It remains unclear if jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed would be allowed to travel abroad for surgery today as the government remains divided over requiring a family member remaining in Malé as a guarantor for his return.
After Sunday’s high diplomatic drama and near-collapses in talks, a deal seemed all but sealed this morning.
Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon promised Hugo Swire, the UK’s minister of state for the foreign and commonwealth office, that the government would withdraw conditions for a guarantor, according to highly placed sources.
When the news broke, Home Minister Umar Naseer in a tweet accused Nasheed of spitting on a prisons staff, and insisted that the opposition leader, who is serving a 13-year jail term, must nominate a guarantor.
Diplomats are once again flabbergasted.
Swire, who arrived in the Maldives on Sunday on an official visit, left at noon, leaving UK High Commissioner to the Maldives James Dauris behind in Malé.
Naseer, who had last night accused Nasheed of tearing up legal documents, is now tweeting photos of previous documents Nasheed’s family had signed as guarantors during an eight week period of house arrest last year.
He also tweeted photos of guarantee documents inmate’s family members had signed during Nasheed’s presidency. In Abdulla Luthfee’s case, a man was sentenced to life imprisonment over the 1988 coup attempt, the government had imposed criminal liability on the guarantor. Luthfee never returned from his trip abroad.
Same documents signed by PNasheed, Madam Laila & his brother. Proves that this is nothing new for him & family. pic.twitter.com/Uso0Gib5a9
— Umar Naseer (@UmarNaseerPPM) January 18, 2016
In an interview with popular daily Haveeru this morning, Naseer said no family member would he held criminally liable for Nasheed’s return. “If Nasheed flees, he will be prosecuted, not his family members,” he said.
The home minister also said he was unaware of the details of talks between Yameen and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera regarding Nasheed’s temporary release, but said he was certain the government would not make a deal. “This government is not that cheap. You cannot force our hand by acting fussy.”
The Maldives Independent was not able to clarify if Nasheed has been provided with new documents.
Now, lawyers have been told they would be barred from prison visits until further notice. The government had not provided reasons, lawyer Hisaan Hussain said in a tweet.
We have just been informed by MCS that all lawyer access to Presidnet Nasheed has been cancelled until further notice. No reason given.
— Hisaan (@hisaanhussain) January 18, 2016
Nasheed’s supporters have pounced on Naseer on Twitter for his claims that the former president tore up documents and spat on a prisons staff.
Right. Pull the other one. Vilifying won’t get you out of this spat Minister. No pun intended. @UmarNaseerPPM
— Eva Abdulla (@evattey) January 18, 2016
Nasheed, who was sentenced in a rushed trial that the UN has labeled “politically motivated,” requires surgery to correct slipped discs in his spine.
His lawyers have previously said Sri Lankan ministers on Thursday extracted a promise from Yameen to allow Nasheed to travel to the UK without conditions.
Talks began when Yameen specifically agreed to unconditional leave to the UK, they said. Then at 5pm on Sunday, Nasheed was presented a document that said a family member must agree to be held criminally liable if he fails to return within 30 days.
Nasheed agreed to the 30-day period, but refused to compromise the safety of his family members, lawyers said.
“Loss of confidence in the head of state is loss of confidence in the entire Maldivian state… we want President Yameen to honour his commitments to Nasheed and allow his travel to the UK for medical treatment,” lawyer Hassan Latheef said last night.
But the foreign ministry has issued a statement today saying it is disappointed with Nasheed’s refusal to sign “the standard guarantee document agreeing to return to the Maldives.”
“The former President is a serving prisoner and must abide by the laws of the Maldives. An appeal against his conviction is pending before the Supreme Court and unless and until the court rules otherwise he is required to serve the remainder of his sentence.
“The Government would like to highlight that it was former President Nasheed who requested to undergo surgery in the UK. The Government agreed to accommodate his request, even though the minor surgery he requires is readily available in the Maldives.”
Nasheed’s supporters are accusing the government of continuing to renege on commitments, specifically pointing to Nasheed’s re-imprisonment in August after having permanently commuted his jail sentence to house-imprisonment.
The government claimed the document was forged and launched an investigation. Former vice-president Ahmed Adeeb, who is now jailed over a blast on Yameen’s speedboat, has asserted that the document is authentic.
Naseer, who had led the talks at the time, had promised political reconciliation and concessions on the jailing of political prisoners. But talks collapsed when Nasheed was returned to jail and government has not made any concessions so far.
Additional reporting by Mohamed Saif Fathih
Correction: Monday, July 18
A previous version of this article had said that Nasheed’s lawyers had noted that family members of other inmates had not been required to sign documents agreeing to be held criminally liable. This is incorrect. The documents Home Minister Umar Naseer had tweeted show that family members of Abdulla Luthfee had agreed to be held criminally liable. The Maldives Independent apologises for the mistake.