New Delhi: Amnesty International on Thursday slammed the deteriorating human rights situation in the Maldives and termed the trial of former president Mohamed Nasheed "a sham".
Nasheed was sentenced on terrorism charges to 13 years in prison in March.
"Mohamed Nasheed's imprisonment came after a sham trial, but he is far from the only one locked up on trumped-up charges and after unfair trials. It is disturbing how far the Maldives government has co-opted the judiciary as a tool to cement its own holds on power," said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty's Maldives Researcher, at a media interaction here
The AI report on the human rights situation in the Maldives was also released on the occasion.
The Amnesty report said political tension in the Maldives was on the rise over the past few years and the authorities have pursued criminal charges against a number of key opposition figures.
"Protests by Nasheed supporters have been met with a harsh response by the ruling reginme. At least 140 peaceful protestors have been arrested. Those detained include at least three MPs from Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), as well as other MDP politicians," Faiz said.
The human rights situation in the Maldives was deteriorating alarmingly as the authorities were muzzling peaceful protestors, and silencing critical media and civil society, while abusing the judicial system to imprison opposition politicians, the report said.
It was prepared after a five-day fact-finding mission to the Maldives, during which the AI delegation interviewed lawyers, human rights activists, journalists and political workers in the island nation.
However, the delegation was unable to meet government officials during the visit, but intends to accept an invitation to do so later in the year.
"There's a climate of fear prevailing in the Maldives, as safeguards on human rights are increasingly eroded. The authorities have a growing track record of silencing critical voices by any means necessary -- be it through police, the judicial system, or outright threats and harassment. This must end immediately," said Faiz.
"In a disturbing trend, vigilante religious groups allegedly in cahoots with police have stepped up kidnappings and attacks on social gatherings, in particular against those accused of promoting 'atheism'," he said.
"This year, such gangs have in connivance with the police attacked peaceful demonstrators, yet no one has been brought to justice for these attacks," he added.
Raghu Menon, Amnesty International India's advocacy coordinator, who was part of the fact-finding mission, said: "As an influential neighbour and an important regional power India has a responsibility to work towards a human rights-friendly environment in the Maldives. A favourable human rights environment is essential for strengthening democratic processes in the Maldives."