02/03/2018, 09.55
MALDIVES
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Supreme court acquits former president. Police clash with supporters

Mohamed Nasheed was acquitted of terrorism charges, along with eight other opponents. He will be able to return from exile and run for political elections scheduled for the end of the year. Under his reformist leadership, sharia has never been abolished and religious freedom does not exist.

Malè (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Supreme Court of the Maldives has acquitted nine opposition members, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, who is living in exile in London, of terrorism charges. The decision took the country by surprise and supporters of the former head of state took to the streets of the capital Malè to celebrate. Hundreds of people waved flags calling for Nasheed's return, but they clashed with police, who fired tear gas to disperse them. At least one policeman was admitted to the hospital.

From Sri Lanka, where he is currently on a visit, the former president welcomed the sentence, and called for "the immediate release of political prisoners and the restoration of their civil and political rights". Then he called for the resignation of the current president Yameen Abdul Gayoom, whom he will challenge in the next elections scheduled for the end of the year.

The decision paves the way for Nasheed, 50, the first democratically elected president of the tourism paradise in 2008 to run once again. He is the leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and has been a political prisoner. In 2012 he was ousted by a coup d'état supported by Islamic radicals. In 2015 he was arrested for terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison, but he always defended himself by claiming that the accusations were politically motivated. Since 2016 he lives in the British capital, where he travelled with medical permission to carry out treatment. He recently accused China of "seizing land" and criticized the expansionist ambitions of Beijing, which sees in the country of white beaches as a strategic commercial port of call on its "New Silk Road".

Gayoom, current president, was ready to confirm the political office, having suppressed opposition through the imprisonment or exile of his adversaries. Elected in 2013, he has maintained a strict control on all powers, from the judiciary, to police and bureaucracy. Under his leadership, the country, among one of the West’s most popular exotic tourist destinations, opted for a return to a more conservative and fundamentalist view of Islam in terms of domestic politics, and a strengthening of diplomatic and commercial relations with China at an international level. In 2014, the government's decision to apply the death penalty to 10-year-old children caused quite a stir.

Yet even under the rule of the reformist Nasheed the dominance of the Islamic religion has never been questioned. In the archipelago of the Indian Ocean, where about 340,000 inhabitants live, Sharia is in force (Islamic law), Sunni Islam is the state religion and there is no religious freedom. In 2008 a constitutional amendment denied non-Muslims the possibility of having citizenship. In the country, alcohol and pork can only be served at the airport and at the resorts where local staff do not work. Furthermore, idols of other religions cannot be introduced into the country.

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