Nasheed meets top diplomats in Colombo

Nasheed meets top diplomats in Colombo
January 20 20:56 2016

Following his temporary release from jail, former President Mohamed Nasheed met today with the heads of diplomatic missions in Colombo and expressed the need for dialogue between the opposition and the Maldivian government, according to sources.

Nasheed’s release was secured by a frantic diplomatic effort led by India, Sri Lanka, UK and the US. He is expected to fly out to the UK for a back surgery soon.

The opposition leader met with top diplomats from UK, Canada, Norway, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and the European Union.

Sources said that Nasheed hoped that President Abdulla Yameen would “use the opportunity offered by his release” to initiate talks with the opposition. He is said to have expressed concern over growing radicalization in the Maldives, which has seen more than a hundred Maldivians leave to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Leading diplomats including US Secretary of State John Kerry have hailed his temporary release. Vikas Swarap, the spokesman for the Indian external affairs ministry, was the latest to welcome the government’s decision.

Nasheed’s arrest and trial on a terrorism charge triggered historic protests and a crackdown on opposition leaders. Several have now fled the country.

A spokesmen for Nasheed told Reuters that the former president is “hopeful of political revival once he returns from surgery.”

“He is physically a bit weak because he was in jail, but psychologically he is in good condition,” Hamid Abdul Ghafoor was quoted as saying. Nasheed had also thanked world leaders for securing his medical release.

The deal was first brokered by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, according to Nasheed’s lawyers.

Hugo Swire, the UK state minister for the foreign and Commonwealth office, is also said to have had a hand. He met with President Yameen, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom during his two-day visit here. He left on Monday.

Nasheed’s international lawyer Jared Genser suggested that Kerry may have been involved in his client’s release, by tweeting a photo of Nasheed at the airport speaking to Kerry on the phone.

The deal was nearly scuttled when the government insisted on a guarantor to remain in Malé until Nasheed’s return. A compromise was eventually reached with the government agreeing to waive any criminal liability for the guarantor.

Nasheed must return after 30 days to serve the remainder of his sentence, the government has said.