Opposition lawmaker’s health deteriorating in jail, family says

Opposition lawmaker’s health deteriorating in jail, family says
November 01 06:41 2016

An opposition lawmaker jailed on controversial charges of obstructing police duty is in poor health condition, his family has warned, prompting calls on the prison authorities to transfer him to house imprisonment for medical care.

Ahmed Mahloof, an independent MP, is no longer able to move an arm and has skin allergies, blurry eye sight and a stiff neck, his wife Nazra Naseem has said, accusing the authorities of negligence and malpractice.

The MP, who was also the spokesman for the Maldives United Opposition, was handed two jail sentences of a combined 10 months and 24 days in July on two counts of obstructing police duty following numerous arrests from opposition protests.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has expressed concern, urging the Maldives Correction Services to transfer Mahloof to house-imprisonment for medical care.

“MP Mahloof’s family says he is ill. He must be transferred home for medical treament. MCS carelessness on this issue is torture,” the de facto leader of the MUO said in a tweet on Friday.

Nazra has accused the MCS of failing to provide her husband with proper medical care.

“During the first month he spent in jail, the doctor gave him two injections for his skin allergies, this is an overdose. Hospitals in Malé prescribe just one of those injections. He has not been responding to the medicines,” she said.

Mahloof is now complaining of blurry eye sight, she said, adding that her husband is no longer able to move one arm because the MCS has failed to provide him physiotherapy for a previous arm injury as recommended by a doctor.

“The biggest issue is that he is not being given regular medical care. When he complains of a health problem, they would take him to the doctor only days later or at their convenience, after the condition worsens. This makes it difficult for the doctor diagnose the issue.

“They are also careless with treatment and follow up appointments. These are small health problems that existed before, but without proper healthcare, they have become hard to bear. The MCS has cancelled two appointments with an orthopaedic doctor now,” she alleged.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has not responded to a petition filed in September, asking it to investigate the alleged failure to provide medical care, Nazra said.

Ahmed Lugman, a spokesman for the MCS, denied Nazra’s allegations, claiming Mahloof’s health problems were “not at a concerning level.” He said the MP is being afforded proper medical care.

Mahloof’s lawyer has filed an appeal of both prison sentences at the high court, but hearings are yet to begin.

Alleged due process violations listed in Mahloof’s submission include the judge’s refusal to hear defence witnesses. The charge of obstructing police duty carries either a fine of no more than MVR12,000 (US$778) or a jail sentence of no more than six months.

Opposition MP Ali Azim was also fined MVR3,000 (US$195) in February after being found guilty of refusing to obey a police officer’s order to leave a protest area. But the prosecutors had asked for the maximum jail sentence in Mahloof’s cases.

He was found guilty of scaling barricades and trying to enter the restricted Republic Square during an opposition protest on the night of March 25, 2015, and then of trying to “flee” from the police after a remand hearing at the criminal court on April 3, 2015.

Nazim Sattar, Mahloof’s lawyer, said the MP was first sentenced to jail over the April 3 incident. The criminal court went on to choose a jail sentence for the March 25 incident instead of a fine, on the basis that Mahloof now had a criminal record.

Nazim has also asked the high court to delay the implementation of the second sentence, which is due to begin in December, arguing that the sentences were unlawful.

Mahloof, a former ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MP, has meanwhile thanked former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom for withdrawing support for his half-brother and incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen.

In a statement on Sunday, he went on to thank Gayoom and Nasheed “for working for the rights of the people and the country,” and encouraged parliamentarians to rise up against Yameen’s tyranny.

Mahloof has also petitioned the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a specialised UN agency, to declare his imprisonment as illegal and arbitrary.

The petition is the fourth from a high-profile Maldivian politician to come before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention since 2015. The cases of former Defence Mohamed Nazim and Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla have also been submitted after the UNWGAD ruled in September that Nasheed’s conviction on a terrorism charge was politically motivated.

Despite the jail term, Mahloof retains his seat as a sitting MP is only disqualified if he is sentenced to more than one year in prison. However, he is not allowed to attend parliamentary sittings or committee meetings.