Sitting with Nasheed – who has been temporarily released from prison to undergo spinal surgery in London – during a press conference Monday in the British capital, Clooney described the situation in the Indian Ocean state as “serious” and “urgent” and repeated her call for “targeted sanctions” against leading figures in the Maldivian government.
“The case for sanctions remains urgent even though president Nasheed is here today,” Clooney, 37, said.
“We cannot forget that he has not been pardoned in the Maldives. He has not been given permission to run in the next presidential elections,” she explained. “He was also not the only political prisoner behind bars in the country. You have, at the moment, two former defense ministers, one former vice president, one former deputy parliamentary speaker, and leaders of every opposition party in prison in the Maldives. You also have a further 1,700 people who are either facing charges or currently being prosecuted by the authorities in the Maldives for simply peaceful political activity and speech.”
Clooney also revealed that she and co-counsels Jared Genser and Ben Emmerson QC have submitted to both the U.S. and U.K. governments a list of individuals whom they believe should be targeted for sanctions.
This includes individuals from the government, the judiciary and the local business community, whom Nasheed’s counsels believe to be “bankrolling the regime and sustaining its power.”
“That list represents those most responsible for human rights abuses in the country,” added Clooney.
Speaking alongside Clooney, Nasheed earlier detailed his experiences since his arrest for terrorism in 2008 and subsequent sentence of 13 years in prison seven years later – a ruling that prompted Clooney and her co-counsels to file a case with the United Nations last April “urging it to declare [Nasheed’s] detention arbitrary and in violation of international law.”
“It’s been a difficult one year, the last year,” said Nasheed. “I was in solitary confinement until I was just recently given leave to travel to England for 30 days. To be able to speak to you all freely today and to be reunited with my wife and children is a moment that I have dreamt for the last one year.”
Nasheed also revealed that his medical treatment is for a chronic back condition caused by two bouts of torture in his 20s.
“I was able to handle it then, but I am not so young anymore and I need treatment,” he added.
Monday’s press conference is the latest move in a campaign that has taken Clooney from the steps of 10 Downing Street for a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, to the studios of NBC News’ Cynthia McFadden and Meet the Press‘s Chuck Todd.
On Jan. 13, Clooney and Genser also met with several members of Congress – including Senator John McCain; Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski; and Senator Patrick Leahy – to lobby for sanctions against the Maldives government.
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Clooney revealed that this meeting resulted in a call by the deputy parliamentary speaker from Maldives’ ruling political party to ban the entry of Nasheed’s legal team into the country.
“We have to remember that there was a real democracy in the Maldives less than 10 years ago, and it is possible to get there again,” Clooney said in her closing statement.
“I want to reiterate how fortunate we are to have President Nasheed with us in London today. But let us not forget that if the government has its way, he’ll be back in a prison cell in less than 30 days. And that would be for the crime of simply being a moderate and popular political leader in the country who might well, given the chance, win the next presidential election in the Maldives,” she said.
“Our work does not stop here.”