Former Maldives vice president Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor has sought political asylum from India as he faces a serious risk to his life in his home country, a UK lawyer from the firm representing the politician said on Friday.
Ghafoor Thursday reached India via sea route on the coast of Tamil Nadu and he is being questioned by the Indian authorities.
Toby Cadman, co-founder of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers – the firm representing the politician in his bid for political asylum, called on the Indian government to uphold the asylum plea in accordance with international law.
“We remain deeply concerned that he could be returned to the Maldives where his life is at risk,” said Cadman.
“He has made a plea for asylum and that should be upheld. I would strongly urge the Indian authorities to respect national law and its international obligations and provide the protection he requires,” he said.
The vessel in which Ghafoor arrived had nine crew members, a police official had said.
“There have been statements issued by the Maldives Police that he will be returned to Maldives. I would remind the Maldives authorities that he has claimed asylum and if they want to return him to the Maldives, the proper course of action is through a request for extradition, not through any other means,” Cadman said.
The firm’s International Legal Team working on Ghafoor’s asylum case said it had initiated contact with the United Nations’ Office of the High Commission for Refugees and the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights.
It also disputed some media reports claiming that he was under arrest in India.
“He is not under arrest but we understand he is being questioned in relation to his plea for asylum… He fled the Maldives due to the ongoing pressures placed upon him to sign an agreement implicating other persons in relation to a corruption scandal. He was forced to sign an agreement and provide false testimony on video,” said Cadman.
According to his legal team, Ghafoor fell out of favour with the then Maldives president Abdulla Yameen and was investigated in connection with an alleged bomb plot to assassinate Yameen.
Thereafter, he was implicated in various allegations of corruption, resulting in him being imprisoned for a period of three years on offences he denied.
Ghafoor was released from prison at the end of last year and the Supreme Court in Maldives reportedly acquitted him of all offences earlier this year, citing “political influence” exercised over the trials. It is claimed that despite being acquitted, he has remained under house arrest following an appeal being lodged by the Prosecutor General against his acquittal.
“There is real concern that the criminal justice system in the Maldives is being manipulated to target political opponents,” Cadman said.
“As he has stated in the past he is willing to face the allegations levied against him, but in a system that is independent and impartial. The system needs to be reformed and we invite the EU to re-engage in this process,” the lawyer said.
Ministry of External Affairs has said that it is working on establishing the “veracity of the reports” and as the former political leader had entered India with a lack of valid travel documents, his entry to India remains uncertain.