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Celebs back Maldives democracy bid

Celebrities including actor Ed Norton and Virgin group chairman Sir Richard Branson are backing the cause of democracy in the Maldives.

The group, which also includes actors Kim Cattrall, Minnie Driver and academic Professor Peter Singer, have all added their names to a letter calling on the "illegitimate" regime of President Mohammed Waheed "to set a date for free and fair elections, release all political detainees and end a culture of police brutality".

The trial of former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, who faces charges of abuse of power, was postponed today after Mr Nasheed failed to turn up to court.

Mr Nasheed, who resigned in February in what he said was a coup, is accused of illegally arresting a judge.

The letter, to be published in the Guardian tomorrow, condemns Mr Nasheed's treatment as a process of "legal harassment pursued by the illegitimate regime to sideline him from active politics and further stamp out any political opposition".

The letter warns that the outlook for democracy is "deteriorating".

It cites reports by Amnesty International and the Federation of International Human Rights saying that since Mr Nasheed's toppling from power a "human rights crisis" has emerged in the country, which has suffered a "deterioration in democracy and freedom of assembly and expression".

The signatories also call on the British Government to urge the Waheed regime to end "all human rights abuses" and "hold democratic elections at the earliest opportunity".

Mr Nasheed has told the BBC he was defying the court as he had no faith in it and believes his trial is politically motivated. He left the capital island of Male on a flotilla of boats chartered by his party to go campaigning in outlying islands.

He and his supporters plan to campaign for two weeks for elections which they want immediately, but which the new government says cannot happen before July.


From Belfast Telegraph