Prisoners released through a presidential pardon last month will be unable to vote because they were registered to cast their ballot in jail, the Maldives Independent has learned.
People can only vote in the place they are registered. Thousands who live overseas, work in resorts or live in the capital with their permanent address elsewhere had to re-register before August 11.
But inmates were freed after voter re-registration closed. The Maldives Independent understands that drug traffickers and child sex offenders are among those released.
Maldives Correctional Service was contacted to ask how many people had been released through the presidential pardon, how many had been released after voter re-registration closed, and how many are registered to vote in jail.
It had not responded at the time of going to press.
The pardoned convicts are under house arrest for a month, and will then be under supervisory arrest on their islands.
Documents seen by the Maldives Independent also show that freed convicts have been asked not to participate in “any political activity that is not allowed by regulation” and to not share information that could harm the government’s reputation.
The guidelines say convicts “should not talk about, share information, or take part in encouraging conversations that are disrespectful to the government or cause lack of trust in it, either online, on social networks, on any other platforms. This includes ‘liking’ such social media posts.”
Convicts should also get permission from MCS to appear in any media events, said the guidelines.
There are also rules on how the freed inmates should dress. They should not wear anything revealing or clothing with hard to read logos. Their hair and nails should be trimmed and clothing should follow Islamic guidelines.
Freed inmates will be sent back to prison if they do not follow the guidelines, the documents say.
A relative of a pardoned prisoner said he was contacted by the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives.
“The PPM called to ask if the guardian is happy with President Yameen’s decision for clemency, and asked to vote for him if they are,” said the relative on condition of anonymity.
The pardon scheme could also affect the job prospects of freed prisoners who had been sentenced to exile on islands and had started working while serving their sentence on that island, said another source.
“[The convict] was working on an island, but they were told they had to be under house arrest in Malé now. They approached Corrections with letters from the employer saying they had been working steady jobs, and said the clemency programme made it impossible for them to return to work.”
Prison officials said the matter would be looked into and that the released prisoner should stay under house arrest in Malé until further notice.
Earlier this month, the home minister declared the state would no longer use electronic tagging because people were responsible and decent.
In July, the opposition accused the government of freeing prisoners to influence voters.