NEW DELHI/MALE (Reuters) - Maldives police on Saturday said they had arrested former vice-president Ahmed Adeeb and were bringing him to the capital Male after he was refused entry to India.
Adeeb, who was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2016 for allegedly plotting to assassinate the Maldives’ then-president Abdulla Yameen, was detained early on Thursday in the southern Indian city of Thoothukudi after arriving illegally by tugboat.
“We would like to confirm that Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor of H. Saamaraa has been arrested and is being transported to Male under our custody,” Maldives police said in a Twitter post.
An Indian port official in Thoothukudi said Adeeb had been sent back to the Maldives late on Friday on a boat escorted by a coast guard vessel.
Adeeb is expected to reach Indian Ocean island chain by Sunday or Monday, an official at the Maldives’ foreign ministry said.
London-based legal group Guernica 37, which is representing Adeeb, said in a statement on Sunday that he had been held on a boat at the Indian port and “made a plea for asylum at this time and was being questioned by the Indian authorities”.
“As his international counsel I was prevented from speaking to him...the Indian authorities were under an obligation to properly assess his request,” said Toby Cadman of Guernica 37.
“As we now believe he is being detained by the Maldivian authorities, we will be petitioning the United Nations Special Procedures in Geneva, in particular the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” Cadman added.
Adeeb, 37, was also convicted three years ago of corruption and terrorism and faced a total sentence of 33 years.
A court in the South Asian archipelago ordered a fresh trial on the same charges this year after cancelling his convictions, citing undue political interference.
A key witness in a money laundering case against Yameen, Adeeb was once seen as a future leader of the Maldives. Yameen has pleaded not guilty in the case.
Adeeb was freed from house arrest earlier this month.
“It is notable that the Supreme Court acquitted Mr. Adeeb due to the political interference in his trial,” said Guernica 37’s Cadman. “The fact that a person is accused of a criminal offense does not mean that that person is guilty.”
Indian authorities were tipped off about Adeeb’s arrival in Thoothukudi by the company operating the Singapore-flagged tugboat carrying him.
A government source in New Delhi said Adeeb “was not permitted to enter India since he was not entering through a designated entry point and did not possess the valid document”.
Reporting by Nidhi Verma in NEW DELHI and Mohamed Junayd in MALE; Editing by Aditya Kalra and Catherine Evans