Maldivian Ambassador designate in Sri Lanka, Md. Hussain Shareef, on Wednesday trashed former President Mohamed Nasheed’s charge that he is planning to kidnap him and deport him to the Maldives the next time he sets foot on Sri Lanka.
Turning the tables on Nasheed, the envoy said: “It is ironic that Nasheed and his legal team are accusing others of attempted kidnapping when he himself is a fugitive from the law for the well-publicized kidnapping of a Chief Judge when he was in power.”
“Nasheed had personally apologized through the media for kidnapping the Chief Judge, saying that it was an error of judgment,” Shareef said.
“Mohamed Nasheed is a fugitive. He left the Maldives midway through his jail sentence for the kidnapping of the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, during his regime. He had been allowed to seek medical treatment overseas but never came back to complete his sentence,” Shareef said.
“Should a relevant authority in the Maldives request the Embassy to seek the assistance of relevant authorities in Sri Lanka to return him or any other fugitive in accordance with our Constitution and laws, all avenues available through diplomatic channels will be utilized to fulfill the obligation,” he asserted.
Bid to spoil relations with Lanka
The envoy-designate further said that Nasheed and his supporters have continuously attempted to create diplomatic friction between the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
“Our ties with Sri Lanka are multi-layered and based on an age-old practice of non-interference in each other’s domestic politics. The close ties between our two governments and responsibility of officials on both sides have been instrumental in avoiding misunderstanding in spite of erroneous claims by Nasheed and senior officials in his 2008-2013 regime,” Shareef said.
“Among their (the Nasheed group’s) most recent claims is the ongoing social media campaign to create friction between the two governments on the procedural issue of agreement to my appointment as Ambassador. I thank the Sri Lankan authorities for the speed with which our request was processed favorably, and am look forward to working closely with Sri Lankan authorities in promoting bilateral tie,” the envoy added.
“As the very first foreign official to personally visit and congratulate President Sirisena following the 2015 electoral victory and having lived and studied in Sri Lanka for many years, it is a rare privilege for me to have this opportunity to serve in Sri Lanka,” Shareef said.
“With a massive boost in Sri Lankan investment in the Maldives in recent years, the Government of President Yameen is keen on working closely with the Sri Lankan government in promoting ties at various levels. We also continue to abide by our long-held tradition of non-interference in domestic politics of neighboring countries, a principle cherished by successive Sri Lankan governments as well,” he said.
A press release issued in Washington earlier in the day by the international legal team representing Nasheed said that they were “very concerned” about a threat made by Shareef to detain their client in Sri Lanka and forcibly return him to the Maldives.
Shareef had reportedly made the threat during a news show aired on Sun TV on 11 September.
In the interview, Shareef reportedly says: “If a Maldivian authority requests me to detain and return Mohamed Nasheed back to Maldives, I will. It’s very simple. They have to say, this is an individual who we are seeking. I’ll even go out to the street myself and do it… if our authorities inform me, request it of me, our embassy will enforce it.”
The legal team headed by Amal Clooney said: “Shareef’s comments are not to be taken lightly.”
The team recalled that in 2015, staff at the Maldivian embassy in Colombo conspired to illegally abduct a Maldivian blogger in Sri Lanka who had been critical of the Maldivian regime. The blogger, Ahmed ‘Shumba Gong’ Ashraf, was abducted in Colombo and held captive at the Maldivian embassy in Sri Lanka, before being forced onto a Maldives-bound plane. On arrival in Male’ he was arrested and detained on arbitrary charges.
“The Sri Lankan foreign ministry took the highly unusual step of publicly chastising the Maldivian government over the incident, noting that it found it deeply disturbing that Sri Lanka … is being used to initiate questionable action against political … activists,” they pointed out.
Amal Clooney’s statement
Commenting on the Ambassador-designate’s remarks, legal counsel Amal Clooney said: “Any attempt by a Maldivian diplomat to detain President Nasheed in Sri Lanka would constitute a violation of international law as well as Sri Lankan criminal law. President Nasheed should not be returned to the Maldives to serve a sentence that resulted from a sham trial, and it is incumbent on the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure that his rights are respected while he is in their country.”
The other counsel, Jared Genser, added: “The comments by the Ambassador-designate are as outrageous as they are in flagrant violation of international law. No country can violate another’s sovereignty by abducting their citizens from a foreign territory. Such an action would be in clear violation of the obligations of the Maldives under The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance, a treaty to which it is a signatory.”
President Nasheed was convicted of ‘terrorism’ in March 2015 and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
His legal team pointed out that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled in October 2015 that President Nasheed’s conviction and detention violated international law and called for his immediate release.
The trial was also widely condemned by the international community as being “vastly unfair, arbitrary and disproportionate” and “politically motivated,” the team said.
But the Maldives government has refused to accept the UN opinion.
Nasheed’s international legal counsel comprises: Jared Genser of Freedom Now; Amal Clooney of Doughty St Chambers; and Ben Emmerson QC of Matrix Chambers.