Nasheed to travel to UK for surgery

Wife of Maldives’ ex-president says pressure from India, Sri Lanka and U.K. secured his release.

Updated - November 26, 2021 10:23 pm IST

Published - January 17, 2016 04:51 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Laila Nasheed said overtelephone from London thatshe was happy about thedevelopment. Photo: Special Arrangement

Laila Nasheed said overtelephone from London thatshe was happy about thedevelopment. Photo: Special Arrangement

Bowing to concerted international pressure over the past week, including a visit by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, the Maldives government on Saturday made a dramatic turnaround, allowing jailed former president Mohammad Nasheed to travel to the U.K. for treatment.

Mr. Nasheed, who suffers from spinal injuries received through former spells in prison when he was an activist lawyer, is expected to undergo surgery in the U.K.

He is expected to be released as early as Sunday after spending most of the past year in an isolated prison cell after being convicted in a controversial trial on terror charges.

According a Maldives Foreign Ministry statement, Mr. Nasheed, who is serving a 13-year jail sentence, “was granted permission under the condition to serve the remainder of the sentence upon return to the Maldives after the surgery.”

The move by President Yameen’s government came after strong representations by India, and will effectively pave the way for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit the Maldives. After clashes between Mr. Nasheed’s party MDP’s supporters and the police over his conviction last April, Mr. Modi’s trip to Male was cancelled at the last minute.

However, in the last few months, India adopted a softer line, inviting Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon to Delhi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj paying a trip to Male. Officials told The Hindu both Ms. Swaraj and Mr. Jaishankar had pressed upon the need to treat Mr. Nasheed “in accordance with his status as a former elected leader.”

“We needed to see some relief for the former president before PM Modi could plan a visit,” a senior official explained. The Maldives High Commissioner in Delhi, Ahmed Mohamed, who praised India for adopting a “non-prescriptive” approach on the issue, told The Hindu he wouldn’t confirm a date for PM Modi’s visit but said they “hope to have him in the Maldives as soon as it is convenient”.

Confirming that she had been informed about Mr. Nasheed’s release order, his wife Laila Nasheed told The Hindu over the telephone from London that she was overjoyed, “For him to be allowed to come to the UK is a really big thing. We have been petitioning for this for months, as he has been suffering in prison, but never believed the government would relent.”

When asked about how the release was secured, Ms. Nasheed said several governments, including India, had spoken to the Yameen government. “Both the Sri Lankan and British governments have been very supportive as well,” she said pointing to sudden visits to Male by Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Thursday and British deputy Foreign Minister Hugo Swire on Saturday.

The U.S., where Mr. Nasheed’s legal team headed by U.K. lawyer Amal Clooney has been visiting, has also issued several statements calling for the release of Mr. Nasheed. In a particularly scathing interview on Friday, Ms. Clooney called for targeted sanctions and a tourism boycott of the island. “Democracy is dead in the Maldives,” said Ms. Clooney, in an interview to NBC TV.

In the past few months President Yameen had sacked his defence minister Moosa Ali Jaleel for treason and imprisoned his vice-president Ahmed Adeeb on charges that he attempted to assassinate him, incurring statements of concern from several world capitals. The decision to release Mr. Nasheed for treatment is being seen as an important step in restoring stability in the Maldives after turbulent years ever since the former President was deposed and jailed for ordering the arrest of a judge.

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