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Maldives ex-leader 'blackmailed' out of surgery

Ex-President Nasheed's lawyer has accused current leaders of trying to force him to leave a hostage if he left the country. The Maldives government has said it was "disappointed" Nasheed did not take the opportunity.

The government of the Maldives expressed disappointment on Monday at jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed's "refusal" to travel to the UK for surgery. The imprisoned Nasheed (pictured above after an appeal in 2015), whose captivity has been widely criticized in international circles, apparently would not concede to a government request that he leave behind a relative to ensure his return from Britain.

"The government reneged on the agreed deal at the last minute, demanding a close family member of Nasheed remain in [the capital] Male, effectively as a hostage, until he returns from the UK," said Hasan Latheef, alongside Amal Clooney a member of Nasheed's legal team, to Reuters news agency.

"If Nasheed does anything that breach the terms of the government, the family member could then be criminally prosecuted. This kind of blackmail is illegal, unheard of in international affairs, and totally outrageous."

In response, the administration of sitting hardline President Abdulla Yameen wrote on Twitter that it was "disappointed by the refusal of former president Nasheed to travel to UK for surgery, as requested by himself."

UN blasts Nasheed sentence

The 48-year-old Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of the Indian Ocean nation in 2008, only to be ousted four years in later in what he called a military and police coup. Last year, a court sentenced him to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges stemming from the 2012 arrest of a judge who was said to be corrupt.

The United Nations ruled that Nasheed's trial was unfair, and called for his immediate release. However President Yameen, who is the half-brother of former leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who led the country for 30 years, has ignored the UN ruling and international outcry.

Nasheed had initially been given 30 days leave from jail to have spinal surgery in Britain, and had been due to leave late on Sunday before the government attempted to impose the last-minute addendum to the conditions of his release.

es/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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