A pro-government news outlet has published a different version of the document relating to former President Mohamed Nasheed’s permanent transfer to house arrest, a move lawyers have described as an attempt to mislead the public.
The document published on Vaguthu appears to be an agreement signed by Nasheed on July 19, stating that he is aware he would be freed from a terrorism conviction at 9am on July 24.
Nasheed’s lawyers say that the Vaguthu document is forged and have asked the police to launch an investigation. The document that Nasheed had signed on July 19 only said his sentence had been commuted to house arrest, lawyers said.
“This fake document, published by pro-government Vaguthu, is aimed at clouding the facts and misleading the public, especially because the government does not seem concerned about this particular document. The Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) has asked the police to investigate the document we publicized, but not the Vaguthu document,” said Hisaan Hussein, a lawyer representing Nasheed.
The government now denies commuting the opposition leader’s sentence and is investigating the authenticity of the document publicized by Nasheed’s lawyers. A copy has been shared with the police, and the original has been sent abroad for an independent forensic analysis.
Nasheed was taken back to jail on August 23.
In a similar case, Vaguthu had previously published documents relating to former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s weapons smuggling trial. The secret police report was shared in court in a closed hearing, but Vaguthu published the full report a few days later, claiming Nazim’s lawyers had taken photos of the documents.
Nazim’s legal team condemned Vaguthu for “spreading blatantly false information,” noting that they could not have taken pictures inside the court room since they were screened for electronic devices with hand-held metal detectors before they entered the courtroom.
Hassan Abdulla Hilmy, the CEO of Vaguthu, said they had received the document in an email.
“We published the document because it had the state seal, and signatures, and we had also received reliable information from this particular source before,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nasheed’s wife, Laila Ali, was summoned to the police headquarters on Friday. Speaking to the press afterwards, Laila said the police had questioned her on the whereabouts of the original document.
She reiterated that the document had been sent abroad, and said she would hand it over once she receives it.
Neither she nor Nasheed are being treated as suspects, she said. The police had been respectful during the questioning, she added.
The police had raided Nasheed’s home in the early hours of Thursday morning, searching for the original document, and confiscated the CCTV footage recording equipment.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the “harassment of Nasheed’s family.”
Laila said she was disappointed by the police’s claim that she had not cooperated with the mid-night search.
“We treated the officers with utmost respect. I did not tell them to leave since they had a court warrant. When the first two warrants expired, I allowed them to stay inside the premises until the third warrant arrived. I do not understand what more we could have done,” the former first lady said.
The third warrant had expired at 1am, and officers had stayed inside the premises until 3:15am until a fourth warrant arrived. Lawyers said the police’s decision to remain inside the premises amounted to criminal trespassing.
Lawyers have also asked the police to look into the differences in the serial number on a June 23 document provided to Nasheed and the copy of the document with the MCS. It related to the extension of Nasheed’s house arrest to eight weeks.
Nasheed’s family is set to visit him in jail today.
His re-imprisonment had led to renewed international calls for his release.
In April, Laila filed a petition with the UN working group on arbitrary detention, requesting a ruling declaring Nasheed’s imprisonment arbitrary and illegal.
She has met with the US Secretary of State John Kerry, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the UN Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein in her campaign to free him.