The Maldives government intends to pardon seven Filipino nationals who were arrested in 2008 for credit card fraud and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The seven workers, identified by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as Kenneth Navarro, Lito Lago, Dario Agao, Christian Ryan Pineda, Jeffrey Jenkins, Gilbert Bendana and Joey Omawas, were employed at the Dome Cafe at the Maldives International Airport until they were arrested in 2008.
The Inquirer reported that the seven were initially jailed for a one and a half months after they were charged with theft and fraud for stealing a customer’s credit card and receiving items bought with the card in May 2008.
They were conditionally freed while their case was heard, but on February 17, 2009 were sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay Rf100,000 (US$77,800) in damages after the court found their statements were “conflicting”, and ruled that all of them were guilty.
“The Phillipines government has made a formal requet for clemency to be granted, and the President has given instructions for the request to be accomodated,” confirmed the President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair.
The request had not yet been granted and the process was “ongoing”, Zuhair said, suggesting that should the prisoners be released, the government of the Phillipines “should underwrite the damages, or the government should request it. The issue of compensation is a legal matter,” he noted.
The Philippines government has meanwhile published a statement crediting the release of the seven waiters to a ‘farewell gift’ from President Mohamed Nasheed to outgoing Phillipines Ambassador to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, Zenaida Tacorda Rabago.
“Several avenues were sought for the release/deportation of the seven Filipinos” under the authority of pardon granted to President Nasheed through the recently approved Clemency Law, the release stated.
“In turn, President Nasheed requested that the Philippines support an Asian Summit on climate change,” and “intimated to the Ambassador the hiring of Filipino professionals from the medical, entertainment, and educational fields,” the statement read.
Rabago has also worked to free two Filipinos who have served seven months in jail while awaiting formal charges from the Sri Lankan Government.
State Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem said the Ministry had not been given “any specific instructions” on the matter, but approved in principle.
“We need to send these people away because the jail system here is not conducive to holding foreigners,” he said, noting that the matter had been handed to the Clemency Board.
The Maldivian government is meanwhile working on repatriating Maldivian citizens imprisoned overseas. Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, speaking in a meeting at the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) headquaters, last week, announced that government would seek to return Maldivian detainees from Syria.
Dr Shaheed said that he would soon travel to Syria with the main purpose of releasing the Maldivian detainees from Syrian jails.
”The main reason of scheduled trip to Syria is to release the Maldivian detainees from prison,” Dr Shaheed said. ”Hopefully, we can release these prisoners and bring them back to the Maldives.”