José Ramos-Horta and Benedict Rogers write for the Wall Street Journal on the arrest of an opposition leader and the political backsliding in the archipelago nation of the Maldives. 

On Feb. 22, Maldives police arrested the country’s former president, Mohamed Nasheed, and charged him with terrorism. Mr. Nasheed was refused bail, and the following day officers violently dragged him along the ground at the courthouse. The look of terror in his eyes as police officers ripped his shirt and injured his arm said it all.

A farcical trial has now begun in which Mr. Nasheed is not allowed to participate in his defense. So far judges have appeared as witnesses for the prosecution, other judges have been accused of leading the witnesses, and some witnesses have revealed they spent time with the police preparing their evidence in advance.

The arrest and prosecution of Mr. Nasheed are blatantly political. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison, disqualifying him from contesting the presidency again. Police have responded brutally to peaceful protests in support of Mr. Nasheed, sending in thugs armed with iron rods and truncheons, and arresting dozens.

The country is run by the family of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was Asia’s longest-ruling dictator until Mr. Nasheed won the country’s first elections in 2008. In 2012, Mr. Gayoom’s allies staged a coup d’état, forcing Mr. Nasheed from office. A year later, fresh elections were held. Mr. Nasheed won 45% of the vote in the first round, just short of an outright victory, but the regime annulled the ballot before it went to a second round. When a second election was held a few months later, Mr. Nasheed again won a plurality in the first round. But in the second round his rival, Mr. Gayoom’s brotherAbdulla Yameen, played the Islamist card. He won the election by portraying Mr. Nasheed as a secularist.

The Gayoom clan, now firmly back in charge, is seeking to prevent Mr. Nasheed from challenging for power again.

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