Former President Nasheed taken back to jail

Former President Nasheed taken back to jail
August 23 21:59 2015

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has been taken back to jail by prison officers acting with Specialist Operations (SO) police officers, eight weeks after he was transferred to house arrest amid negotiations for an end to a prolonged political crisis.

Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) officers entered the former president’s residence in Malé around 8:30pm, but Nasheed’s lawyers objected to what they said would be an “arbitrary arrest.” Lawyers showed the four officers the copy of an official document showing his 13-year jail sentence had been commuted to house arrest.

The MCS document appears to be an agreement signed by Nasheed to abide by the terms of the house arrest for the rest of his sentence on terrorism charges. It was signed by an unnamed individual and contained the state seal.

“It was during the enforcement of this temporary house arrest I came to know that the remaining days of the judgment against me would be enforced as permanent house arrest, starting from 19 July 2015. Furthermore, during the enforcement of house arrest, I hereby agree not to violate any laws and understand that such arrestees are forbidden from leaving house. Moreover, I also understand that this service has the discretion to file a new case against me at court if I do not comply,” the agreement signed by Nasheed said.

Prison officers, however, insisted that the house arrest has not been extended beyond eight weeks and said they were acting on the orders of superiors.

The SO police officers arrived shortly thereafter and clashed with supporters gathered outside Maafanu Yaagoothuge, using pepper spray to push back the crowd packed into the narrow alley.

A journalist with The Maldives Independent was inside Yagoothuge when Nasheed walked downstairs at 9:30pm. He hugged his wife, and family members and said: “I am going now.”

One prisons officer then told Nasheed to wait for police officers to clear the streets, and he went back up the stairs. Emotional family members began arguing and police officers broke into Nasheed’s home.

The SO officers also broke down the front gate before escorting Nasheed into the MCS vehicle.

Nasheed’s family members, a Raajje TV journalist, several MDP MPs and dozens of opposition supporters were pepper sprayed in the ensuing scuffle. MDP MP Ali Azim was targeted and arrested.

The four government vehicles were unable to move for about 20 minutes as SO officers attempted to clear a path through the angry crowd of supporters.

Nasheed has been taken back to the high-security Maafushi prison.

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The attorney general’s office said last week that the former president’s sentence has not been commuted despite Nasheed’s international lawyer Jared Genser telling reporters in Colombo on July 24 that the government had “permanently moved President Nasheed to house arrest for the balance of his 13-year term in prison.”

The Maldivian High Commission in Colombo confirmed the move to the AFP. 

Nasheed was first transferred to house arrest for three days on doctor’s recommendations for a stress free environment on June 19.

Commissioner of Prisons Mohamed Husham told The Maldives Independent yesterday that the MCS had forwarded Nasheed’s medical records and the doctor’s recommendations to home minister Umar Naseer, who would decide on an extension of the house arrest after an approved period of eight weeks expired on Friday.

The house arrest was extended to eight weeks soon after the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) announced it would back a constitutional amendment to set new age limits for the presidency.

The move was widely seen as part of a deal with the government in exchange for the MDP’s backing for several crucial votes in parliament.

Shortly after the house arrest was extended to eight weeks, the MDP and the government officially began talks on clemency for Nasheed and other jailed politicians as well as the withdrawal of charges against some 1,400 opposition supporters.

Opposition MPs subsequently backed the impeachment of vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel and the constitutional amendment setting new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency. The amendment allowed President Yameen to replace Jameel with the influential tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

The MDP also issued a free whip on a second constitutional amendment to allow foreign freeholds in the Maldives. Some 19 opposition MPs, including ten MDP MPs, voted to pass the amendment.

At the fourth meeting of talks, MDP representative Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had suggested that Nasheed may be released before July 26.

Amidst rumours of a presidential pardon, the prosecutor general announced he would appeal Nasheed’s terrorism conviction at the High Court, prompting the MDP to call on the government to honour its commitments. 

Talks between the MDP and the government have been stalled since mid-July.

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed and Shafaa Hameed.

Photos from Ranreendhoo Maldives.