Home Minister's allegations have no basis, confirms ex-chief of police

Former Commissioner of Police Ahmed Areef has described Home Minister Imran Abdulla's recent statement that former Home Minister Umar Naseer had not prioritized apprehending 1988 coup leader Abdulla Luthufee, as blatant lies.

Home Minister Imran was summoned to the parliament on Monday to be questioned regarding the extradition of Abdulla Luthufee. who recently turned himself in at the Maldivian Embassy in Sri Lanka after being on the run for the past nine years after fleeing authorities.

Answering questions at the parliament, Minister Imran blamed the previous government's failure to apprehend Luthufee on then Home Minister Umar Naseer, stating that the police had acquired information on Luthufee's whereabouts in 2014. However, Umar Naseer had refsued to grant the necessary approvals to pursue Luthufee, deeming his extradition as unimportant, said Imran.

However, Areef, who was also the former Head of Intel on Monday revealed to AVAS that there was no basis to Imran's allegations, describing the minister's words as lies. He further expressed disappointment that Imran had made such a statement at the parliment, even if he may have been informed by other parties.

"I have always respected Imran. However, what he relayed today at the parliament is a blatant lie. I am well aware of the efforts that were under taken and what happened in trying to apprehend Luthufee. Home Minister Umar worked in collaboration with me [to apprehend Luthufee].", said Areef.

Areef confirmed that Umar Naseer had done a lot of work in his attempt to locate ad extradite Luthufee, reiterating that it was not due to lack of Umar's cooperation or refusal to issue an approval that the previous government had been unsuccessful in apprehending Luthufee.

"It is not acceptable to twist the truth this way for political gain or any other purpose", said Areef.

Former Home Minister Umar Naseer himself has rebutted Imran's statement, emphasizing that there is no other cabinet minister who has done more to apprehend Luthufee than he did.

Noting some of the efforts he undertook as Minister in his attempt to find Luthufee, he reminded that the previous government had offered a reward of MVR 75,000 for anyone who could provide credible information on Luthufee's whereabouts, which was later increased to US$ 10,000.

He further noted that he officially met with Sri Lanka's Law and Order minister and Police Chief, and tabled Luthufee's case on agenda. A special police team was also dispatched to Sri Lanka after the government received reports that Luthufee was hiding out in Nunegoda, Sri Lanka, however ,the mission was unsuccessful, revealed Umar.

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.

Luthufee was allowed to travel to neighboring Sri Lanka on 16th January 2010 for medical purposes during former president Mohamed Nasheed's administration. However, he went into hiding during the trip and had been residing in Sri Lanka for the past nine years as a fugitive.

In a recent development, Luthufee voluntarily presented himself to the Maldivian Embassy in Sri Lanka on 1st May 2019, after which he has been residing at the embassy until now. Authorities did not disclose his presence at the embassy until last Monday, after rumors that the embassy was harboring Luthufee made its rounds on social media, prompting public criticism on the matter. It was ex-minister Umar who first linked Luthufee's whereabouts to the Maldivian Embassy in Sri Lanka.

While arrangements to extradite Luthufee are being made, authorities have blamed the delay in returning Luthufee back to Maldives on incomplete documentation and other processes.