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Coup conspirator turned himself in before Sri Lanka Easter attacks: Nasheed

Fathmath Shaahunaz
30 June 2019, MVT 17:44
Former president and Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed speaks at a press conference on June 30, 2019. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED / MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
30 June 2019, MVT 17:44

Former president and current Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed on Sunday claimed that Abdulla Luthfee, the conspirator behind the coup of November 3, 1988, had turned himself into the Maldivian embassy in Sri Lanka on April 20, a day before the Easter terror attacks.

Nasheed's claim is in contrast with the police's official statement on the matter, in which they declared that Luthfee had surrendered on May 1, implying that he was forced to seek protection at the embassy amidst the state of emergency and crackdown that followed the terror attacks across Sri Lanka.

Speaking at a press conference held Sunday, Nasheed conversely stated that Luthfee had turned himself in before the Easter attacks, giving himself over to police custody "which is something any Maldivian can do".

According to Nasheed, holding discussions regarding Luthfee between the governments of Maldives and Sri Lanka were difficult for a period of around 10 days, due to the terror attacks. However, he assured that the government would work to extradite Luthfee as soon as possible.

Nasheed went on to note that few governments in the past had succeeded in capturing convicts after they fled the country. He listed as examples former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's failure to apprehend his predecessor Ibrahim Nasir, and former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's similar attempt to bring back Nasheed himself, who fled Maldives and sought political asylum in the United Kingdom after he was sentenced to 13 years over terrorism charges. Nasheed returned to Maldives last November, after the Supreme Court overturned his conviction.

Abdulla Luthfee, before (R) and now; he was one of the masterminds behind the coup of November 3, 1988.

While Luthfee had absconded during Nasheed's former presidency when he was allowed to go abroad for medical treatment, thus drawing several allegations that Nasheed's administration had helped him flee, Nasheed declared that it would be the current government that would successfully apprehend Luthfee, who has been in hiding for nine years, and bring him back to Maldives to serve his sentence.

Nasheed also addressed the recent proposal submitted to the parliament, to summon Minister of Home Affairs Imran Abdulla for questioning regarding Luthfee. The speaker noted that the minister was issued a 14-day notice as per regulations, but expressed confidence that Luthfee would be returned well before the period was up.

The government came under fire after it surfaced that Luthfee was currently in the Maldivian embassy in Colombo, prompting the police to assure that the conspirator would be returned within 48 hours. However, the authorities had failed to meet the deadline.

Luthfee and his partner Sagar Ahmed Nasir orchestrated the coup d'├ętat of November 3, 1988, leading an attack with a Sri Lankan militant group which resulted in the death of 11 civilians and eight military personnel.

Luthfee was initially sentenced to capital punishment for his crimes. However, the then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom reduced his sentence to life imprisonment which, as per the Maldivian constitution, consists of 25 years. If Luthfee had not fled, his sentence would have ended in 2014.

Sagar Ahmed Nasir has been freed after completing his jail sentence of 25 years.

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