| COLOMBO, March 29
COLOMBO, March 29 Exiled former Maldives leader
Mohamed Nasheed called on Wednesday for commissions on an
independent judiciary and free elections to be set up to help
ensure a fair presidential vote next year in the Indian Ocean
The Maldives has suffered from political unrest since
Nasheed, its first democratically elected leader, was ousted in
disputed circumstances in 2012.
He lost the 2013 election to President Abdulla Yameen by a
narrow margin and was later convicted of terrorism and sentenced
to 13 years in jail, but allowed to go abroad for medical
treatment early last year and now lives in exile in London.
"Selecting a candidate is not a concern, but (endowing) the
system with independent judiciary and election commissions is
the most important task before the election," Nasheed told
Reuters in an interview with Reuters in Colombo.
"We at least need some kind of proper system for free and
fair elections. There is a view in the Maldives that any
candidate can beat Yameen if we have a free and fair election."
Nasheed said he has been seeking international support to
pressure Yameen to establish the independent commissions.
The next presidential vote is expected in the second half of
2018, but Nasheed needs a presidential pardon to contest it as
has been convicted of terrorism charges, which he denied.
The Maldives judiciary drew international criticism after a
number of opposition leaders including Nasheed were sentenced
for alleged terrorism offences. International rights groups have
said the judicial process was flawed and politically motivated.
Nasheed spoke two days after the opposition coalition failed
in a bid to impeach the parliament speaker and take control of
Most of Yameen's opponents who might challenge him in 2018
have been arrested for alleged security offences. The opposition
alleges his administration is trying to cover up corruption
including money laundering. The government denies this and says
it does not influence law enforcement.
The largely Muslim island chain with a population of 400,000
has other problems marring its reputation as a tourist paradise.
Significant numbers of radicalised Maldives youths have enlisted
to fight for Islamic State militants in the Middle East.
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez; editing by Mark Heinrich)