has refused to accept a UN panel ruling that the March 2015 jailing of MDP leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed was politically motivated and that he should be paid compensation.

Since coming to power, Yameen has presided over a general crackdown on political dissent in the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims raising fears over the country's stability and dented its image as a tourism paradise.

His former deputy and several former ministers are already in jail while other potential rivals are in self-imposed exile.

Nasheed was narrowly defeated by Yameen in a controversial election run off in 2013. Nasheed became the country's first democratically elected president in 2008.

On Wednesday, the Maldivian foreign ministry rejected the latest criticism.

"The statement (by Britain at the UNHRC) is unwarranted and unconstructive, misrepresenting the reality in the Maldives and unduly attempting to affect domestic politics in the country," the foreign ministry said. — AFP