IFJ Calls for Immediate and Unconditional Release of Jennifer Latheef in the Maldives

The International Federation of Journalists today called for the immediate and unconditional release of journalist and human rights activist Jennifer Latheef from prison in the Maldives.

On October 18, Jennifer Latheef a researcher and photographer with the Minivan Daily was jailed for 10 years on terror charges. Latheef, daughter of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) founder Mohamed Latheef was recently elected unanimously as the president of Havaru Branch. Jennifer Latheef is a vocal critic of president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and it is believed that the harsh sentence is a strategy to silence her.

“The imprisonment of journalists for doing their job of truth telling and highlighting injustice is outrageous,” said IFJ president Christopher Warren.

Charges against Latheef, 32, and three others jailed earlier this month include "the assault of a number of police officers, plus the torching of government buildings and an election office. Latheef denies all charges.

The terrorist act supposedly committed by Latheef, was to have allegedly thrown a stone at a policeman during a demonstration held on September 20, 2003 in protest against the death of five prisoners. The charge was based entirely on the testimony of police officers.

“Using anti-terrorism laws to silence independent journalists is a clear indication that president Gayoom is reneging on his promises about the restoration of democracy in the Maldives,” said Warren.

Latheef's health has deteriorated steadily in recent weeks, largely due to the stress of the trial. She was hospitalised in early October and was unable to attend a hearing on October 13 at which five other dissidents on trial with her received 11-year sentences. Latheef was arrested at the end of of the trial and taken to an undisclosed location.

“Jennifer Latheef must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said IFJ president Warren, who also demanded that Latheef be given immediate medical treatment and be allowed immediate access to her family and her lawyer.

Please send a letter/fax demanded the release of Jennifer Latheef to:

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

The President's Office, Mulee-aage, Henvairu , Medhuziyaaraiy Magu

Malé 20-05

Republic of Maldives

Fax: +960 325500

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries

For more information please contact Christopher Warren +61 (0) 411 757 668