Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim has been barred from travelling overseas after he was hospitalised Sunday afternoon, shortly before the first hearing of a fresh trial on bribery charges.
The 65-year-old lawmaker was admitted at the Medica Hospital around 12:45pm after complaining of breathing difficulties and chest pains on his way to the office.
“He was taken to the hospital yesterday afternoon after having severe breathing difficulties. The family later decided to transfer him to Sri Lanka for better medical treatment,” Ali Solih, the JP’s media coordinator, told the Maldives Independent.
“We found out that the passport was seized when we went to the airport. We do not believe the government has a valid reason to seize his passport. We have not seen any court order,” he added.
Gasim was unaware of the travel ban when he was stopped by immigration officials at the Velana International Airport.
Solih said the JP believes Gasim’s passport was blacklisted when he returned from a brief visit to Singapore last week. He accused the authorities of acting in contravention of the new criminal procedures law that came into effect in early July, which requires a copy of the court order withholding the passport to be sent to both the relevant authorities and the accused on the same day it is issued.
“God willing, he will return to join the reform efforts with the joint opposition when his condition improves. Gasim is not the type of person to flee the country. I guarantee that he will surely return to the country even if he is allowed to travel overseas,” Solih continued.
“One of the most serious acts of oppression by the government is the obstruction of politicians from trying to get medical treatment abroad. It is as if this is the government’s biggest health pledge for the people.”
The criminal court meanwhile cancelled a preliminary hearing scheduled for 2 pm after Gasim was hospitalised due to high blood pressure.
The trial was due to restart after the Prosecutor General’s office resubmitted the bribery charges last week. A three-judge panel threw out the case last Tuesday when state prosecutors failed to show up at court.
After he was unable to fly overseas, Gasim was transferred to the private ADK hospital and his condition is said to be improving.
The business tycoon was previously put on trial for declaring that the allied parties would grant tickets for the 2019 parliamentary elections to MPs who vote to impeach Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed. He also offered to help with their re-election campaigns during a speech at an opposition rally.
He was charged with bribery, influencing the official conduct of a public official and intimidating and improperly influencing a voter. The lawmaker was detained for 26 days in the wake of the opposition’s failed bid to remove Maseeh in late March.
Gasim’s arrest prompted the EU and the embassies of Canada, Norway, Switzerland and the US to urge the government to respect fundamental freedoms and to allow opposition politicians “to conduct their activities without fear of intimidation or incarceration”.
The government, however, dismissed allegations of harassing and intimidating opposition leaders, insisting that the police and judiciary are independent.
Wishing a speedy recovery for Hon. Qasim Ibrahim.
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) July 16, 2017
Wishing a speedy recovery for Hon. Qasim Ibrahim. Call on Govt to lift the illegal travel ban preventing him from seeking treatment abroad!
— Abdulla Shahid 🎈 (@abdulla_shahid) July 17, 2017
— Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (@maumoonagayoom) July 16, 2017