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Maldives ex-VP arrested again after court ordered release

Adeeb’s previous arrest in international waters was declared unlawful.



Former vice president Ahmed Adeeb was arrested early on Monday morning from his residence in Malé, a few hours after the criminal court ordered his release.

Shortly after he was brought back from India, the criminal court freed Adeeb on the grounds that his arrest in international waters was unlawful.

He was arrested again with a court warrant around 5:30am and taken to the Dhoonidhoo detention centre, local media reported.

Adeeb fled as a stowaway on a tugboat in defiance of a travel ban imposed by the Supreme Court. The Indian authorities held him for questioning when he arrived on Thursday at the Tuticorin port – where he was denied entry despite seeking asylum  – and handed him over to the Maldives police at the maritime border.

The 37-year-old was brought to Malé late on Sunday night and taken to court for extension of detention. But the judge ordered his release after a prosecutor and police officers admitted that he was arrested outside Maldivian territory, according to reporters at the three-hour remand hearing.

The warrant issued for his arrest could not have been legally executed beyond the country’s territory, where Maldivian jurisdiction does not extend, the judge ruled.

Adeeb was on an Indian-flagged ship at the time of the arrest, police told the court. Citing the law of the sea, the judge noted that Indian laws would apply on the vessel.

Aside from violating the travel ban, Adeeb was also accused of fleeing after signing a confession and agreeing to testify at court, presumably in former president’s Abdulla Yameen’s money laundering trial.

Adeeb’s lawyers alleged that he had been forced to sign an agreement implicating former government officials in exchange for  authorising medical leave to India. They also accused the Maldives police of “seeking to coerce him into signing documents that would amount to a false admission of guilt and put his life and the life of members of his family in danger.”

On Sunday, Adeeb’s international legal team condemned India’s decision to hand him over to Maldivian authorities. The UN High Commission for Refugees and the High Commission for Human Rights had been considering his request for protection, they said.

“The handing over of a foreign national who made a plea for asylum to officials of the state in which he feared ill-treatment is unlawful,” the UK-based law firm Guernica 37 contended in a statement. “Irrespective of whether he had entered the country illegally, the Indian authorities were under an obligation to properly assess his request.”

India’s stance that Adeeb could be handed over because he never set foot on Indian soil “beggars belief,” said Toby Cadman, head of the legal team. The tugboat Virgo 9 was kept within Indian sovereign waters about 500 meters from the coast before it was escorted to the maritime border, he said.

“As he is now being detained unlawfully, with no access to lawyers, we will be petitioning the UN Special Procedures in Geneva, in particular the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” Cadman added.

Ahead of his return to the Maldives, police also raided and searched Adeeb’s apartment in the early hours of Sunday.

According to police, Adeeb fled after he was due to appear for questioning over the theft of US$90 million from state coffers.

“Adeeb was cooperating with us on all cases,” a senior Maldives security official told Al Jazeera. “But maybe somewhere along the way he realised he might have to go back to jail because of the cases before the Supreme Court.”

The official suggested Adeeb might have been “scheming to abscond all along.”

After serving three years in prison over the embezzlement scheme and an alleged plot to assassinate former president Abdulla Yameen, Adeeb was transferred to house arrest in the wake of his former mentor’s defeat in September’s presidential election.

In late May, Adeeb walked out of court an innocent man after his 33-year combined sentence on terrorism and corruption charges was wiped out by the appeal courts, which cited political influence and ordered retrials.

But the Supreme Court ordered immigration to hold his passport after the Prosecutor General’s office filed an appeal. The state challenged a High Court ruling that set aside his conviction over the theft of US$5 million paid as a resort acquisition fee.

Adeeb was freed from house arrest two weeks ago, shortly after he returned from medical leave in India. “I will face your investigations and I will never run away from responsibilities,” he tweeted upon his return in early July.

Photo from Shumba Gong