Jailed former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb cannot be allowed to seek medical treatment overseas because he would have the opportunity to flee, Attorney General Mohamed Anil told the press Tuesday.
Speaking at a press briefing at the president’s office, Anil denied that the authorities have deprived Adeeb of health care and suggested that he could afford to bring specialists from abroad if the required treatment is unavailable in the Maldives.
“Adeeb is a very high flight risk. And if he escapes, the loss to the state will be very high,” he said.
“In what country would a person convicted of trying to kill the head of state be allowed to escape? In what country would someone who embezzled millions of dollars owed to the state be allowed to escape with that money?”
The former vice president is serving a 33-year jail sentence on multiple counts of corruption and terrorism. He was found guilty of masterminding a bomb attack on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat and of plotting to use a firearm during an opposition protest.
In addition to a conviction for the theft of US$5 million from state coffers, Adeeb is also facing prosecution on numerous counts of abuse of authority over the embezzlement of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation – a corruption scandal of unprecedented scale in Maldivian history.
Anil said the government believes the bulk of the stolen funds are overseas and suggested that authorising Adeeb to leave the country would be an opportunity for him to escape and access the funds.
The AG’s remarks were prompted by recent media reports about Adeeb repeatedly seeking permission to travel overseas for the treatment of glaucoma, kidney stones and internal cysts.
The Maldives Correctional Services say it is not presently responsible for Adeeb as he was transferred to a police custodial centre in March, but the police told Adeeb’s family that the prisons authority is responsible for arranging medical care for convicts.
Anil went on to say that Adeeb has the right to file complaints with watchdog bodies and noted that members of the human rights watchdog visited him in prison on Monday as part of an inquiry.
On Wednesday, MP Abdulla Riyaz meanwhile asked the parliament’s independent institutions oversight committee to look into Adeeb’s case and to summon the heads of the agencies responsible for providing medical care for inmates.
Former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, presently the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, has also brought Adeeb’s case to the attention of Dr Danius Puras, the UN special rapporteur on the right to health.
Adeeb’s wife Maryam Nashwa told the Maldives Independent last week that the family’s main concern is glaucoma as it can lead to permanent blindness
“As far as we know, the treatment is not available in Maldives. Adeeb has a persisting kidney problem, he has had kidney stones removed once before. Doctors have also asked to test an internal cyst for cancer,” she said.
The family is especially concerned about the cyst because a sibling had died after the discovery of a cancerous cyst.
“Adeeb’s brother died at 33 years after a cancerous cyst was diagnosed. The cyst was diagnosed at stage three and doctors have asked to do tests. It has been more than a year now,” Nashwa said.
Adeeb’s lawyer Moosa Siraj previously alleged that MCS officials told him that Adeeb was denied treatment due to “orders from above”.
“We had a meeting with senior officials of MCS about the issue and they informed us that they were following orders from above. I don’t know what that means, but I know that they were very concerned about it as well,” Siraj told the Maldives Independent.
Adeeb’s family members were also present at the meeting, he added. But MCS spokesman Ahmed Lugman has since dismissed the allegation.
Siraj also accused the prisons authority of delaying treatment for Adeeb.
“In January last year, Adeeb consulted an eye doctor and was asked to do three tests. Corrections delayed until March this year,” he alleged.
“Even then only one of those tests were done. Glaucoma is something that can be prevented if diagnosed early, now Adeeb has to take treatment for it his whole life.”
Siraj also contends that Adeeb is being held in police custody in contravention of the jails and parole law, which requires convicted prisoners to be held in a prison facility operated by the MCS.
Adeeb was transferred to the police detention centre on the island of Dhoonidhoo near Malé reportedly on the instruction of Home Minister Mohamed Azleen. A police spokeswoman confirmed Adeeb’s transfer to the Maldives Independent at the time but was unable to explain whether the prisons authority is authorised to transfer an inmate serving a jail sentence to police custody.
Siraj at the time denied media reports alleging that Adeeb was transferred to Dhoonidhoo after an attempt to escape from the high-security Maafushi prison.