Journalist Jennifer Latheef returned to her home in Malé on 21 December after being given 10 days leave from prison for health reasons. Doctors have prescribed physiotherapy for spinal column injuries. They have also recommended rest for mental exhaustion.
Latheef told Reporters Without Borders by telephone that she wanted to request special medical treatment in Sri Lanka in order to have the MRI scan which the doctors have recommended. Despite her physical condition, the authorities are continuing to put pressure on her. Prison officials went to her home three times on 25 December in an attempt to take her back to prison.
Latheef thanked all those, especially in the news media, who have campaigned on her behalf and said she hoped she would not be reimprisoned.
Campaign to free Jennifer Latheef grows as she completes her third month in prison
Reporters Without Borders and Friends of Maldives are taking part in a mounting international campaign for the release of the daily Minivan’s young photojournalist Jennifer Latheef, who will tomorrow complete her third month of a 10-year prison sentence for a supposed “terrorist act.”
Latheef is being held in appalling conditions in a prison on the island of Maafushi, some 20 km south of the capital Malé. She is shut up in a small, filthy cell in a building where political and ordinary prisoners are lumped together. The cell’s toilet is blocked, and emits a terrible stench. She has no access to water that is fit to drink, or the daily treatment she needs to regulate her blood sugar level.
From her cell, she has rallied fellow detainees to press for an improvement in prison conditions. She is also trying to set up sports sessions to avoid the health problems that result from long periods of imprisonment.
She is often insulted by other detainees. Spoiled food and stones are thrown into her cell. In early November, she sent her family a note written in her cell entitled “The solution,” in which she says: “The lack of freedom of expression has made us incapable of articulating and defending the rights of other people. But this repression also makes us unable to understand and defend our own rights.”
To prevent her from appealing, the authorities have refused to hand over to her family a copy of the document certifying her conviction. Maldivian law allows 90 days to file an appeal.
Friends of Maldives and Reporters Without Borders have launched an international campaign for Latheef’s immediate release:
To pressure the Maldivian government, Friends of Maldives has decided to target the archipelago’s tourism industry (500,000 foreign visitors a year) and distributed more than 3,000 flyers about Latheef at last month’s World Travel Market in London.
On 10 December, Friends of Maldives launched a campaign for tourists to boycott specific named resorts in the Maldives that are linked to leading members of the regime. The list of resorts to avoid is available at www.friendsofmaldives.org.
More than 800 people have already signed a petition for Latheef’s release on the Reporters Without Borders website http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=15623 .
A poster campaign about “Dictator Paradises” was launched in Paris on 21 November. More than 500 posters have been put up in the streets of the French capital condemning Latheef’s imprisonment.
International publications such as Marie-Claire of Spain and the French magazine Photo have agreed to adopt Latheef, undertaking to run articles about her case and to write to the authorities requesting her release.
Friend of Maldives has written to Britain’s 700 parliamentarians asking them to adopt a firmer stance on President Abdul Gayoom’s government. The British foreign office has promised to undertake new diplomatic initiatives to obtain the release of Maldives’ prisoners of conscience.
Dr Kim Howells, the British foreign office minister responsible for South Asia, recently said in parliament that the trials of Mohamed Nasheed and Jennifer Latheef seem to have been politically motivated.