Maldives ‘demanded a hostage’ for ex-president’s travel to UK

Maldives ‘demanded a hostage’ for ex-president’s travel to UK
January 17 19:34 2016

President Abdulla Yameen has backtracked on an unconditional promise to allow jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed to travel to the United Kingdom for medical care, and is demanding that a family member remain in Malé until he returns from treatment, his daughter has said.

In a Facebook post, Nasheed’s daughter Meera Laila Nasheed said her father “will not be coming to the UK” because the government had changed its stance at the last minute.

The opposition leader, who is serving a 13-year jail term on a terrorism conviction, was first told he would be allowed to travel abroad for a surgery on his spine without any conditions, said Meera, who is currently in London with her mother.

“But today he was told he could only go if he agrees to sign that someone else (who I think is better left unnamed) will be responsible for him in the Maldives whilst he is away. That means this person will have to remain in the Maldives, and basically held there till he gets back.”

If her father’s actions abroad are “not to their liking” the family member could be arrested, she added.

“I think this is a ridiculous deal, and as much as I would absolutely love to have him here, we both agreed that we will not agree to compromise someone else’s safety and take a risk for him to come here.”

Confirming Meera’s comments, a source close to Nasheed’s lawyers said that the government wants to make the family “hostage” criminally liable if Nasheed does not return to the Maldives within 30 days.

The President’s Office was not immediately available for comment.

Nasheed’s lawyers have called a press conference at 9:30pm.

The decision to allow Nasheed to travel to the UK for medical care was first announced on Saturday. The foreign ministry in a brief statement yesterday had stressed Nasheed was being temporarily released on the condition that he returns to the Maldives.

Nasheed’s aides however said Yameen had promised top diplomats from the UK, Sri Lanka and India that the opposition leader would be allowed to leave without conditions. Hugo Swire, the UK minister of state for the foreign and Commonwealth office, is in Malé today on an official visit.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake also made an unannounced visit to Malé last week to negotiate for Nasheed’s release, according to media reports.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sent a special envoy, Foreign Secretary Dr S. Jaishankar, to Malé earlier this month to seek “relief” for Nasheed, New Delhi based The Hindhu said.

Mohamed Husham, the commissioner general of prisons, in an interview with popular daily Haveeru blamed the delay in the former president’s departure on his family’s refusal to sign legal documents.

“The person who goes with Nasheed must sign this form. And another person who takes responsibility for him here must also sign this form… this procedure applies to all inmates,” he said.

Nasheed would be allowed to leave as soon as his family completes legal procedures, Husham said, adding that a temporary travel document had been prepared for Nasheed’s departure.

The former president’s family has hit back at Husham’s claims, stating that no government institution or Nasheed had asked for their signature on any legal documents.

Home Minister Umar Naseer had said yesterday that Nasheed would not be required to follow procedures set for other inmates. His departure had been authorised under special privileges afforded to former presidents, which means that he does not need clearance from the MCS’ medical board, Naseer said.

Nasheed’s terrorism trial was widely condemned and world leaders including UK Prime Minister David Cameron and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon have called for his release. The UN has called the trial “politically motivated.”

Nasheed’s international lawyers are lobbying the governments of the US and UK for targeted sanctions on officials responsible for deteriorating human rights here.

The European Union parliament in December passed a resolution calling on member states to impose sanctions including asset freezes and travel bans on top officials.