'Several challenges in returning Luthufee back to Maldives' - Foreign Min.

Foreign Ministry has revealed that the government is facing several challenges in transferring Abdulla Luthufee, who led the November 3 1988 coup attempt on the Maldives, back to the country.

Luthufee's life imprisonment sentence for treason was suspended by former president Mohamed Nasheed's administration, and was sent to Si Lanka for medical treatment on 16th January 2010. He has been residing in the country since then as a fugitive. However, he turned himself in at the Maldivian Embassy in Sri Lanka on 1st May and has been staying at the Embassy since then. The police on Tuesday said Luthufee will be returned back to Maldives within 48 hours.

A press statement released by the Foreign Ministry early Wednesday read that Luthufee voluntarily presented himself to the Maldivian Embassy in Sri Lanka on 1st May. Sri Lankan authorities were immediately notified of the development, and work commenced to make arrangements to bring Luthufee back to Maldives within the laws.

However, due to the nature of the case, there are several challenges in bringing Luthufee back under the jurisdiction of the Maldivian government. As an Interpol red notice had been issued to locate Luthufee, there are several international protocols that need to be followed in handling the case, said Foreign Ministry.

Luthufee was hiding out in Sri Lanka without a valid visa, and had attempted to seek the country's asylum basing his case on human rights. Therefore, there are several procedures that need to be fulfilled under the Sri Lankan law, the statement further read.

Due to the previous government's decision to leave the Commonwealth, the validity of the prisoner exchange agreement between Maldives and Sri Lanka is also under question, noted the Ministry. The fact that Luthufee presented himself to the embassy during the turmoil that followed terrorist attacks on Sri Lanka late April complicates the matter further, said the Foreign Ministry.

Despite the challenges, the government has been working to make the necessary arrangements since day one, assured the ministry, and stated that Luthufee will be returned to Maldives within the laws of Sri Lanka and Maldives as soon as required international procedures are fulfilled.

Assisted by armed foreign mercenaries, Luthufee led the attacks on Maldives on 3rd November 1988 that killed 19 Maldivians. Charged and convicted for treason, Luthufee received the death penalty for his crimes. However, then President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom lightened his sentence to life imprisonment. If Luthufee had not fled the country in 2010, he would have completed his sentence by 2014.