Maldives police are searching for Abdulla Luthfee who was given a life sentence for his role in the 1988 coup attempt.
The Home Ministry reported that Luthfee had escaped from the authorities while on a medical trip abroad.
According to the Home Ministry’s State Minister Mohamed Fayaaz, the former government authorised Luthfee to go to India in 2009 for medical treatment and he was supposed to return back by January 2010.
However, Fayaz told local media that he never returned and had escaped to Sri Lanka, where he was reported to be living under a false identity. Therefore the police had been asked to find Luthfee and hand him over to the Maldives Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS).
“It has been over a month since we notified the police to hand Luthfee over to us. Luthfee was allowed to travel to India following a letter he submitted requesting medical treatment abroad,” Fayaz told Sun Online.
“A copy of a ticket to India was attached to the letter. He was issued a travel document passport with a validity of one year. This is how he was permitted to go to India. But now we have received information that he lives in Sri Lanka. He has changed his name. This is against the document which was issued to him, so the police have been notified to hand him over,” Fayaz added.
Police media official Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that police had started the search for Luthfee.
“We are using all our resources to find Luthfee and hand him over to the DPRS as requested by the Home Ministry,” he noted.
The government aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), headed by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, accused Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration of setting free Luthfee last year.
However the government at the time responded that it would “never help a detainee escape” and denied the allegations made by PPM.
‘’The Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Service (DPRS) will not hold anyone in detention if a doctor advises them to send an inmate abroad for medical reasons, but that does not mean that we are making way for him to escape,’’ then State Home Minister Mohamed ‘Monazer’ Naeem told Minivan News at the time.
Luthfee and his aides were sentenced to death for attempting to overthrow Gayoom’s government in the 1988 plot, assisted by armed mercenaries of a Tamil secessionist organisation from Sri Lanka, the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE).
Eighty Tamil mercenaries landed on Male’ on November 3, 1988, and quickly took over the airport. However they were caught in a shoot out with military forces in Male’ and were forced to retreat after India deployed 1600 paratroopers to the Maldives on Gayoom’s request. Nineteen Maldivians were killed in the gun fire.
Gayoom however, commuted the death sentences to life imprisonment.
Sri Lankan newspaper The Island reported Luthfee as saying on the 23rd anniversary of the November 3 coup attempt, “I wanted to get rid of [former President Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom at any cost. As the election process in my country never gave a reasonable opportunity to the opposition, I felt an outside force should be used to oust Gayoom.”