President grants clemency to self-exiled ‘Sandhaanu’ Luthfy

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.


Alhan Fahmy asked to leave at reception for Gayoom’s return

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Alhan Fahmy is claiming he was ‘threatened’ when he tried to attend a welcome reception at the presidential jetty for former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom on his return from Egypt.

Fahmy recently joined the MDP following his suspension Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), the party of which Gayoom is Honorary Leader.

”DRP MPs and people of the leadership came and warned me that if I stayed here I ‘might hurt myself’,” Fahmy said, ”but the jetty does not belong to DRP so I stayed there.”

Gayoom had attended a gathering marking the Prophet’s (PBUH) birthday, where he was presented with the Order of Merit, First Class in Arts and Sciences by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for his contribution to spreading Islamic education.

Fahmy said he had wished to personally congratulate Gayoom for his achievement.

”I was forced and threatened, and asked to leave,” he said, ”so I left.”

He said the DRP’s actions “proved they do not reach the criteria of a democratic political party.”

However DRP’s Vice President Umar Naseer claimed Fahmy went to the reception with the clear intention of disrupting the event, “and not to congratulate Maumoon.”

”The event was organised by DRP and only DRP members were invited,” Naseer said, adding that DRP supporters had shouted at Fahmy and he had left of his own volition.

MDP MP Ahmed Easa said it was “very nice” of Fahmy to congratulate Maumoon.

”It showed that he respects him,” Easa said. ”Sending him away was a very weak act by DRP.”

He said even though Fahmy had moved from the DRP to MDP, there was no reason he should not retain personal friendships with the party’s senior members.

”We also used to have coffee at the same table with DRP MPs after debating issues in parliament,” Easa said.

At his welcoming reception, Gayoom said “it gives me pleasure to know that the international community recognises my work in spreading Islam and education in the Maldives,” adding that his award was “an honour to the whole country.”