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Outrage as Adeeb given permission to travel abroad

Police and corrections officers to accompany ex-vice president



The government’s decision to allow Ahmed Adeeb to seek medical treatment abroad has caused consternation among lawmakers who fear he may flee justice.

Ahmed Adeeb, who served as former president Abdulla Yameen’s second deputy, was accused of plotting to assassinate Yameen and involvement in the embezzlement of more than US$90 million from state coffers. He was sentenced to 33 years in jail but had his convictions quashed in May by appellate courts on the grounds of undue political influence over the trials in 2016. The High Court has ordered fresh trials for two of the three convictions against Adeeb.

On Tuesday, the Maldives Corrections Service announced that Adeeb had been given permission to travel abroad on “medical grounds” – to seek treatment for glaucoma.

Maldivian Democratic Party MP Mickail Naseem is among those concerned that Adeeb may try to escape justice. On Wednesday, he submitted an early day motion to parliament calling on the MCS to explain what security procedures it had in place to prevent Adeeb absconding.

Naseem pointed out that Adeeb stands accused of helping two people escape prosecution for the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali and the abduction and likely murder of Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla.

Lawmakers voted to send the issue for debate to the national security and foreign relations committee. The committee has summoned the home minister, police chief, commissioner of prisons and immigration controller. 

Following the motion, the home ministry, which supervises the work of the MCS, issued a statement on the security arrangements for Adeeb’s medical visit to India.

“After the decision to send Ahmed Adeeb for treatment abroad, the government has made all necessary security arrangements. For the trip to India for medical purposes, under the recommendation of the medical board, Maldives police and corrections officers will take part,” the statement said.

It added that the government will take all necessary measures to ensure that Adeeb faces trial in the Maldives.

“Even though, Ahmed Adeeb is allowed to travel abroad to ensure [his] health-related fundamental rights, this will not obstruct justice or prevent him from facing trial. The Maldivian government is working to ensure this.”

The home ministry’s statement noted that Adeeb’s doctors had recommended medical treatment abroad because necessary treatment was not available in the Maldives. It said that efforts to bring foreign medical experts to the Maldives had been unsuccessful.

In addition to ordering fresh trials, the High Court also ordered a 15-day remand period, instructing the Prosecutor General’s Office to seek a lower court order to keep Adeeb detained until a fresh trial begins.

The criminal court, however, denied the request, citing its decision to dismiss 15 pending cases against Adeeb, including two for which the High Court ordered retrials.

The prosecutor general has challenged the High Court’s decisions in the Supreme Court.

In the wake of outrage and concern over the decision to authorise overseas treatment, the presidential commission on enforced disappearances and deaths tweeted that it had summoned Adeeb and questioned him over the disappearance of Rilwan and the murder of Dr Afrasheem. It added that it had recorded a statement by Adeeb.

Fears that Adeeb would try to seek medical treatment abroad to escape justice at home were raised by Rilwan’s family last November. In a press statement they said they feared that Adeeb – who was then serving a 33-year sentence on multiple counts of corruption and terrorism – would not return if he were allowed to leave the country.

“Our family believes that Ahmed Adeeb needs to be questioned and investigated in relation to Rilwan’s abduction. Previously revealed information points to Adeeb’s connection with people suspected of abducting Rilwan,” the family said.

Adeeb was previously questioned in relation to Rilwan’s abduction after his arrest on charges of conspiring to assassinate the president.

On the fourth anniversary of Rilwan’s disappearance last August, Adeeb issued a statement through his lawyer denying any involvement in allowing a suspect arrested over the abduction to leave the country.

After nearly two years of denying any link between Rilwan’s disappearance and an abduction reported outside his building, police said in April 2016 that he was indeed forced into a car at knife-point.

Despite waiting nearly two years to confirm hostile surveillance, police knew Rilwan was followed before his abduction on August 8, 2014 by Mohamed Suaid, who was allowed to leave the country after his release from custody in November 2014.

Suaid, who was charged in absentia three years later, left the country in January 2015 with Azlif Rauf, a former soldier charged in connection with the murder of moderate religious scholar Afrasheem Ali.

Their families say the pair died fighting in Syria.