In the eyes of most British people, the Maldives is a luxurious holiday destination with its white beaches, blue sea and lagoons. But for many years organisations like Amnesty International have been expressing concerns about the country’s human rights record.
Jennifer Latheef is a prominent photo-journalist and human rights activist in the Maldives. In October 2005 she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “terrorism”. She was accused by the authorities of inciting violence during riots two years before and of throwing a stone at a policeman, allegations she fervently denies.
These demonstrations had been provoked by the death of a young man in custody. Human rights campaigners say that her trial was “unfair and politically motivated” because she is the daughter of the leader of the main opposition party and she had been drawing attention to human rights abuses under President Gayoom’s 28-year rule.
The Maldivian authorities say that Latheef was defended by two of the best lawyers in the Maldives, the trial was held in a public court with access to the public and the media, and the defence was given full opportunity to rebut prosecution evidence. They also say that the Maldives Government is currently engaged in a reform programme that will create a modern democratic system that complies with international human rights standards.
Last month she was given a presidential pardon but she is refusing to accept it as she wants to clear her name. Jenni Murray talks to Jennifer Latheef about her experiences and the current political situation in the Maldives.