Former President Mohamed Nasheed has requested an extension of his medical leave in the UK by a further two months to undergo treatment for a chronic back problem.
Doctors estimate “it would take six to eight weeks for the initial stages of the treatment,” reads a letter Nasheed’s lawyer Hassan Latheef sent to Commissioner of Prisons Mohamed Husham on February 14.
The Maldives Correctional Services wrote to Nasheed’s father Abdul Sattar Umar last week and asked him to submit details of the opposition leader’s treatment by Sunday.
Azima Shakoor, the minister for legal affairs at the president’s office, told reporters in Colombo last month that the government would extend Nasheed’s medical leave on request.
“Our belief is he would return. He is a man of great stature. I don’t think there is a question of him not returning,” Azima was quoted as saying by the AFP. “If he requests an extension of medical leave, he will certainly get it.”
The government authorised a 30-day medical leave for Nasheed last month in a deal brokered by Sri Lanka, India, the UK and US. He was found guilty of ordering the “abduction” of a judge after a widely criticised trial in March last year and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
In September, the UN Working Group for Arbitrary Detention declared Nasheed’s imprisonment illegal and politically motivated. The specialised UN agency also rejected the government’s appeal “without comment,” according to Nasheed’s lawyers.
Latheef previously told The Maldives Independent that Nasheed had controlled his chronic back pain with regular exercise.
“[But] he was not allowed exercise in jail, which only exacerbated the condition. It was prison doctors who recommended the surgery,” he said.
“President Nasheed prefers rehabilitation or physical therapy over an invasive surgery. He is regularly in touch with his doctor in the UK, who says it may take up to six months for full recovery. We will know more later.”
The lawyers have meanwhile asked the MCS to send official letters to Nasheed’s brother Dr Ibrahim Nashid instead of his father.
“Why must MCS write to president Nasheed’s father when his brother is the one who had signed the MCS document, agreeing to up-date the authorities regarding president Nasheed’s medical treatment?” Latheef said.
Latheef said that the former president would like to keep his family out of political wrangling.
Upon his arrival in London, Nasheed had met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma, and appeared on CNN, BBC and Channel 4 to talk about his imprisonment, and the recruitment of Maldivians by extremist groups.
Criticising Nasheed’s media blitz, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon had said that the former president’s “primary goal was to court publicity in the United Kingdom.”
“This is not medical leave, but media leave,” she said.
But Nasheed told the British press that his medical condition is “serious” as he has to undergo surgery to correct slipped discs in his spine.
“In my 20s, I was tortured twice by the Gayoom regime. So I have chronic back problem,” he said, referring to long periods in prison during the 30-year reign of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – Dunya’s father and half-brother of the incumbent president.
Nasheed also said that he intends to the return to the Maldives and challenge Yameen in the 2018 presidential election. But the opposition leader will only be able to contest the election if the apex court overturns his terrorism conviction.
The Supreme Court began hearings in the state’s appeal of Nasheed’s conviction on February 3.