COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The Maldives said Friday, January 29, it could extend the prison leave granted to former president Mohamed Nasheed to go to London for medical treatment after he hinted at delaying his return.
Nasheed, who is serving a 13-year jail term after being convicted on controversial terrorism-related charges, arrived in London last week.
He has hinted he may stay beyond the 30 days’ leave the government granted him in a deal brokered by Sri Lanka, India and former colonial power Britain.
“Our belief is he would return. He is a man of great stature. I don’t think there is a question of him not returning,” the minister for legal affairs in the president’s office Aishath Azima Shakoor told reporters in Colombo.
“If he requests an extension of medical leave, he will certainly get it.”
Nasheed was accorded a red carpet welcome and received by Prime Minister David Cameron when he arrived in Britain last Thursday for spinal cord surgery.
The 48-year-old told reporters in London that he had not yet decided whether to return to the Maldives after his leave.
“I know the question you all want to ask is will I go back. This has been more eloquently answered by The Clash in 1982 when I was doing my A-Levels — ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go?'” said Nasheed, who was educated in Britain.
“Let me be clear. I will go to the Maldives. I will definitely go to the Maldives, there is no doubt about that. But only the question is how and when.”
Nasheed 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, a court sentenced him to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges that were widely seen as politically motivated.
Maldives Foreign Secretary Ali Naseer Mohamed said his government did not have an extradition treaty with Britain and would not be able to force Nasheed to return.
Nasheed’s high-profile lawyer, Amal Clooney, has argued for targeted sanctions including asset freezes in the European Union and United States and travel bans against leaders in the Maldives allegedly responsible for human rights abuses.
Nasheed’s release had come about as a “direct result of the threat of sanctions,” said another of his lawyers, Jared Genser.
But Maldives Foreign Secretary Mohamed said Friday it was “unfair” to impose sanctions on his country of 340,000 people.
“Those people who are in jail are there because they violated our laws,” Mohamed said. “The Maldives cannot be penalized for upholding the rule of law.”
Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim said international sanctions would affect the government’s attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change on the nation of 1,192 tiny low-lying coral islands.
“In the case of sanctions, then definitely, the work we are doing (on climate change) will be hampered because we are also depending a lot on the international community, apart from our own funding,” Ibrahim said. – Amal Jayasinghe, AFP/Rappler.com