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Maldives ex-president Nasheed sentenced to 13 years

Mohamed Nasheed has been found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to over a decade in prison. His supporters say the trial was a ruse to eliminate him as competition for the next presidential race.

Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed (pictured above with police escort) was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Friday, an official from his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said, after he was found guilty of terrorism charges. A three-judge panel unanimously found Nasheed guilty of ordering the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012.

The judge's arrest spurred a mutiny by police and troops that ended in Nasheed's resignation.

Nasheed has said he was forced to resign at gunpoint over the judicial row, and his allies have called it a coup. He was arrested at the end of February this year,

prompting a large rally in his defense

in the capital, Male. Originally brought up on corruption charges, prosecutors then filed much more serious terrorism allegations. He was refused bail and ordered to stay in police custody until the conclusion of his trial.

Mohamed Nasheed was the first democratically elected president of the Indian Ocean nation after 30 years of autocratic rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The path to democracy has been frought with difficulties, with many public insitutions, including the courts, accused of remaining loyal to the Gayoom family. Current President Abdulla Yameen is former strongman Gayoom's half-brother.

Former President Nasheed consistently denied ordering the judge's arrest. During the trial, his lawyers pulled out in the middle of proceedings as they accused the court of rushing the hearings and allowing them only three days to prepare his defense.

The MDP have said the only purpose of the trial is to eliminate Nasheed as a contender for the presidency in 2018. They also claimed he was being denied medical attention while awaiting his hearing.

Current President Abdulla Yameen has denied that the trial was politcally motivated.

The United States and regional power India have voiced concerns over the charges, and Indian Prime Minister Modi recently avoided visiting the Maldives on a trip around the region, as pro-Delhi Nasheed was on trial and a pro-China administration is now in power in Male.

es/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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