Male’, Maldives – The regime of President Yameen has taken former president Mohamed Nasheed back to jail despite having formally commuted his detention to house arrest on 19 July.
Police officers and officials from the Department of Corrections arrived in force at President Nasheed’s house at approximately 9pm local time to take him back to prison. They forcibly entered the property, damaging the front gate.
Crowds of demonstrators quickly gathered outside Nasheed’s residence to protest this latest move by the Yameen regime.
Eyewitnesses said the police pepper sprayed protesters indiscriminately. Police also reportedly pepper sprayed journalists. At least one opposition Member of Parliament was arrested.
Nasheed’s transfer back to jail is in clear breach of the Maldives’ Constitution, which provides no provision for reversing a commutation of a sentence.
President Nasheed’s local counsel gave Corrections Department officials a copy of official documentation dating from 19 July that proves President Nasheed’s sentence was commuted to house arrest.
Corrections Department official Hussain Nadheem (ID no: A152832) told Nasheed’s lawyers that his “superiors have not informed me of any documents.” The police and officials from the Department of Corrections then took President Nasheed away. He was last seen leaving Male’ on a speedboat.
Amal Clooney, a member of Nasheed’s international legal team, said in response to the recent development:
“This latest u-turn by the government shows its complete disregard for the rule of law. After subjecting Nasheed to an unfair trial and outrageous conviction, this capricious administration has now reversed its decision on house arrest. They have the audacity to claim that there was no commutation of Nasheed’s sentence even though we have official documents and public statements confirming the opposite.”
President Nasheed’s local counsel Hisaan Hussain added:
“The Government’s actions are a flagrant violation of the Constitution of the Maldives, which provides no provision for reversing a commutation of a sentence. It reaffirms the arbitrary way in which the Government has handled Nasheed’s case.”
– Government Backtracks on Commutation of Nasheed’s Sentence to House Arrest –
On Thursday, the Maldives Attorney General’s Office publicly denied that President Nasheed’s jail term was commuted to house arrest. Deputy Attorney General Ismail Wisham was quoted as saying “Nasheed’s house arrest was not officially commuted to house arrest. The Home Minister has not made such a decision.” The Maldives Correctional Services also claimed to have no knowledge of the commutation. Commissioner of Prisons Mohamed Husham reportedly said: “I am unaware that Nasheed has been handed any official documents guaranteeing that his jail term has been commuted to house arrest.”
These statements directly conflict with past public statements from the Government and ignore official documentation that confirms the commutation to house arrest. Nasheed was transferred to temporary house arrest on June 21 for a three-day period to receive medical treatment. That period of house arrest was extended to two months on 24 June, which would have expired on 21 August.
However, President Nasheed’s jail term was permanently commuted to house arrest on July 19, 2015. On that day, a representative from the Maldives Correctional Service came to President Nasheed under house arrest with a document, written on Maldives Correctional Service letterhead, which officially conveyed to him that he had been transferred to house arrest permanently. The document stated clearly “the remaining days of the judgment against [Nasheed] would be enforced as permanent house arrest, starting from 19 July 2015.” The document from the Maldives Correction Service, bearing the official Reference Number 167-OPC/SM/INDIV/2015/1412, is attached (in original Dhivehi and translated into English).
According to the Maldivian Constitution, Article 115(s), the President is given authority “to grant pardons or reductions of sentence . . . to persons convicted of a criminal offence.” Though Nasheed was not provided with documentation of commutation from President Yameen’s Office, the only way his sentence could be transferred to house arrest would be if the President had in fact formally commuted the sentence.
A spokesman for the Maldivian High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Hussain Mazin, confirmed the transfer to house arrest in very specific terms on 24 July: “It is correct that the jail term is now commuted to house arrest.” This was a comment made to a reporter for Agence France-Presse (AFP) on the record and it was reprinted in dozens of newspapers worldwide.
Until Thursday, the Government made no statements disavowing the remarks of the Maldivian High Commission.
Nasheed, who was sentenced to 13-years imprisonment in March on politically-motivated “terrorism” charges, filed a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on 30 April citing flagrant abuses of international human-rights law and standards of due process in his trial and detention. An opinion from the UN experts is expected to be made public in October.