By Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal
COLOMBO (Reuters) - The Maldives on Sunday backtracked on an unconditional agreement to allow jailed former leader Mohamed Nasheed to travel to Britain for surgery, his lawyers said.
On Saturday, the government granted permission for Nasheed to travel after pressure from the international community including human rights groups and his lawyer Amal Clooney, who lobbied for sanctions on Maldives leaders.
However, the government has since demanded that a close relative remain behind in the Maldives' capital Male "effectively as a hostage" until Nasheed's return to jail, said Hassan Latheef, another of Nasheed's lawyers.
"The government reneged on the agreed deal at the last minute, demanding a close family member of Nasheed remain in Male, effectively as a hostage, until he returns from the UK," Latheef told Reuters.
"If Nasheed does anything that breach the terms of the government, the family member could then be criminally prosecuted. This kind of blackmail is illegal, unheard of in international affairs, and totally outrageous."
President Abdullah Yameen agreed to grant Nasheed permission to leave the country on medical grounds after pressure from rights groups and the United Nations. Political colleagues say Nasheed is suffering from back pain.
Eva Abdullah, Nasheed's family spokesperson, told Reuters that Nasheed's lawyers were never informed of any conditions through British, Indian, and Sri Lankan diplomats who helped secure the deal and Nasheed "will not barter somebody else's freedom for his".
Home Minister Umar Naseer said the law required the nomination of a family member as a guarantor and added that Nasheed could depart to the airport the moment he authorizes a family nominee.
Nasheed was ousted in disputed circumstances in 2012 for ordering the arrest of a judge.
The United Nations, the United States and human rights groups have said Yameen's government failed to follow due process and that the case was politically motivated.
Amal Clooney, who is married to Hollywood actor George Clooney, early this week criticized Yameen's administration, saying that "democracy is dead in the Maldives".
(Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine in New Delhi; Editing by Ros Russell)