Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s parents and siblings were denied a weekly visit at the high-security prison on Maafushi Island today, according to lawyers.
“The office of President Nasheed condemns in the strongest terms this arbitrary and politically motivated decision and calls upon the government to cease their vindictive intimidation of President Nasheed,” read a statement issued today.
The opposition leader was taken back to jail on August 23, eight weeks after he was transferred to house arrest amidst negotiations for his release.
Lawyers said the government had commuted Nasheed’s 13 year jail term on a terrorism conviction to house arrest, but the government denies authorizing the transfer.
Nasheed’s wife and daughters were allowed to visit him on August 28.
Moosa Rameez, the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) spokesman, said rules compiled for the special protection units where Nasheed and other jailed politicians, including two former defence ministers, are held, restrict visiting rights to immediate family. This encompasses parents, spouses and children only.
The rules were established when Nasheed was transferred from a remand center to the Maafushi Jail, he said.
Nasheed’s parents were told they could visit him today, but his siblings were excluded, Rameez added.
While convicts are allowed one family visit per month, individuals in the special protection unites are allowed one family visit every week, he said.
Nasheed’s office said the change in visitation rights today “is an arbitrary change that was introduced only a week after visitation was restricted to his parents, spouse and children.”
Meanwhile, lawyers have requested Home Minister Umar Naseer to allow Nasheed to see the doctor for an MRI scan for a spinal injury.
After a consultation on August 19, Nasheed’s doctor had recommended he undergo physiotherapy and rest in a stress free environment such as his home. The best treatment could only be determined after an MRI scan, the doctor said, according to a statement by lawyers.
The home ministry was unavailable for a comment at the time of going to press.
Hassan Latheef, who represents Nasheed, told the Maldives Independent, that the government had not yet responded to their letter.
“Other than to tell us that our cases have not been accepted at court, the government rarely responds to any of our letters,” he said.
The home ministry has also been requested to allow Nasheed’s international legal team to visit him next week.
Three-month visas for the three heavyweight human rights lawyers, were approved on August 14. The team includes Jared Genser, the founder of the renowned campaign group for political prisoners Freedom Now, Amal Clooney, who has advised the UN and is the wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, and Ben Emmerson, a UN rights chief on counter-terrorism and human rights.
The three helped the opposition leader file a petition with the UN working group on arbitrary detention, requesting a judgment declaring Nasheed’s 13-year jail term on terrorism charges arbitrary and illegal.
A ruling is expected in September or October, Nasheed’s office has said.
The lawyers’ visit, expected in the first week of September, will be brief, the office has said.
Nasheed was sentenced over the arrest of a judge during his tenure. The trial was widely criticized for lack of due process, and world leaders including UK Prime Minister David Cameron have called for his release.
The UN, the American and British governments have renewed calls for Nasheed’s release.
This article was updated at 7pm on September 3 to include comments from the MCS.