Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s family has raised concerns over a possible plot within the security forces to assassinate the imprisoned opposition leader.
Speaking to the press today, former First Lady Laila Ali said a very close friend whom she trusts and “could not help but believe” shared information that Nasheed would either be hanged with a note saying he could not remain in jail for 13 years or “disappeared” like Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.
As the source was certain of the authenticity of the plans and had learned of it from two Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers, Laila said the information was “too serious to ignore.”
Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison last Friday. Home Minister Umar Naseer has since said the former president would be kept at the Dhoonidhoo detention centre until a “prison apartment” could be built in Maafushi jail.
“I’ve never feared he might be killed while in jail. It is deeply saddening [that he is jail]. But I’ve never thought he might not come out [alive] when he completes his sentence,” she said.
Nasheed’s brother Ibrahim Nashid said he was certain no inmate would harm the former president and said the family had been reasonably certain Nasheed would return alive when he had been jailed under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
“I was previously certain it would never go that far. But now anything can happen.”
Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokersperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told the press yesterday the party has also received information of the alleged assassination plans.
Fahmy referred to rumours of plans to kidnap Nasheed from Dhoonidhoo Island and expressed concern at lax security arrangements at the police detention centre.
“There is only one security personnel where he is kept at Dhoonidhoo. We don’t believe that there will be any security for him. The party believes there is room to organise an attack on him,” he said.
Laila meanwhile said today that she has written to President Abdulla Yameen and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as well as the home minister and police commissioner seeking assurances of Nasheed’s safety.
“In my letter, I expressed my grave concern and told them my husband is in your care. You must give me assurance, in writing or by your actions, that he would not come under any physical or psychological harm.”
The former first lady said she is awaiting a reply, but would make her letters public if she did not receive assurances from the government.
Laila said that she last talked to Nasheed on Tuesday night and shared her concerns. Nasheed told her that police officers had said they would increase security and patrol the island.
Laila noted that Nasheed has also been deprived of legally mandated MNDF protection since his arrest.
Laila said she now feared for his life, adding that she constantly heard of possible attempts to kill Nasheed since the “coup” in February 2012.
Meanwhile, at a press conference today, Police Superintendent Hamdhoon Rasheed dismissed the MDP’s allegations of plans to assassinate Nasheed as false.
Nasheed was safe and under police protection at the detention centre, he said.
“Environment of violence”
British MP for Salisbury John Glen also raised concern over Nasheed’s safety in Westminster today, questioning Leader of the House of Commons William Hague over possible sanctions against the Maldives.
“Although it is believed that he is safe in Dhoonidhoo, it is expected that when he is moved to Maafushi island, there will be real concerns for his safety. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Foreign Office is doing all it can to highlight the concerns of Nasheed’s supporters, and can a statement be made to the House about sanctions and whether they should be taken against this much-misunderstood set of islands?” the MP asked.
In reply, Hague said he was deeply concerned over Nasheed’s sentencing and said the UK continues to monitor the case closely.
“We are pressing the Government in the Maldives to give international observers access to any appeal hearing and to allow them to visit the former President in prison,” he said.
Urging calm in the Maldives Hague said, “We have called on the Maldives to follow due legal process. The Foreign Office Ministers were the first to make a strong statement, making it clear that we are monitoring the case closely.”
In a statement on March 16, human rights group Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) also expressed concern over the “rising environment of violence” and threats to Nasheed and other political figures.
The NGO said it has received information of plans to kill Nasheed in Maafushi after instigating a prison riot, referring to previous outbreaks of violence at the jail, including the shooting of inmates in September 2003 and the death of an inmate last year after a fatal stabbing.
“An investigation is still pending and police are yet to inform the public about the progress of the investigation,” MDN said in reference to the latter incident.
Moreover, the NGO said it has also received reports suggesting “violent groups have been hired to harm and kidnap” opposition MPs.
“We believe that the law and order situation has become extremely fragile in the Maldives, and implore the international community to have a presence in the Maldives to prevent further disorder and to ensure a quick and smooth transition to peace and harmony,” MDN said.
MDN called upon international anti-torture organisations to send missions to the Maldives “where they can monitor the safety of former President Mohamed Nasheed.”
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