Former President Mohamed Nasheed has been denied access to legal counsel since his return to Maafushi jail on Sunday night. Lawyers said prisons officers are awaiting authorization from the home ministry.
Ibrahim Riffath, a member of the opposition leader’s legal team, told The Maldives Independent that the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) is refusing to allow lawyers to meet their client in the high-security prison despite submitting the necessary documents.
“MSC says they are waiting for permission from acting home minister Mohamed Shainee,” Riffath said.
Aside from the lack of access, Riffath added: “What concerns me most is that his family and legal team has so far received no information regarding his status.”
The MCS has a constitutional obligation to ensure the right to legal counsel for Nasheed, Riffath said.
“We are finding it extremely difficult to make necessary legal arrangements regarding his re-imprisonment,” Riffath said.
The former president’s legal team contends that the transfer to jail was illegal and arbitrary as the government has commuted the 13-year jail sentence to house arrest. But the government denies permanently commuting the sentence, claiming a document Nasheed signed agreeing to the terms of his house arrest was forged.
MCS media official Moosa Rameez, however, denied that Nasheed is being denied access to lawyers.
“For lawyers to meet someone who is in custody, a request form must be filled and there is a procedure. It is not something we can arrange at an instant,” Rameez said, adding that delays does not amount to complete denial of access.
Rameez assured that the prisons authority will respect Nasheed’s right to legal counsel.
He was, however, unable to comment on the lawyer’s claim that the MCS was awaiting authorisation from acting home minister Shainee.
In the wake of Nasheed’s transfer to prison, British Prime Minister David Cameron and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussain have called on the government to release the former president.
The criminal court has thrown out Nasheed’s challenge to the prison transfer.