Jailed opposition MP Ahmed Mahloof was granted ten days leave to travel to India to seek treatment and undergo medical tests not available in the Maldives.
The lawmaker, jailed under “politically motivated” charges of obstructing police duty in July, is said to be suffering from skin allergies, blurry eyesight, a broken arm and a stiff neck.
Nazra Naseem, his wife, said that she had requested the Maldives Correctional Services to allow Mahloof to travel to Bangkok nearly two months ago. The MSC, however, only granted the permission to go to India for ten days, including travel time.
“It took a lot of work to even get ten days. Even though Mahloof remains strong, I was worried as the allergies have been acting up for quite some time now,” she said.
Nazra added that Mahloof will be flying with members of his family by the end of the week, after he receives travel documents.
The spokesperson for the MCS was not responding to calls for comment at the time of going to press.
Mahloof, appointed as the spokesperson for the Maldives United Opposition, was handed two jail sentences of a combined ten months and 24 days in July on two counts of obstructing police duty. The court ruling coincided ahead of the Maldives United Opposition’s first planned rally in July.
Mahloof was detained multiple times while trying to promote the rally in Malé.
The MP’s lawyer has filed an appeal of both sentences at the high court, but hearings are yet to begin.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union in November called on the Maldivin authorities to transfer Mahloof to house imprisonment, expressing concern over the severity of the sentence he was handed.
The international organisation of parliaments said it “fails to understand the justification for his conviction and sentence.”
The charge of obstructing police duty carries a maximum fine of MVR12,000 (US$778) or a jail sentence up to six months.
Another opposition MP Ali Azim was fined MVR3,000 (US$195) in February after being found guilty under similar charges as Mahloof. Azim was accused of refusing to obey a police officer’s order to leave a protest area. In Mahloof’s case however, the prosecutors had asked for the maximum jail sentence.
The criminal court found Mahloof guilty of scaling barricades and trying to enter the restricted Republic Squareduring an opposition protest on the night of March 25, 2015, and then of trying to “flee” from the police after a remand hearing at the criminal court on April 3, 2015.
Mahloof’s lawyer also said the MP was first sentenced to jail over the April 3 incident. The criminal court went on to choose a jail sentence for the March 25 incident instead of a fine, on the basis that Mahloof now had a criminal record.
Mahloof has petitioned the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a specialised UN agency, to declare his imprisonment as illegal and arbitrary.
Other due process violations listed in Mahloof’s submission include the judge’s refusal to hear defence witnesses.
Following a fact-finding mission in October, an IPU delegation said it “fails to understand how it can be argued that Mr. Mahloof would have tried to flee from the police in the presence of a sizeable police force at the court building,” reads the preliminary observations of its fact-finding mission conducted from October 10 to 12.
It also noted contradictions in the accounts of the authorities, Mahloof’s wife and others over “the facts and legal basis” of the case.
The delegation expressed hope that the lawmaker will be allowed to serve his sentence in house arrest “in light of reports about Mr. Mahloof’s poor health”.
The petition is the fourth from a high-profile Maldivian politician to come before the agency since 2015. The cases of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla were also submitted after the group ruled last September that former President Mohamed Nasheed’s conviction on a terrorism charge was politically motivated.
Although Mahloof is not allowed to attend parliamentary sittings or committee meetings, he retains his seat in the parliament. Under the Maldivian constitution, a sitting MP is disqualified if he is sentenced to more than one year in prison.
In November, a motion tabled by MPs of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party urging the parliament to monitor Mahloof’s health was thrown out.
The MDP had staged a protest over Mahloof’s conviction on the parliament floor in July.