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Legal Team to Pursue Sanctions Against Maldives

File - Maldives former President Mohamed Nasheed waves from a boat as he is taken back to Dhoonidhoo prison after a court dismissed his appeal against his arrest in Male, Maldives, March 2015.

A human rights legal team will pursue international sanctions and travel bans against the Maldives as part of its efforts to secure the release of the country's jailed former president, lawyer Amal Clooney said Thursday.

They were taking that course of action because the Maldives government has failed to fulfill many of its promises made to ex-President Mohamed Nasheed, Clooney told reporters in Male, the capital of the Indian Ocean archipelago that is a high-end tourist destination.

“The next step will be to pursue targeted sanctions, travel bans and any other action we have recourse to until the matter is resolved,” she said. “It is disappointing it has come to this.”

Clooney said the government had agreed in talks with Nasheed's party members to release him and others arrested during protests that followed his jailing.

It not only went back on its promise but also sent Nasheed back to jail after saying it commuted his sentence to house arrest, she said.

“These are not steps that are taken by a government that is operating on the basis of rule of law,” she said.

Government minister Mohamed Shareef said he did not wish to comment because Clooney's remarks were mostly political in nature rather than legal.

He said the government had confidence in its judiciary and an appeal initiated by the state and now before the High Court.

Clooney said her discussions on Thursday with the Maldives attorney general also covered the possibility of Nasheed being released under a presidential pardon.

Nasheed is serving a 13-year sentence after a lower court found him guilty of terrorism for ordering the arrest of a senior judge three years ago. The court said the arrest was akin to abduction and is an offense under the country's terrorism law.

Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of Maldives in 2008. His election ended a 30-year autocratic rule by the half-brother of the current President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

After the arrest of the judge sparked public protests, Nasheed was forced to resign.

He failed in his attempt to return to power in the 2013 presidential election.