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Maldives jails ex-defense minister for 11 years

March 26, 2015

MALE, Maldives (AP) — A court in Maldives on Thursday sentenced a former defense minister to 11 years in prison for importing and possessing a firearm.

A criminal court in Male, the capital island of this Indian Ocean archipelago state, passed the sentence against Mohamed Nazim.

The same court earlier this month sentenced the country’s former president Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in prison after a disputed trial over the arrest of a senior judge while he was in power three years ago.

Nazim was sacked from President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s cabinet in January after police raided his home and found a pistol and some bullets. Possession or import of firearms by private persons is illegal.

Relatives and supporters of Nazim say the charges were politically motivated because he was becoming popular within Gayoom’s party.

Nazim’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed said that the judges have not considered parts of their defense and they will appeal the sentence.

The Maldives, known for its luxurious resort islands, became a multiparty democracy in 2008, ending a 30-year autocratic rule. But its courts are perceived to remain loyal to longtime former ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a half-brother to the current president.

Meanwhile, international press freedom group Committee to Protect Journalists urged Maldivian authorities to release three journalists arrested this week while covering the nightly opposition protests demanding the release of ex-president Nasheed.

The group said in a statement Mohamed Wasim and Adam Zareer of pro-opposition Rajje TV and Mohamed Niyaz of privately-owned Channel One television were arrested while covering the protests.

“By holding these journalists without charge for days at a time, authorities in Maldives are clearly trying to suppress news coverage of events through silencing and intimidation,” the statement quoted the group’s Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz as saying.

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