President Mohamed Nasheed has dismissed public outcry over the resettlement of a two Guantanamo Bay inmates in the Maldives as “political waves through misty clouds.”
“I don’t really think there is much of an outcry. I first mentioned this sometime last year in December, and this has been public knowledge since then – not a single person has said anything about it all this time,” he said.
The agreement, in which the United States will fund the transfer of two Muslim inmates to the Maldives on humanitarian grounds, has met with consternation from opposition parties who argue the move will make the Maldives look like “a terrorist paradise rather than a tourist paradise.”
“I will say again, they are not terrorists,” Nasheed said during a press conference today. “It was very clear back then that people were arrested [and put] in Guantanamo without proper checks. People were just taken from all over and incarcerated. Today, when the jail is being dismantled, and the Maldives is among the few 100 percent Muslim countries in the world, if we can’t care about them, where is the example we are showing to the international community and other people of the book [Jews and Christians]?”
Nasheed said the Maldives and the US State Department had “looked into who [he] is, and who his relatives are.”
“Just think, these people have been kept in a small cell in handcuffs and chains for six or seven years when they’ve not done anything at all [to deserve it]. Do you know how they kept? We’ve seen the photos. So when we help one of them and people talk about it [negatively], I don’t really want to listen to it at all.”
Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan meanwhile told newspaper Miadhu that “overreacting” to the resettlement of the Guantanamo Bay detainees risked “losing the focus on more realistic issues.”
Parliament’s National Security Committee had arranged a meeting on the issue on Wednesday to identify potential legal problems with the resettlement, however Minivan News understands this has been rescheduled.
Nasheed meanwhile said there were no obstacles in Maldivian law, constitution or customs preventing the Maldives from resettling the inmate.
“I don’t think that the people of this country is against such a humanitarian assistance or deed,” he said.
Speaking to Miadhu, Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed derided opposition criticism of the move as politically motivated, noting that the same party that had led a no confidence motion against him for strengthening the country’s diplomatic relationship with Israel now disproved of the Maldives helping Muslims.
The inmate was a Palestinian man who was arrested and taken to Guantanamo while preaching in Pakistan, Shaheed said.
“According to the information I have, his home was demolished by Israeli troops and that many of his family members are being intimidated by Israel,” Dr Shaheed told Miadhu.
The only Maldivian held in Guantanamo Bay, Ibrahim Fauzee, was flown to Male in May 2005. Fauzee was arrested in May 2002 in Karachi, where he was studying.