Maldives minister says jailed ex-president can appeal, won't get pardon

By Tom Miles GENEVA (Reuters) - The Maldives would welcome an appeal by its jailed former president against his 13-year sentence, but he was found guilty of terrorism and cannot expect to be pardoned, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon told Reuters on Wednesday. Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected president, was ousted in 2012 in what his supporters call a coup, and then convicted of terrorism in March this year for ordering the arrest of a judge. United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has said the trial was marked by "flagrant irregularities," and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called it "an injustice that must be addressed soon". A senior U.N. human rights official who visited Nasheed last month said he had not been able to present any defence and the window for an appeal had been cut from 90 days to 10 days, making it impossible for him to challenge his sentence. Maumoon, however, said Nasheed could still appeal. "We would definitely welcome the appeal because that can be conducted under closer international scrutiny, hence we would be vindicated of the allegation that the trial process was not fair and politically motivated," she said. "The actual crime that he was convicted of was something that was done in broad daylight which the rest of the country and the whole world saw, and condemned. So I think there's no issues regarding the fact that he committed the crime." Maumoon spoke after defending her country's human rights record at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. She told the council that international criticism had focussed on the process, not the merits of the trial, adding Nasheed had previously decided to withdraw an appeal as soon as the Maldives invited the U.N., the European Union and the Commonwealth to observe the process. "So perhaps he felt the merits of his case were not very strong, which is why he chose not to appeal," she told Reuters. The Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago of fewer than 400,000 people, is increasingly polarised between Nasheed's supporters and those backing President Abdulla Yameen. Clashes broke out Friday after a crowd of more than 10,000 people marched through the streets chanting "Free Nasheed!" Police arrested 193 people, including three opposition leaders. The U.N. has suggested Nasheed might get clemency, but Maumoon said presidential pardons were not possible in terrorism cases. "My understanding from the attorney-general's office is that after a quarter of the sentence is served, the president can consider lightening, or shortening, of the sentence. So that's at least three or four years." (Reporting by Tom Miles, editing by G Crosse)