Maldives Demands UK ‘Hostage’ to Allow Jailed Ex-President to Leave Country

Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images
Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images

Jailed former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed has refused an opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom for back surgery after the government insisted on taking one of his relatives as a “hostage” to make sure he returned.

Initially, the government granted permission for him to leave the country. Prisons chief Mohamed Husham announced on Sunday they were “making arrangements” for Nasheed.

Only hours later, the officials changed their mind at the last minute.

“The government backtracks on their decision to unconditionally allow (former) president Nasheed to travel to UK for surgery,” declared Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, Maldivian Democratic party spokesman.

Officials would allow Nasheed to remain in Britain for 30 days for spinal cord surgery, but his relative could be prosecuted if Nasheed did not return.

“The government reneged on the agreed deal at the last minute, demanding that a close family member remain, effectively as a hostage, until he returns from the UK,” mentioned his lawyer Hassan Latheef. “If Nasheed does anything that will breach the terms of the government, the family member could then be criminally prosecuted. This kind of blackmail is illegal, unheard of in international affairs, and totally outrageous.”

One of his aides called the deal “outrageous” and “unacceptable.”

His wife and two children currently reside in Britain. “This is a ridiculous deal and much as I would absolutely love to have him here, we both agreed that we will not agree to compromise someone else’s safety,” stated his daughter Meera Laila after she spoke with her father. “This is so typical. It’s clearly done to raise our hopes and then dishearten everyone. Don’t give in to them.”

Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of Maldives in 2008 after Maumoon Abdel Gayoom ruled for over 30 years. However, he allegedly resigned by gunpoint in 2012 amid protests against him for jailing a top judge. He also claimed his then-Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik knew about the coup and took part in it.

Critics against Nasheed believe he “acted unconstitutionally” when he arrested Justice Mohamed. At the time, people accused the judge “of being loyal to the opposition by ordering the release of a government critic he said had been illegally detained.”

In March, a court convicted Nasheed under the Anti-Terrorism Act of Maldives and sentenced him to 13 years in prison.

“The prosecution’s evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that Nasheed ordered the chief judge’s arrest or forceful abduction and detention,” explained Judge Abdulla Didi.

The international community and human rights groups have pushed for governments to impose sanctions on the new government and freeze officials’ assets.