The prisons authority has granted an extension of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s medical leave in the UK until May 18, after reviewing its decision to revoke permission granted in April.
The jailed opposition leader’s medical leave was extended “after documents testifying to the fact that he needs surgery was submitted,” the Maldives Correctional Services said last night in a statement signed by Senior Prisons Officer Ahmed Luqman.
The reversal of the previous decision follows an expression of concern and a warning of action by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group if progress is not made by September to resolve a year-long political crisis sparked by the jailing of Nasheed and other high-profile politicians.
The MCS had revoked an extension granted last month after Nasheed’s lawyers denied President Abdulla Yameen’s claim that he was due to undergo surgery on April 19. Lawyers had said that medical documents submitted to the MCS made no mention of a surgery.
However, on April 19, Nasheed underwent a medical procedure under anesthesia to alleviate a back problem arising from slipped discs in his spine.
It is unclear whether Yameen was referring to the medical procedure when he said Nasheed was due to be “admitted for surgery.”
A day later, blaming lawyers for causing “confusion,” Home Minister Umar Naseer asked the MCS’ medical board to review Nasheed’s case “for reconsideration of medical leave.”
The prisons chief was subsequently sacked.
The government had initially authorised a 30-day medical leave for Nasheed in January, in a deal brokered by Sri Lanka, India, the UK and US. The move followed threats from the EU parliament and the UK of targeted sanctions against top government officials.
Nasheed 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.
Prison doctors last year recommended Nasheed undergo a surgery to correct slipped discs in his spine, but lawyers said Nasheed prefers physical therapy over surgery and that a period of six months would be required for recovery. The opposition leader has also indicated that he may not return to the Maldives until he is released.
The Supreme Court wrapped up hearings in the state’s appeal of Nasheed’s terrorism conviction in February. It is unclear when a verdict will be delivered.
A UN rights panel has ruled that his jailing was illegal and politically motivated. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also rejected the government’s appeal “without comment,” according to Nasheed’s lawyers.
Pressure is mounting on President Abdulla Yameen: In April, the US senate unanimously adopted a bipartisan resolution calling on the Maldivian government to redress the “injustice” of Nasheed’s imprisonment.
Since his arrival in the UK, Nasheed has urged foreign governments to place targeted sanctions on top government officials. He also 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.”
“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.