The Attorney General’s Office had denied reports that former President Mohamed Nasheed’s 13-year jail term was commuted to house arrest on July 19, raising fears he could be transferred to prison at any time.
The opposition leader’s international lawyer Jared Genser told reporters in Colombo on July 24 that the government had “permanently moved President Nasheed to house arrest for the balance of his 13-year term in prison.”
The Maldivian high commission in Sri Lanka also confirmed the move to AFP whist Nasheed’s domestic legal team told The Maldives Independent that the decision had been communicated in writing.
“Nasheed’s house arrest was not officially commuted to house arrest. The Home Minister has not made such a decision,” deputy Attorney General Ismail Wisham told The Maldives Independent today.
The Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) has also said it is unaware of any official documentation on the commutation of Nasheed’s 13-year jail.
“I am unaware that Nasheed has been handed any official documents guaranteeing that his jail term has been commuted to house arrest,” said Commissioner of Prisons Mohamed Husham.
Nasheed was first transferred to house arrest for three days on doctor’s recommendations for a stress free environment June 19. The period was extended to eight weeks soon after the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) announced it would back a constitutional amendment to set new age limits for the presidency.
Husham insisted today that Nasheed is being kept under house arrest based on doctor’s recommendation and orders from the home ministry, “not because the jail term has been commuted.”
“We will decide on keeping him under house arrest or taking him back to jail after reviewing the recommendation by his doctors,” he said.
The eight week house arrest period is due to expire tomorrow, August 21.
Deputy AG Wisham said Nasheed’s doctor had submitted a second report following a consultation on Wednesday, but Home Minister Umar Naseer is yet to make a decision on extending the opposition leader’s house arrest. Wisham did not reveal the contents of the doctor’s report.
“To our knowledge there is no major shift between the recommendations in the first and second report,” he said.
The President’s Office and Nasheed’s lawyers were not responding to calls at the time of going to press.
Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest was widely seen as part of a deal with the government in exchange for the MDP’s backing for several crucial votes in parliament.
Shortly after the house arrest was extended to eight weeks, the MDP and the government officially began talks on clemency for Nasheed and other jailed politicians as well as the withdrawal of charges against some 1,400 opposition supporters.
Opposition MPs subsequently backed the impeachment of vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel and the constitutional amendment setting new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency. The amendment allowed President Yameen to replace Jameel with the influential tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.
The MDP also issued a free whip on a second constitutional amendment to allow foreign freeholds in the Maldives. Some 19 opposition MPs, including ten MDP MPs, voted to pass the amendment.
At the fourth meeting of talks, MDP representative Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had suggested that Nasheed may be released before July 26.
However, amidst rumours of a presidential pardon, the prosecutor general appealed Nasheed’s terrorism conviction at the High Court, prompting the MDP to call on the government to honour its commitments.
Talks between the MDP and the government have been stalled since mid-July.
The Prosecutor General has since announced he will appeal Nasheed’s guilty verdict at the High Court.
Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed.