Jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed’s siblings and extended family won today the right to visit him in prison every week.
Nasheed’s brother Ahmed Nazim Sattar had sued the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) at the civil court over what he contends was an arbitrary decision in June to limit Nasheed’s weekly family visits to his parents, wife and children.
“Visitation rights have now been set to as it was before. This is a big development. The MCS did not reveal why they had stopped giving us the chance to visit. We believe it was personal,” Nazim told the press today.
The decision was reached today after two dispute resolution meetings. Lawyers from the attorney general’s office represented the MCS.
After the first meeting on Thursday, the MCS told Nazim that Nasheed’s siblings and extended family could visit once a month.
But Nazim said he would seek a civil court order ruling Nasheed was entitled to weekly extended family visits.
“We wanted a court ruling because the MCS is not arranging visitation according to the regulations and they change it whenever they want to. The regulation says family members can visit once a week. It doesn’t limit which family members,” he said.
Nazim, his sister and aunt were allowed to visit Nasheed before the meeting.
Nasheed is kept at a special protection unit at the high-security prison on the island of Maafushi.
The prisons spokesman previously said that recently compiled regulations for the special protection units where high-profile prisoners including the former president and two defence ministers are held – only allow weekly family visits by immediate family members.
While Nasheed’s visits were abruptly limited to his parents, wife and daughters, other prisoners in the special protection units are allowed visits from siblings.
When questioned, the prisons spokesman later suggested the change was brought because Nasheed was allowed more frequent visits. But the families of other prisoners at the special protection units told The Maldives Independent that they are also allowed weekly visits.
The opposition leader was convicted of terrorism in March and sentenced to 13 years in jail. He was found guilty of ordering the arrest of a judge during his tenure.
A UN human rights panel ruled last month that his imprisonment was illegal and called for his immediate release.
But the government criticised the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s (WGAD) judgment as “flawed and premature” and rejected the “non-binding opinion.”
When Nasheed was brought to the civil court today, his supporters had gathered near the civil court and called for his release and for the government to abide by the UN working group on arbitrary detention to release him.