Maldives opposition leader and the son of former President Abdul Qayoom today expressed fears about his arrest being "imminent" as the Maldives Government has intensified its crackdown on the opposition.
In an interview given to ANI, Faris Maumoon, a Member of the Maldives Parliament, said, "I am facing imminent arrest. Just two days back, I was released after six months of detention, no evidence was produced. I suspect they are again going to arrest me on fabricated charges as they want to silence the opposition."
According to a Maldives Times report, all opposition leaders, aside from former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, are either in prison or in exile as the country prepares for this year's presidential polls.
Earlier this week, following his conditional release from six months of imprisonment by a criminal court, Faris Maumoon appealed to the government of President Abdulla Yameen to free key opposition figures and allow democracy to function.
"They (the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives) need no ground to arrest; they just fabricate charges to silence the opposition. There is a continuous erosion of democracy in our country," he revealed in his interview.
"When I brought a no confidence motion against the speaker and secured the support of 45 members out of the 85-member parliament, they sent the army to the parliament and I was arrested on false charges ofbribery," he added.
Faris claimed that he was given a conditional release on Thursday after his lawyers appealed for permission to have an independent third party analyze forensic evidence related to his phone.
In his interaction with the media shortly after his release, Faris said there were others who were in the same situation he had been in.
"Both in prison and in other ways, people are suffering unjustly for their political work. So, I want to call for their release. Free Sheikh Imran. Free President Mohamed Nasheed. Free Gasim Ibrahim. Free Nazim. Everyone must be ensured the rights guaranteed under the Maldivian Constitution," he said.
He also said that the bribery charges leveled on him should be withdrawn by prosecutors as they would not pass legal scrutiny.
"We demand that Members of Parliament should be allowed to perform their duties and represent their constituencies. There is no right to assembly. Even if ten members gather on the streets of Male, police harass them, use force, pepper spray and tear gas. You require government's permission to assemble, "Faris Maumoon told ANI here.
"The media has been gagged, by enforcing new amendments in the defamation law. The media cannot give its opinion until it gives full evidence. They (the PPM), they have criminalised it, and if someone writes, a heavy penalty is imposed on him or her," he said.
Commenting on President Yameen's visit to India last month and on his announcement that the Maldives Administration would never entertain negative sentiments towards India, as also on the recent free trade agreement inked between Maldives and China in spite of New Delhi's concerns, Faris Maumoon said, "We don't want direct intervention of any neighbour, as it will set a bad precedent, or (assistance and interference from) India, but diplomatic tools must be employed to restore democracy in the country. We are also in touch with international institutions."
He also questioned the need for having the Maldivian Land Act as a law, maintaining that this legislation has only resulted in empowering the government to lease public property as per its will, and therefore, hasopened floodgates for government corruption.
President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has been in power since 2013. He is the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
As the presidential candidate for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Yameen defeated Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed in the 2013 presidential elections.
The 2013 presidential election was held under controversial circumstances following the resignation of then President Mohamed Nasheed in 2012. In the first round of voting, Nasheed received 45.45 percent of votes and Yameen received 25.35 percent and finished in second place. This resulted in a second round, wherein Yameen won by 51.39 percent of votes toNasheed's 48.61 percent.
The results were disputed by the opposition, as the country's Supreme Court had annulled the planned original second round of voting due to a high number of ineligible voters being registered.
Since then, the political situation in the Maldives has been swinging from one crisis to another. For example, in 2015, President Yameen clamped a 30-day state of emergency on the island nation, imposing curbs on the media, movement of citizens and protest gatherings, besides suspending several civilian rights following the arrest of then Vice President Ahmed Adeeb on an attempt to assassinate charge.