President Mohamed Nasheed has granted clemency to Ibrahim Moosa ‘Sandhaanu’ Luthfy, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for writing against the former government.
Luthfy escaped imprisonment by the former government when he was taken to Sri Lanka for medical treatment in May 2005. He undertook self-exile in Switzerland where he was supported by the United Nations and the Swiss government.
Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said Luthfy was a man who was “on the front line” when the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) started its work “to reform the government.”
Zuhair said that according to the new constitution, “freedom of expression is not illegal.”
”In the constitution people have freedom of expression,” he said, ”so [Luthfy] has committed no crime under the law and so should not be serving a punishment.”
Speaking from Switzerland, Luthfy told Minivan News the charges against him by the former government were “unjust and made by force.”
Luthfy said he had been charged for “misleading the people and defaming a former government cabinet minister.”
”At first we started dropping papers on the ground to let people know about the condition of human rights and the judicial system in the Maldives,” Luthfy said.
“Then the internet was invented, and we started our work as an online, unregistered magazine based in Malaysia called ‘Sandhaanu’.”
Luthfy claimed the former government put him under life imprisonment “because they had no other way to stop us from working.”
”They tried to catch us in many ways, including sending CID agents to Malaysia, but they could not,” he said.
”Then during the time of the September 11 attack, the former president [Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] gave out an international red notice that we were terrorists.”
He said he was then caught and brought to the Maldives.
”Criminal court judge Abdulla Areef [now a judge at supreme court] gave the verdict without giving me the chance to use a defense lawyer or to present any witnesses to defend myself,” he said.
Luthfy claimed that the serious injuries he received while in prison led to international journalism organisations pressuring the former government to take him out of jail for medical treatment.
”They brought me to Male’ where doctors said I needed to go abroad for treatment, so the former government took me to Sri Lanka along with two guards,” he said. ”The doctor at the Sri Lankan hospital gave me two options: either stay in the hospital for seven days for observation or to come back after seven days, and said I preferred to come back after seven days.”
He stayed in a hotel with the two guard, but one morning he managed to escape.
”One day after fajr prayers when I came out of my room, the two guards were sleeping so I ran away,” he said.
”I sought for help from the United Nations and other organisations via e-mail, and meanwhile sent messages to the former government saying that I would let people know about how people were being tortured in the cells if any international notice was put out to find me.”
He claimed the former government tried to find him, assisted by the Sri Lankan police, but were unsuccessful.
The United Nations protected him in Sri Lanka for six months before sending him to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Switzerland.
”I have been here for seven years but will be returning to the Maldives very soon,” he said.
Spokesman for the former President, Mohamed Hussein ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, said as far as he was concerned Luthfy was “not a person”, “a nobody [who will] remain so” and he would not drop his reputation to the same level as Luthfy by commenting on the matter.
Furthermore, Mundhu said that news outlets reporting on “these kinds of unprofessional people” also risked being categorised as unprofessional.
“All you achieve in giving this clown space in the media is giving him unwarranted attention and importance. I do not wish to have any such part in such an exercise. Scum will always remain scum,” he said.
“If you want people to believe that Minivan [News] is anything but Anni’s mouthpiece, it’s advisable to stay clear of such [an] exercise to give cosmetic makeovers to people like Luthfy.”
He noted that MDP Chairperson Mariya Didi was a State Attorney at the former Attorney General’s office at the time of Luthfy’s conviction.
Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali and DRP MP and former cabinet minister Abdulla Mausoom failed to respond to Minivan News at time of press.