Colombo, Jan 29: The Maldives said today it could extend the prison leave granted to former president Mohamed Nasheed to go to London for medical treatment after he hinted at delaying his return.
Nasheed, who is serving a 13-year jail term after being convicted on controversial terrorism-related charges, arrived in London last week. He has hinted he may stay beyond the 30 days' leave the government granted him in a deal brokered by Sri Lanka, India and former colonial power Britain.
"Our belief is he would return. He is a man of great stature. I don't think there is a question of him not returning," the minister for legal affairs in the president's office Aishath Azima Shakoor told reporters in Colombo.
"If he requests an extension of medical leave, he will certainly get it." Nasheed was accorded a red carpet welcome and received by Prime Minister David Cameron when he arrived in Britain last Thursday for spinal cord surgery.
The 48-year-old told reporters in London that he had not yet decided whether to return to the Maldives after his leave.
"I know the question you all want to ask is will I go back. This has been more eloquently answered by The Clash in 1982 when I was doing my A-Levels - 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go?'" said Nasheed, who was educated in Britain.
"Let me be clear. I will go to the Maldives. I will definitely go to the Maldives, there is no doubt about that. But only the question is how and when."
Nasheed became the first democratically-elected president of the Maldives in 2008 and served for four years before he was toppled in what he called a coup backed by the military and police.
Last year, a court sentenced him to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges that were widely seen as politically motivated. His high-profile lawyer, Amal Clooney, has argued for targeted sanctions including asset freezes in the European Union and US and travel bans against leaders in the Maldives allegedly responsible for human rights abuses.
Foreign Secretary Ali Naseer Mohamed said the Maldives did not have an extradition treaty with Britain and would not be able to force Nasheed to return.