Mohammad Nasheed, a former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience, resigned today as President of Maldives. He was the first democratically elected President of the country, following decades of dictatorship in the country. He was instrumental in highlighting the case for action against climate change, going so far as to hold a cabinet meeting underwater.
His supporters and media reports are stating that it was basically a coup by the military and opposition supporters.
The latest tensions arose after the government of the Maldives erected monuments of the nations of South Asia gathering for a regional summit meeting. Radical clerics accused the government of attempting to permit other religious groups in the country because of the non-Islamic artistic elements in the artwork.
Ismail Rasheed, a blogger, was also arrested because of his participation in a religious tolerance rally (Under the 2008 Maldives constitution, Islam is the only religion that Maldivian nationals can practice and some radical clerics interpret religious tolerance as un-Islamic).
Security forces and protesters allied to the opposition stormed the state media center and are now holding several journalists hostage while playing homages to the former President Abdul Gayoom. Last month, the Army arrested a Supreme Court judge, cementing the paralysis that has gripped the political scene since Nasheed’s election.
In a televised address to the nation, Nasheed said:
“It will be better for the country in the current situation if I resign. I don’t want to run the country with an iron fist. I am resigning.”
We in Amnesty International will continue to monitor the crisis in Maldives and work to ensure that human rights are protected in the days, weeks and months to come.
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