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Maldives ex-president violates travel ban, fails to appear in court

Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed [JURIST news archive] on Monday violated a court-ordered travel ban when he left the capital city of Male on what was supposed to be the first day of his now-postponed trial for abuse of power. In anticipation of the Monday proceedings the Hulhumale Magistrate Court issued an order [JURIST report] last week prohibiting Nasheed from leaving Male without official permission. Nasheed supporters have claimed that the move was politically motivated to limit the ex-president's ability to campaign for the election scheduled for November 2013. The three-judge panel was forced to postpone Nasheed's impending trial [Telegraph report] after he was seen leaving Male in a boat heading to the southern area of the country. According to Nasheed the court inexplicably ordered a last-minute postponement [Guardian report] of the trial, at which point he decided to violate his travel ban in order to campaign in the Maldives' southern islands. Nasheed cited freedom of travel principles and almost dared the authorities to arrest him, predicting such a move would backfire on the government by creating political capital for the former president. Nasheed resigned from office in February but has since claimed that he was forced to do so.

The charges against Nasheed stem from the questioned legality of his unilateral order to arrest [JURIST report] Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed on corruption charges in January, when Nasheed was still president. The arrest of the chief justice and the resulting unrest in Maldives sparked weeks of tension and dissension, drawing international attention. In August a Maldives commission of inquiry concluded that Nasheed's resignation [JURIST reports] in February was legal and voluntary. In July the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) claimed that press freedom [JURIST report] in the country has been deteriorating since the resignation. Also in July a Maldives court refused to hear the case [JURIST report] against Nasheed, holding that it did not have jurisdiction to rule in the case. In April the Maldives Police Service referred the case to the Prosecutor General's Office two months after an arrest warrant [JURIST reports] was issued. A group of Maldives lawyers in January asked [JURIST report] the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website; JURIST backgrounder] to review the legality of the arrest of Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed. Also that month the Maldives Minister of Foreign Affairs had asked [JURIST report] the UN to help them to resolve the unrest arising out of the arrest of the chief justice.

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