Mohamed Nasheed: Maldives' fighter-politician and 'Champion of Earth'

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Updated: Dec 16, 2018, 07:32 PM(IST)

File photo: Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Former Amnesty prisoner of conscience, Nasheed has been identified as a pro-democracy leader who feels deeply for environmental concerns. In 2008, he managed to overthrow the nearly three-decade-long rule of former president Gayoom in nation's first democratic polls. 

Former Maldivian President, also the first to be elected democratically, Mohamed Nasheed's returned to the country last month after the Maldivian top court overturned a terrorism conviction against him. Nasheed returned to the island nation after being in exile for nearly two years. 

Nasheed can aptly be called quite significant to the political fabric of the Maldives. The 2003 Maldives civil unrest was a product of the public rage that erupted after an investigation, that Nasheed has pressed for, revealed that a 19-year-old prisoner was tortured to death in Maafushi jail. 

Nasheed's political journey has been a tough one, marred by many controversies that had him spend a considerable amount of his life in prison. Nasheed's critical views on former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's regime landed him in jail multiple times, reports suggest he was jailed over twenty times under Gayoom's rule. 

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Born on 17 May 1967 in Malé, Maldives, Nasheed earned his education in the Maldives and in Sri Lanka before leaving for the United Kingdom where he studied maritime studies.

He was elected to the Maldivian parliament in the year 2000. Nasheed went into an exile to the United Kingdom in 2003 and formed the Maldivian Democratic Party. The British government recognised him as a political refugee. He returned to the country after over a year but was arrested again while holding a demonstration with MDP supporters in 2005.

Former Amnesty prisoner of conscience, Nasheed has been identified as a pro-democracy leader who feels deeply for environmental concerns. In 2008, he managed to overthrow the nearly three-decade-long rule of former president Gayoom in nation's first democratic polls. 

During his presidency, Nasheed vowed to turn the Maldives carbon-neutral in the coming decade and held the world's first-ever underwater cabinet meeting. The United Nations awarded him its most prestigious  environmental award, 'Champion of the Earth.'

But Nasheed's effort of achieving democratic stability at home was shortlived as Opposition-led protests began taking shape. His own cabinet resigned in 2010, Nasheed claimed that the Opposition was making it impossible to govern. 

In 2012, anti-government protests gripped the island nation after Nasheed ordered the arrest of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed. After ongoing protests and constitutional crisis, Nasheed, in a nationwide broadcast, announced his resignation. 

In March 2015, Nasheed was convicted on a terrorism charge and sentenced to 13 years at Maafushi jail over Abdulla Mohamed's arrest. Amnesty International called the conviction as "politically motivated." Nasheed took political asylum in the United Kingdom in 2016. 

In 2017, Nasheed vowed to return to the Maldives and contest presidential polls against President Abdulla Yameen whose refusal to comply with the court’s order to release political prisoners drew international criticism.

Nasheed was barred from contesting the September 23 poll. The elections were won by his party's nominee Ibrahim Mohamed Solih who crushed Yameen's five-year rule.

In November, the Maldives top court overturned the terrorism conviction against Nasheed stating that the former president was wrongfully charged and should not have been convicted in the 2015 trial.

"President Nasheed's entire trial was a politically-motivated sham," his lawyer, Hisaan Hussein, said after his conviction was quashed.

"It is appalling that an innocent man was unjustly forced to spend a year in jail, 35 months in exile, and was prevented from standing for political office."

Nasheed's appeal against his 13-year jail sentence had languished before the courts for years and came through only recently when the case reopened after Yameen's defeat.  

Shortly after returning to his motherland, Nasheed seemed to have resumed his effort as an environmental campaigner.  

The newly-elected Maldivian president, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, invited Nasheed to head the country's negotiating delegation at the Katowice talks in Poland. The talks are aimed at agreeing on rules for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

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In Poland, Nasheed stated that everything in power will be done to combat the climate crisis. He also said that not much progress has been made "almost 10 years since" he was last at these climate negotiations. 

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"But almost 10 years since I was last at these climate negotiations, I must say, nothing much seems to have changed. We are still using the same old, dinosaur language," he said.

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