Aug 16 (AFP) – The Maldives said Wednesday it had freed a leading opposition figure as part of efforts to move the island nation towards multi-party democracy. Jennifer Latheef, who was jailed for 10 years on terror charges linked to a 2003 pro-democracy riot, was pardoned and released, the Maldivian government said in a statement.
Her release comes after President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s pledge two years ago to usher in political reforms following international criticism of his crackdown on protesters demanding constitutional change.
Rights groups campaigned for Latheef to be freed following her conviction in 2005.
Amnesty International described her as a “prisoner of conscience”.
Latheef, a strong critic of Gayoom who has ruled the Maldives since 1978, had been charged with assaulting police and torching government buildings, accusations which fell under the Maldives’ terrorism act.
She had denied all charges, which the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), founded by her father Mohamed Latheef, said were politically motivated.
The MDP also said that she had not received a fair trial.
The MDP operates out of Sri La