Immigration revokes Nasheed and Jameel’s passports

Immigration revokes Nasheed and Jameel’s passports
September 07 15:27 2016

The immigration department has revoked the passports of exiled opposition leaders former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

Maldivians who are ordered to return to the country either in connection with a court judgment or an ongoing investigation do not have the right to stay or reside overseas using a Maldivian passport, the department said in a press statement this afternoon.

Such individuals pose “numerous hurdles to the Maldivian judiciary and the progress of cases by investigative authorities,” it said, adding that Maldivian and foreign authorities have been informed of the cancellations.

The passports of former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem and Akram Kamaludeen, a senior official of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, have also been revoked. Both are residing outside the country.

The immigration’s announcement came hours after an explosive Al Jazeera corruption exposé was released on YouTube. Interviews with Nasheed and Jameel were featured in the highly-anticipated ‘Stealing Paradise’ documentary.

The opposition leaders have said the move is aimed at diverting attention from allegations of money laundering and theft of state funds levelled at President Abdulla Yameen.

A week ago, the criminal court granted warrants for the police to arrest and bring back Nasheed, Jameel, and Akram to the country.

Nasheed’s arrest was sought over an investigation into the alleged misuse of state funds during his presidency, the police said in a statement, adding that the prisons authority has also asked the police to bring him back to serve the remainder of his 13-year jail term on a terrorism conviction.

Nasheed was granted political asylum in the UK last May after he was authorised to travel for medical treatment.

Jameel has also been granted political refugee status by the British government. He fled the Maldives in July last year before an impeachment vote.

In early August, the police ordered Jameel and Akram to return to the Maldives within two weeks for questioning over unspecified charges. The police had also attempted to summon the pair in June on suspicion of links to a forged warrant for Yameen’s arrest.

The warrants were issued after Nasheed and other opposition leaders travelled to Sri Lanka after several months of exile in the United Kingdom, fuelling speculation of Yameen’s imminent ouster.

The Maldives United Opposition, a broad coalition of opposition parties and former government officials led by Jameel and Nasheed, has vowed to arrest Yameen on charges of corruption, money laundering, and abuse of power.

The embattled president has denied any role in a historic corruption scandal involving the theft of some US$80 million from state coffers.

After the release of the Al Jazeera documentary was announced, Yameen’s supporters, ministers, and ruling party lawmakers meanwhile launched a campaign seeking to discredit the exposé, trumpet ongoing infrastructure projects, and level corruption allegations against Nasheed and officials of the MDP government.

In late August, the finance ministry ordered Nasheed and six senior officials of his three-year administration to repay “misused” state funds.

A finance ministry spokesman told the Maldives Independent this week that of the seven told on August 25 to reimburse the treasury within seven days, only former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed has paid so far.

The spokesman refused to confirm whether the Attorney General’s office has filed the cases in court yet but repeatedly stressed that the process is ongoing.

“In the next stages the relevant authority will take action in accordance with the rules,” he said.

Despite paying MVR46,556 (US$3,000) in a cheque last week, Dr Shaheed meanwhile denied misusing state funds.

In a letter sent to the finance ministry on his behalf, Shaheed’s lawyer said his client does not believe that the money was owed to the government.

“And despite paying this money as instructed by the ministry, our client has the right to recover it,” reads the letter shared with the Maldives Independent.

It added that seven days is inadequate to determine whether the money was owed.

Shaheed now lives in the United Kingdom and was recently appointed by the UN human rights council as special rapporteur on freedom of religion. He served as foreign minister from November 2008 to December 2010.

Shaheed previously told the Maldives Independent that the finance ministry’s orders were “political chaff to distract attention from the Al Jazeera documentary, and betrays the intensity of government’s nervousness about what they think is in the documentary.”