Jailed MP Ahmed Mahloof departed Tuesday afternoon to seek medical treatment in India for the second time in three months.
The independent lawmaker, who is serving a jail sentence of nearly 11 months on two counts of obstructing police duty, was granted a seven-day medical leave to seek treatment for persistent allergies.
Mahloof’s wife, Nazra Naseem, told the Maldives Independent that he will be treated with a three-dose course of an expensive injection called Xolair that needs to be administered every two weeks.
“It is used to treat the allergies that Mahloof is still suffering from. Both the doctors we showed before and local doctors recommended that course of treatment,” said Nazra, who is accompanying Mahloof on the trip along with the couple’s young daughter.
Mahloof was also granted a 10-day medical leave in early December to seek treatment for skin allergies, blurry eyesight, a broken arm and a stiff neck. He was authorised to seek treatment and undergo medical tests not available in the Maldives.
Mahloof was found guilty of scaling barricades and trying to enter the restricted Republic Square during 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.
Following his expulsion from the ruling party for “defaming” President Abdulla Yameen, Mahloof had been at the forefront of anti-government protests since early 2015.
His sentencing coincided with the first rally of the Maldives United Opposition in July last year. As the opposition coalition’s spokesman, he was also detained multiple times while trying to promote the rally in Malé.
Mahloof – who remains the representative for the Galolhu South constituency in Malé as his sentence does not exceed the one-year threshold that disqualifies a sitting MP – has issued several press statements from jail during the past month, criticising the judiciary, Yameen’s state of the nation address, and the change of burials from the capital to Hulhumalé.
He has also expressed concern over the lack of adequate medical treatment available for his fellow inmates at the high-security Maafushi jail. Some inmates have to wait for months to receive prescribed medication, he said.
As a result of psychological distress caused by alleged mistreatment, he said some inmates have “lost their minds”.
The Maldives Correctional Services’ spokesman declined to comment on Mahloof’s statement about prisons.
“We don’t do anything in jail that violates human dignity,” he insisted, adding that inmates are “always granted medical leave according to the procedures.”
Mahloof also drew attention to five prison deaths since his incarceration last year.
In July, Ibrahim Naazih, an inmate serving a four-year sentence, died while undergoing treatment at the hospital. A month later, Moosa Naeem, 55, died of unknown causes at the Maafushi jail.
In the following month, Adam Ali, also aged 55, who was being held in pre-trial detention, died at a remand centre in Malé.
Hassan Zareer, 28, also died while awaiting trial in November. According to newspaper Mihaaru, he was kept in custody for two years.
In December, Ahmed Hassan, 55, was found dead by prison guards at the low-security Asseyri jail on the island of Himmafushi.
Both the human rights watchdog and an independent police oversight body launched investigations into the custodial deaths, but neither has published findings so far.
Mahloof also informed the media that former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb – jailed for 33 years on multiple counts of terrorism and corruption – has been held in solitary confinement for more than a year inside “a concrete hole exposed to the sun”.
Adeeb, whose cell is separated by a partition from Mahloof’s, has also been denied medical treatment, he alleged.
Former Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin, who was jailed over an alleged plot to remove Yameen from power, along with death row inmates are also being held in similarly harsh conditions, Mahloof said.
The family of death row inmate Hussain Humam Ahmed has previously alleged mistreatment in prison, lodging numerous complaints with the Human Rights Commission of Maldives.
The spokesman of the prisons authority, however, insisted that Adeeb and others have received necessary medical treatment upon request.
“I am not aware he has been denied medical treatment,” he said.
The official declined to comment on the prison deaths.
Mahloof has meanwhile petitioned the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a specialised UN agency, to declare his imprisonment illegal.
In November, the Inter-Parliamentary Union called on the Maldivian authorities to transfer Mahloof to house arrest, declaring that it “fails to understand the justification for his conviction and sentence.”