Opposition supporters are celebrating former President Mohamed Nasheed’s temporary release from prison today. Family members and lawyers live-tweeted photos of his departure from the Maldives on a 30-day trip to the UK for a back surgery.
Nasheed’s flight to Colombo took off at 9:05pm tonight.
He is expected to spend a few days there before traveling to London to join his wife Laila Ali and two daughters. He will then undergo a surgery to correct slipped discs in his spine.
— Hudha (@AhmedHudha) January 18, 2016
His release was secured by a frantic diplomatic effort by top diplomats from the US, UK, India and Sri Lanka.
Nasheed’s international lawyer Jared Genser suggested that US Secretary of State John Kerry may have been involved in his client’s release, by tweeting a photo of Nasheed at the airport holding a phone to his ear, supposedly with Kerry.
— Jared Genser (@JaredGenser) January 18, 2016
Hugo Swire, the UK state minister for the foreign and Commonwealth office, is also said to have had a hand. He met with President Abdulla Yameen, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom during his two-day visit here. He left at noon today.
The deal was first brokered by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, according to Nasheed’s lawyers.
New Delhi-based The Hindhu on Sunday suggested India’s involvement, saying Foreign Secretary Dr S. Jaishankar’s January 11 call on President Abdulla Yameen was aimed at pressing upon the need for the Maldives to treat the opposition leader “in accordance with his status as a former elected leader.”
In return, India promised a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the paper said.
On social media, supporters wished the opposition leader a safe journey and heckled Home Minister Umar Naseer, who had nearly scuttled the deal by insisting Nasheed nominate a relative as a guarantor to remain in Malé until he returned.
Have a safe journey and wish u all the best President @MohamedNasheed
— Huzam (@Huzam) January 18, 2016
I think even the air smells nicer tonight. Food tastes better. Music sounds sweeter. Always in our hearts, RN 🙂
— Afshan Latheef (@AfshanLatheef) January 18, 2016
How many limes is Umar Naseer having for dinner?
— NzRv (@NzRv) January 18, 2016
Poor Umar Naseer though. Bet he's livid. ?
— SighPad M™ (@sipadmohd) January 18, 2016
Nasheed had refused to leave on Sunday when the government said his family must bear responsibility for him.
Lawyers then claimed Yameen had promised Samaraweera to allow Nasheed to depart without conditions. The government’s requirement of a guarantor would effectively leave the family member a “hostage” as he or she would be liable for criminal prosecution if they left Malé without the Maldives Correctional Service’s permission.
Naseer had further angered Nasheed’s supporters by alleging Nasheed had torn legal documents on Sunday and spat at a prisons staff today; lawyers have since denied both claims as lies.
The government finally caved in to intense diplomatic pressure this evening by waiving criminal liability on the guarantor. Nasheed’s older brother Ibrahim Nashid signed forms as his guardian. Nashid, and lawyers Hassan Latheef and Hisaan Hussain accompanied Nasheed to Colombo
The foreign ministry reminded Nasheed he was a “serving prisoner” and that he was required to serve the remainder of his 13-year jail term on his return.
Dunya said: “I am glad all relevant legal documentation is completed. Throughout this period the government has acted in good faith. We ask that Mr Nasheed and his representatives in turn abide by the agreement signed and agreed today. These are standard requirements in line with international norms.”
An appeal of Nasheed’s terrorism conviction is now before the Supreme Court.
He was sentenced over the military’s detention of a judge during his tenure.
The UN has called his imprisonment politically motivated and illegal, and world leaders including UK Prime Minister David Cameron and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon have called for his immediate release.
Nasheed’s lawyers are now pursuing targeted sanctions on regime officials and businessmen who back them, to secure his release. A confidential list of potential targets has now been delivered to the governments of the US and UK.