Leading MDP leader rejects presidential pardon
Jennifer Latheef, a senior member of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, is serving a 10-year term on terrorism charges.india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 18:06 IST
Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on Tuesday pardoned a leading political opponent serving a 10-year term on terrorism charges, but she refused to recognise the pardon and demanded a retrial to clear her name.
Jennifer Latheef, a senior member of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and a vocal Gayoom critic, is one of handful of party members jailed on charges human rights groups say were politically motivated.
"This has a huge condition. I have a terrorism charge on my head," Latheef said from her home in the Maldivian capital of Male, where she has been under house arrest. "I am innocent and therefore a pardon is not acceptable. I want a retrial."
Gayoom's critics accuse him of cracking down on dissenting views to stifle opposition parties and hold onto power and maintain control of lucrative tourism resorts, which rake in millions of tourist dollars each year.
Gayoom, in power for 28 years, has pledged wide-ranging democratic reforms to revamp the islands' autocratic power structure, responding to harsh criticism of his government's rights record.