President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih declared Thursday that Abdulla Luthfee, the conspirator behind the coup d'état of November 3, 1988, was the "biggest traitor and criminal" the Maldives has ever seen and that his actions were unforgivable.
He made the statement at a press conference held at the President's Office on Thursday afternoon.
The president revealed that he was informed of Luthfee's whereabouts soon after the latter turned himself over to the Maldivian embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in late April. He further shared that the ambassador had also notified Maldives' Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Attorney General of Sri Lanka.
"We commenced efforts to extradite Luthfee immediately. However, it was the immediate aftermath of the bombings in Lanka", said President Solih, referring to the Easter terror attacks of April 21, following which Sri Lanka announced a state of emergency and began a crackdown to inspect residences across the country.
"After that, the attorney general of [Sri Lanka] changed, and we did not want to [extradite Luthfee] without completing the full process. We held talks [with Sri Lanka] about it again just two days ago, and we still haven't received the document yet".
"God Willing, Luthfee will be extradited as soon as possible".
In response to a reporter's question, the president further asserted that he had never met Luthfee in person.
Luthfee was the leader behind the attempt to unlawfully overthrow the government by taking over the National Security Service (NSS) with the help of armed militants from Sri Lanka's People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE). The attack resulted in the death of 11 Maldivian civilians and eight military personnel.
Luthfee and his partner, Sagar Ahmed Nasir, were initially sentenced to capital punishment for their crimes. However, the then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom reduced their sentences to life imprisonment which, as per the Maldivian constitution, consists of 25 years.
Luthfee absconded during the presidency of Mohamed Nasheed upon being allowed to go abroad for medical treatment. He had been reportedly living in hiding in Sri Lanka ever since.
Meanwhile, Sagar Ahmed Nasir was freed after he completed his jail sentence.