The police have questioned two witnesses over a disputed document from the prisons authority commuting former President Mohamed Nasheed’s 13-year jail sentence to house arrest.
After accompanying a witness to the police headquarters last night, Mahfooz Saeed from Nasheed’s legal team told the press that the police have assured lawyers the investigation will be completed in two weeks.
The witnesses were present when an officer from the Maldives Correctional Service presented the document to the former president at his residence, Maafanu Yaagoothuge, in Malé.
Nasheed’s lawyers contend that the opposition leader’s re-imprisonment on August 23 was illegal as the government had commuted his sentence amidst talks on political reconciliation.
The government insisted the MCS document was forged, but Nasheed’s lawyers said earlier this month that a forensic analysis has confirmed its authenticity.
Nasheed was transferred for three days of house arrest on June 19 after his doctor recommended a stress-free environment. The MCS extended the period to a further eight weeks on June 23.
Soon afterwards, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party began official talks with the government, and backed two constitutional amendments in the hopes of securing the release of Nasheed as well as other jailed politicians, including former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party’s leader.
The MDP withdrew from the talks after Nasheed was taken back to jail, accusing the government of failing to honour its commitments.
In a u-turn from his earlier demand for a “political solution,” Nasheed appealed his conviction at the Supreme Court earlier this month. After months of anti-government protests and unsuccessful negotiations with the government, President Abdulla Yameen continued to insist that Nasheed must exhaust the appeal process to be eligible for a pardon.
Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism in March over the military’s detention of a judge in January 2012. The 19-day trial was widely condemned over its apparent lack of due process.
In September, a UN human rights panel ruled that Nasheed’s imprisonment was illegal and politically motivated .
The government rejected the judgement by the UN Working on Arbitrary Detention as “flawed and premature.” But the government has since welcomed Nasheed’s decision to appeal the terrorism charge, saying the Supreme Court should consider the UN WGAD opinion.
Nasheed’s lawyers have also filed separate cases at the High Court and civil court. Lawyers have asked the civil court to order the home ministry and the MCS to release Nasheed in light of the WGAD judgment.
The High Court was asked to rule on the legitimacy of the MCS sentence commutation document.
The decision to pursue other avenues of litigation followed the European parliament renewing calls for Nasheed’s release in a resolution urging member states to impose targeted sanctions on top government officials.
Lawyers have also expressed concern over Nasheed’s deteriorating health. He requires a surgery to correct slipped discs in his backbone. While Nasheed’s family have asked permission to travel abroad for the surgery, Home Minister Umar Naseer insists the surgery can be done in the Maldives.