The department of immigration has denied that a silhouetted illustration of a man in Maldives’ new passport was a depiction of former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was sentenced to 13 years in jail on a terrorism charge last year.
The illustration has gone viral on social media with comparisons to a photo of Nasheed in a similar pose, with his arms akimbo.
The opposition leader is in the UK on government-authorised medical leave.
A press statement by the department said that none of the drawings on the new passport, released last month, represented any living persons.
“The artist [who illustrated the passport] has confirmed to immigration that the illustrations are his own. Our investigations also revealed that the original design of the passport has been altered in the photo currently circulating online,” read the statement.
The statement said that the rumors about the passport were fabricated in order to “halt its acclamation by foreigners, and to cease the faith people have in its security features.”
Such allegations are harmful for those using the passport, the statement added.
“We call for an immediate stop to the affront to the passport, by those seeking to benefit politically by causing doubt about the passport.”
State broadcaster Public Service Media has since reported that the immigration officials have threatened to take legal action against individuals who defame the Maldivian passport.
The new polycarbonate passport features illustrations depicting Maldivian culture and traditions by local artist Hussain Ali Manik. It was designed by German company Dermalog with 34 security features.
According to the immigration department, the design reflects the “tradition, religion, and beauty of the Maldives.”
The Maldives is the first country in South Asia to introduce biometric e-passports and e-gate services. Passports of locals will no longer be stamped upon exit or arrival by immigration officials, the department said.