Maldives 'disappointed' jailed former president Nasheed won't travel to Britain for surgery

Jailed former leader Mohamed Nasheed (above) was due to travel to Britain on Sunday, Jan 17.
Jailed former leader Mohamed Nasheed (above) was due to travel to Britain on Sunday, Jan 17.PHOTO: AFP

MALE (AFP) - The Maldives government said on Monday (Jan 18) it was "disappointed" that jailed former leader Mohamed Nasheed would not travel to Britain for surgery after he rejected a demand that a relative stay behind 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, but his lawyer accused the government of introducing the "illegal" last-minute condition to the deal, brokered by diplomats from India, Sri Lanka and Britain.

"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," Mr 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," Mr Latheef said.

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

The government tweeted that it was "disappointed by the refusal of former president Nasheed to travel to UK for surgery, as requested by himself".

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 announcement came as Britain's Deputy Foreign Minister Hugo Swire visited the Maldives, where he held talks with Yameen.

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

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

There was no further comment on Nasheed from the authorities in the Maldives, whose government had previously refused to sanction overseas medical treatment for the former president.

Mr 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.