Maldives 'disappointed' Nasheed won't travel to Britain

18th January 2016, Comments 0 comments

The Maldives government said Monday it was "disappointed" that jailed former leader Mohamed Nasheed would not travel to Britain for surgery after he rejected a demand for a relative to guarantee his return.

The government had said Nasheed, whose conviction last year on terror-related charges has been widely criticised, could travel to Britain for 30 days to receive urgent spinal cord surgery.

He was due to leave late Sunday under a deal brokered by diplomats from India, Sri Lanka and Britain, but his lawyer accused the government of introducing the "illegal" last-minute condition.

"The government reneged on the agreed deal at the last minute, demanding a close family member of Nasheed remain in Male, effectively as a hostage, until he returns from the UK," Hassan Latheef told AFP.

"If Nasheed does anything that will breach the terms of the agreement by the government, the family member could then be criminally prosecuted," Latheef said.

"This kind of blackmail is illegal, unheard of in international affairs, and totally outrageous."

The foreign ministry said the law required any prisoner requesting treatment abroad to sign a document committing to return which must be co-signed by a guarantor.

In a tweet, it said the government was "disappointed by the refusal of former president Nasheed to travel to UK for surgery, as requested by himself".

Home Minister Umar Naseer told reporters Nasheed would only be allowed to travel if he provided a guarantor for his return to serve the remainder of his 13-year jail sentence.

"This is not holding someone hostage," Naseer said.

"It is appointing a guardian until the inmate returns to (the) Maldives."

- Guarantee return -

Nasheed, 48, became the first democratically elected president of the Maldives in 2008 and served for four years before he was toppled in what he called a coup backed by the military and police.

Last year he was sentenced to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges relating to the arrest of an allegedly corrupt judge in 2012, when he was still in power.

The United Nations has said his trial was seriously flawed and he should be released and compensated for wrongful detention.

But hardline President Abdulla Yameen has refused to accept the UN ruling and is resisting international pressure to release Nasheed.

The country's prisons chief Mohamed Husham announced at the weekend that Nasheed had been granted 30 days' leave from prison to receive surgery for a spinal cord problem that requires specialist treatment.

The government initially said Nasheed could have the procedure on the tiny archipelago, but then agreed to allow him to travel to Britain for treatment.

The announcement of the concession came as Britain's Deputy Foreign Minister Hugo Swire visited the Maldives for talks with Yameen as well as the opposition and rights groups.

Swire tweeted that he "talked through concerns and opportunities" with the president, but full details of their discussions were not disclosed.

He left Male on Monday with Nasheed still locked up in a cell at the Maafushi prison on an island near the capital.

London-based barrister Amal Clooney is part of the legal team fighting for Nasheed's unconditional release.

President Yameen is a half-brother of former strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years until his defeat by Nasheed in the country's first multi-party elections in 2008.

He has cracked down on dissent and arrested political opponents.

© 2016 AFP

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