Bill proposes criminalizing ‘expressions contrary to national interest and Islamic tenets’

The Attorney General’s (AG) office has drafted a new law that would criminalise expressions contrary to national interest or tenets of Islam.

The draft legislation (Dhivehi) on freedom of expression – obtained by Minivan News – states that four types of “expressions contrary to national interest” will constitute criminal offences: encouraging harm to a person or damage to private party, calling for the illegal overthrow of the government, threatening the country’s independence, sovereignty, and security, and accusing a person of committing a hadd offence without conclusive evidence.

Free expression can be restricted on the grounds of national security only if the following circumstances arise: if there is a need to protect the nation or its territory, if Maldivians or foreigners threaten national security with the use of force, and if the government’s ability to defend the nation is endangered.

If the state restricts freedom of expression in such cases, the state must show that the right has been restricted as narrowly as possible, that the restriction is permissible in a democratic society, and that the expression in question poses “a serious danger to national security.”

Hadd offences are crimes for which punishments are prescribed in the Quran or the hadith (sayings of the Prophet), including theft, fornication, making unproven accusations of illicit sex, drinking intoxicants, apostasy, and highway robbery.

The punishment for falsely accusing a person of committing a hadd offence is a jail sentence of between one to three years and a fine of between MVR50,000 (US$3,242) and MVR100,000 (US$6,485)

The bill states that encouraging harm or damage to property – excluding calls for a boycott of goods – and calling for the illegal overthrow of the government can be prosecuted under sections 222 (threatening catastrophe) and 610 (rioting or forceful overthrow of the government) of the new penal code.

Expressions that threaten independence, sovereignty, or national security are punishable by a jail sentence of between three to five years and a fine of between MVR100,000 and MVR500,000 (US$32,425).

The bill states that individuals can be prosecuted for the offences if he or she is unable to prove the truth of a claim under standards followed in civil defamation cases.

The freedom of expression bill was among the government’s 207-bill legislative agenda. It was scheduled to be submitted to parliament during the second session of 2014, but has yet to be submitted.

In May, prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin said his office was looking into prosecuting opposition politicians for libel and slander following allegations linking President Abdulla Yameen and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb with the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in 2012.

“People are acting however they want. They are trying very hard to defame state institutions in front of the public. The constitution does not give us the right to commit crimes hiding behind a political party,” he said.

“People in responsible posts are publicly accusing others of murder. We are researching on pressing charges against individuals who accuses some one of a crime and which the punishment is hadd.”

Later that month, President Abdulla Yameen threatened to prosecute Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, who had said the president and tourism minister would know the truth behind the murder.

“I am being accused falsely. This government will penalise them. I want to file charges against those who are making these accusations. Not that of defamation, but criminal charges. I will file charges against Sheikh Imran,” he said.

Religious unity

The Maldivian constitution guarantees “the right to freedom of thought and the freedom to communicate opinions and expression in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam.”

The draft freedom of expression bill criminalises insulting Islam, questioning the validity of a tenet of Islam, and threatening religious unity or causing religious disputes, strife, and discord.

Persons accused of anti-Islamic expressions can be prosecuted under section 617 (criticising Islam) of the new penal code.

The bill, however, exempts “constructive opinions” expressed respectfully regarding Islamic tenets for academic or research purposes or at a public forum.

The proposed law states that permission must be sought from the Islamic ministry to preach, deliver religious sermons, or inform the public about religious edicts and specifies a fine of between MVR50,000 and MVR100,000 for violations.

Teaching Islam at a school, college, or university without the ministry’s permission will also be punishable with a fine of between MVR10,000 and MVR50,000.

The 1994 religious unity law will be repealed once the proposed law comes into force. The Islamic ministry must enact new regulations on issuing permission based on education and experience and put in place a mechanism for investigating complaints.

Under the new law, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives will investigate complaints of expressions contrary to national interest or Islamic tenets and forward cases to the prosecutor general’s office.

The bill states that defamation will not be considered a criminal offence and specifies civil remedies. The Supreme Court is mandated to enact regulations specifying rules for determining compensation for damages.

Defamation cases can only be heard in cases where the complainant has suffered damages.

Defamation was decriminalised in 2009 when parliament abolished section 125 of the old penal code, which stated: “Where a person makes a fabricated statement or repeats a statement whose basis cannot be proven, he shall be punished with house detention for a period between one to six months or fined between MVR25 and MVR200.”

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Prosecutor general to charge 30 May Day protesters

Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin says he will press charges against 30 of the 193 protesters arrested from a mass antigovernment protest on May 1.

“Out of the 128 cases we accepted from the police, we’ve forwarded around 98 cases to the committee on reviewing first time offenders. That means we will press charges against only about 30 people. That includes repeated offenders and the people suspected of attacking police officers at the protest,” he said.

Over 20,000 opposition supporters took to the streets on May 1 over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim. Police cracked down on protesters at dusk when they attempted to enter Malé’s restricted Republic Square.

Nearly 200 were arrested and scores were injured, including two police officers.

Muhsin at a press briefing today said his office will uphold the rights of the accused, but said he had noticed protesters were committing serious crimes at the opposition’s demonstrations.

“Article 32 of the constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. The law does not allow attacking and inciting violence against law enforcement agencies, and causing terror in society. This is terrorism under Maldivian law,” he said.

Muhsin warned of harsh penalties for individuals who commit such acts and advised political parties to refrain from encouraging terrorism.

Charges against protesters at present range from disobedience to order to assaulting police officers.

Muhsin also said public prosecutors are looking at charging individuals over libel and slander following allegations by recent defectors from the ruling coalition accusing President Abdulla Yameen and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb of links with the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in 2012.

The ex police chief Abdulla Riyaz was summoned to the police last week over comments he had made in an interview with opposition aligned Raajje TV on Afrasheem’s death and the torching of the station in 2013.

“People are acting however they want. They are trying very hard to defame state institutions in front of the public. The constitution does not give us the right to commit crimes hiding behind a political party,” he said.

“People in responsible posts are publicly accusing others of murder. We are researching on pressing charges against individuals who accuses some one of a crime and which the punishment is had.”

Muhsin said the PG office will appeal cases where the criminal court releases protesters from remand on the condition they avoid further protests: “My stand is the court cannot release a detained person imposing conditions barring him from attending protests. If I know of such a case and the subjected person do not have the ability to appeal, the PG office will appeal the case.”

The criminal court in March imposed such conditions on dozens of protesters. MP Ahmed Mahloof spent weeks in police custody and house arrest when he refused the criminal court’s conditions to stay away from protests. The high court brought the practice to an end when Mahloof appealed the criminal court’s ruling.

Muhsin also dismissed the opposition’s claim that the police is now imposing restrictions on freedom of assembly, by requiring prior permission for protests and banning the use of four wheeled vehicles in protests without prior notice.

“I don’t believe the right to protest has been narrowed in Maldives. I believe the right to protest and freedom of assembly is much wider in Maldives compared to other countries, to the extent that we eventually end up violating rights of others,” he said.

The opposition has criticized Muhsin over the rushed trial of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges and for accepting a discounted luxury flat by the government. The flats were also given to the five Supreme Court judges, and several heads of independent institutions.

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Prominent historian Shafeeq passes away

A prominent historian and writer, Ahmed Shafeeq, passed away on Friday after battling a long illness.

Shafeeq was 87-years-old and leaves behind 12 children. He wrote numerous books, earned national literary awards, and had served as atoll chief and member of parliament.

In his last book titled ‘A day in the life of Ahmed Shafeeq,’ he alleged that 111 people had been killed during ex-president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year reign.

Gayoom successfully sued Shafeeq for defamation and the civil court in July 2012 ordered the writer to pay MVR5,000 as compensation.

Shafeeq was held in solitary confinement for 83 days in 1995 together with three other writers, including Hassan Ahmed Maniku, Ali Moosa Didi and Mohamed Latheef.

Shafeeq contended that 50 of his diaries containing evidence relating to the deaths of the 111 Maldivians were confiscated during a raid by 15 armed men. He was ultimately released by Gayoom without charge, and was told by the investigating officer to write a letter of appreciation to the then-president for the pardon.

After Gayoom declared that he will sue Shafeeq in late 2010, then-president Mohamed Nasheed said police will investigate the claims of 111 custodial deaths.

Nasheed had said that Gayoom alone could not be blamed for all the human rights abuses that occurred under his watch.

“It was not done by him alone. It was a whole system that did it. It was Dhivehi tradition that did it. It was Dhivehi culture that did it,” he said.

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Nasheed to sue four Criminal Court judges for defamation

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has decided to sue Criminal Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed along with the three judges who presided over his terrorism trial for defamation.

In a press release today, the opposition leader’s legal team accused the Criminal Court of falsely claiming in the media on Thursday night (March 26) that it would release the full court report required for the High Court appeal as Nasheed had signed the transcripts.

However, the Criminal Court has yet to provide transcripts despite the legal team’s March 15 letter requesting the full case report. The court has made no move to get Nasheed to sign the transcripts, they added.

The Criminal Court found Nasheed guilty of terrorism on March 13 over the military detention of Judge Abdulla in January 2012. Many international and domestic observers have expressed concern over the rushed trial, claiming it was marred by major irregularities including the court’s refusal to call defence witnesses.

Nasheed’s lawyers and supporters last week urged the Criminal Court to release a report of case proceedings, but the court had previously blamed the delay in issuing the full report on Nasheed and his lawyers’ alleged refusal to sign statements made during court hearings.

In today’s press release, lawyers said the court had showed Nasheed a transcript of proceedings from the first hearing of the trial, but the former president refused to sign it as it did not accurately represent his statements at court.

“President Mohamed Nasheed requested amending the document by including what he said at court. But the Criminal Court has not done so to date,” lawyers explained.

The court attempted to get Nasheed to sign the transcripts on March 13, the press release continued, but Nasheed told the court officer he would sign it in the presence of his lawyers.

“The Criminal Court has been repeatedly saying that the report has been provided to us because President Nasheed has not signed it. However, the court has not made any attempt to get President Nasheed’s signature on the statements that should be included in the report,” the press release added.

The court’s subsequent claim last Thursday night that Nasheed has signed the report was therefore “a blatant lie.”

“Therefore, President Nasheed has decided to file a defamation suit at the Civil Court against Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed and the three judges who presided over the case,” the press release stated.

The three judges are Judges Abdul Bari Yoosuf, Abdulla Didi and Sujau Usman.

Nasheed’s lawyers on March 26 announced the opposition leader would not seek an appeal at the High Court, stating he believed there was no opportunity for justice due to executive control of the judiciary.

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Civil Court rejects Nazim’s defamation case against police chief

The Civil Court has rejected a defamation case filed on behalf of former Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim against Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed.

Briefing the press today on the status of several cases relating to Nazim’s arrest and prosecution on charges of weapons possession, terrorism and treason, Hameed revealed that the Civil Court refused to accept the defamation case on the grounds that the police chief has legal immunity for statements made in his official capacity.

Nazim’s lawyers sued Waheed for telling the press on January 29 that an improvised explosive device was found in Nazim’s home.

Hameed said at the time that the explosive device had not been found during the initial search, and was not listed in a record of items found, explaining that police only announced its discovery days later after an analysis conducted without independent oversight.

The legal team would request a review of the Civil Court registrar’s decision, Hameed told the press today, contending that the immunity was specified in a regulation pre-dating both the 2008 constitution and the Police Act.

The legal team was also awaiting replies from the Civil Court regarding lawsuits against Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin for alleged violations of Nazim’s constitutional rights and “malicious prosecution” of his wife, Afaaf Abdul Majeed.

The PG office withdrew charges of weapons possession against Afaaf on February 25.

Afaaf has also sued PG Muhsin for defamation.

Hameed also revealed that the PG office yesterday declined to provide information requested under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act. The legal team has subsequently filed a case against the PG office at the Civil Court.

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has meanwhile met Nazim today to seek a statement for its investigation of a complaint regarding Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed, Hameed noted, adding that the Human Rights Commission of Maldives was also investigating a similar complaint.

The legal team also submitted complaints to the PIC regarding the SWAT team involved in the midnight raid, Hameed said, adding that the PIC has said it was in the process of gathering information in response to a separate FoI request.

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Comment: A case for more mature defamation laws in the Maldives

“Reputation, reputation, reputation! O! I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!” said Cassio in Act II of Shakespeare’s Othello.

So did Maumoon Abdul Gayoom almost every day whenever before 2008 whenever his government wanted to stymie any criticism from anyone that he didn’t count as a supporter.

So did Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in June 2010, when the New York Times published the now (in)famous “looters” article and when Miadhu decided to reprint it.

So did Mohamed Nasheed in January 2012, when DQP’s Dr Mohamed Jameel alleged Nasheed was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests”.

These three moments/phases define the journey of defamation laws in our country and reflect three aspects of the maturity and adequacy of these laws. They reflect “the good, the bad and the ugly” of defamation laws in the Maldives and underlie the case for further refinements in these laws for us to have a stable, progressive and a coherent Islamic society.

Evolution of defamation laws in our country has come a long way from the times where it was a criminal offence punishable with up to six months of jail under Gayoom’s era. However, they seemed to have been too weak and toothless under Nasheed, and this in some sense led to his downfall that ushered in a volatile political environment for the last one and a half years.

The purpose of laws is to not just to punish actions that are undesirable for the peace of society but to also deter actions that can potentially harm such peace and harmony. This is especially true of defamation laws, which must create the fine balance between promoting responsible freedom of expression and providing enough deterrents against slander that can do unreasonable harm to reputation of individuals and to the cohesion of societies.

It is worthwhile to look back at how the defamation laws have evolved over time in the Maldives and reflect on whether we need to revisit these laws going forward, in order to make them more effective in serving the purpose that these laws are supposed to serve.

Before defamation was decriminalised in November 2009, defamation was one of the most abused laws in the Maldives. Section 125 was invoked by Gayoom administration every now and then to put their opponents under arrest and stymie any criticism of the government. Section 125 stated that “Where a person makes a fabricated statement or repeats a statement whose basis cannot be proven, he shall be punished with house detention for a period between one to six months or fined between Rf25 and Rf200”.

This of course reflected “the ugly” of our defamation laws and was dropped by the newly elected democratic government of Mohamed Nasheed. Such decriminalisation was hailed as a key democratic reform of the previous government and was appreciated by global rights watch bodies such as Article 19 and Freedom House as well as the United Nations itself. This was a significant movement for a society that was used to being under the shackles of the government and was enjoying its now-found ‘democratic society’ status.

Then, in June 2010, Gayoom decided to take Miadhu to court for reprinting an article published in New York Times. This article, which spoke of how money from the exchequer was inappropriately used for personal consumption under Gayoom’s regime, was based on the Nasheed government’s audit reports of Gayoom regime’s expenditure. This defamation suit was to be a watershed moment in democratic evolution of the country where a newspaper carried a story, which they believed to be credible, fearlessly. This was also a landmark moment with respect to freedom of expression and media in the Maldives; it was also the first case that Gayoom had lost in 32 years in the country! It showed Maldives to be on the right path of socio-judicial democratic reforms where some of the key tenets of globally accepted defamation regulations were shown to be working in our system.

However, this was soon followed by how ‘the bad’ of our defamation laws were exposed after ex-DQP leader and now-running-mate of Abdulla Yameen, Dr Mohammed Jameel Ahmed decided to slander against the then-President Mohamed Nasheed. In a closely knit Islamic society such as ours, an accusation of working against the nation’s religion, which is what binds us together, is a matter of supreme importance – more so, if such an accusation is made against the nation’s President.

If backed by proof, then it is a matter of strategic importance for the nation’s institutions to investigate but if it is unsubstantiated, it is slander of the most deplorable nature and must be handled with utmost urgency. In this case, it was interesting to note that while Dr Jameel made these allegations, they came from the political leader of a party whose other major leader, Dr Hassan Saeed, had declared during many election rallies in 2008 that as Gayoom’s Attorney General, he was aware that Nasheed was investigated for his association with western churches.

He had declared during these rallies that Nasheed had come totally clean after detailed investigations. Moreover, Nasheed’s government was accused of voting in favour of Israel at the United Nations, whereas Maldives’ voting in any UN resolution is public knowledge and clearly this accusation was untrue as well. However, despite these issues being common knowledge, a political leader could believe that he could make the most serious and slanderous allegations against the President of the nation and could expect to be let off the hook easily for such slander.

It’s another matter that there are a number of structural issues with respect to the judiciary in the Maldives which also played their part in how this case snowballed into significant political turmoil for the country. While I do not intend to comment on or discuss the issue of judicial reforms through this article, the core issue that I want to highlight is that even the laws must have had loopholes for which a political leader such as Dr Jameel had hoped to get away with slander. I say this because, had the laws been specific and if they had enough teeth to be deterrents by themselves, scope of judicial manipulation would have been limited in this case. For instance, while slander and libel were decriminalised in 2009, the maximum penalty for civil action against slander was set at MVR 5000 (US$325). That’s hardly a deterrent for a man who is known for his panache for Hugo Boss suits! He may as well have deposited MVR 5,000 in the President’s office in advance for every time he got a set of these ‘slanderous’ booklets printed!

This saga that set off arguably the biggest political turmoil in Maldivian history was not the end of it, as for the woes against weak defamation laws. Foreign investors like Nexbis and GMR complained of continuous undermining of their business reputation through unsubstantiated and irresponsible corruption allegations by local politicians such as Sheikh Imran and Hassan Saeed. For instance, in the case of GMR, while the likes of Sheikh Imran and various ministers in Dr Waheed’s cabinet made corruption allegations against the GMR deal, the Anti-Corruption Commission later gave a clean chit to the deal.

The impact that these experiences, with respect to the safety of investment climate and investor protection against local political interests, of these two foreign companies will have on future investment flows only remains to be seen in the times to come. What is very clear is that re-looking at defamation laws is not only important from a socio-political perspective but from an economic development and foreign investor protection perspective as well.

In essence, we have come a long way from pre-2009 days when criminal defamation was widely abused but are now at a place where anyone can make any sort of irresponsible allegations without worrying about the consequences. This is not only limited to the domain of politics but to our economy as well as everyday life. It is clear that defamation cannot go back to being a criminal offence but it is also important for us to consider if the current civil defamation laws reflect the desired balance that is important to maintain order in our society.

Clearly, the current laws are unable to make this balance and need to be strengthened – how, though, is a matter of broader socio-politico-legal debate.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to editorial@minivannewsarchive.com

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Court commences police chief’s ‘baaghee’ defamation case against former president

The Civil Court yesterday ( April 8 ) began hearing statements in a defamation case filed by Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Riyaz is seeking MVR3.75 million (US$243,506) in damages from Nasheed, who is accused of labelling the commissioner a ‘baaghee’ (traitor) following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012, which saw sections of the police and military mutiny against the former government.

Nasheed is accused of continuing to call the commissioner a ‘baaghee’ even after a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) later concluded the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed came to power constitutionally.

A Civil Court spokesperson confirmed to Minivan News that lawyers representing both Riyaz and Nasheed were present yesterday during the first of five hearings anticipated to determine the charges against the former president.

During the hearing, the presiding judge asked the defence to answer the allegations against Nasheed. The next hearing of the case is expected to allow Nadheed’s representatives to present a statement in his defence, according to a spokesperson for the Civil Court.

No date was set for the next hearing, the court claimed.

Riyaz’s defamation case had been scheduled to begin last year, but was later postponed upon request of the commissioner himself.

MDP MP and lawyer Mariya Ahmed Didi said the party has previously issued a statement following the postponement of the hearings, claiming that Nasheed was “anxious to proceed with the case”.

Mariya alleged that Commissioner Riyaz was hesitant to proceed with the defamation case for fear that he would not be able to prove that his standing in society or his wider reputation had suffered as a result of the former president’s comments.

“There are hundreds of witnesses just waiting to give their evidence in court. In addition, senior police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers including [former] commissioner of Police Faseeh and Defence Force chief Moosa Jaleel have testified to the relevant committee of parliament that the events of February 7 and February 8 were indeed a coup,” she claimed. “We are confident that if we get a free and fair trial we will get a judgement in our favour.”

“Undermining” commisioner’s esteem

Riyaz’s lawyers have previously accused Nasheed of undermining the esteem and respect of the police commissioner by labelling him as a “traitor.”

The legal team also argued at the time that Nasheed’s words had compromised the safety of Riyaz, requiring security at his residence to be strengthened.

Commissioner Riyaz and Police Spokesperson Chief Inspetor Hassan Haneef were not responding to calls at time of press.

Meanwhile, MVR3.75 million in damages are being sought from Nasheed by serving Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, who has also accused the former president of damaging his reputation by labelling a traitor during a public address last year.

Newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported at the time that following a speech by Nasheed attacking the defence minister, a group of protesters came outside Nazim’s house, “leaving Nazim’s family in fear”.

Former Youth Minister Dr Hassan Latheef, who defended Nasheed at a Civil Court hearing held in October 2012, told the presiding judge at the time that the former president denied the charges against him.

Nasheed’s legal team has previously contended that Riyaz had filed the defamation case in the civil court at a time when the police were continuously arresting people for calling them ‘baaghee’ on the streets. The same representatives also accused the country’s criminal court of continuing to provide extensions of detention periods for people arrested under the charges.

Further charges

Nasheed is also currently in the process of being tried on charges that  he illegally detained a senior judge during the end of his presidency.

However, all trials concerning the judge’s detention were suspended earlier this month pending a High Court ruling on the legitimacy of the bench of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court conducting Nasheed’s case.

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Defence Minister launches defamation case against Nasheed over “traitor” allegations

The first hearing of a defamation case filed by Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim against former President Mohamed Nasheed took place at the Civil Court today, with MVR 3.75 million (US$243,506) being sought in compensation.

The hearing was attended by legal representatives for both Mohamed Nazim and former President Nasheed, who was today detained by police for a separate criminal trial over the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Nazim’s lawyer told the court that the defence minister’s good name and reputation had been affected by claims made by Nasheed, who had called his client a traitor during a public address at a rally following February’s controversial transfer of power.

Newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported at the time that following Nasheed’s speech, a group of protesters came outside Nazim’s house and that it had “left Nazim’s family in fear”.

Former Youth Minister Dr Hassan Latheef attended today’s hearing to represent Nasheed, telling the presiding judge that the former president denied the charges against him.

Latheef told the court that evidence would be provided to support Nasheed’s allegations, adding that the former president would want to produce such evidence to the court.

The next hearing for the case is now expected to take place will held a week on Thursday (October 18) . The presiding judge also said that during the next hearing Nasheed’s lawyer will get his chance to respond to the charges.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed was arrested this morning after Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court issued an arrest warrant. The warrant was issued after Nasheed ignored court summons to produce himself to the court for the hearing of a case filed against him for ‘’unlawful’’ arrest of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed.

Nasheed was at Fresmathoda Island in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll campaigning for the next presidential elections when he was arrested.

Another case of defamation has also been filed by Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz at the Civil Court against Nasheed. A hearing in to the case was recently scheduled but before the scheduled time it was cancelled.  Local media reports say that the hearing was postponed upon Riyaz’s request.

Back in April, the Maldives Police Service had forwarded a case concerning alcohol bottles allegedly confiscated from the home of Nasheed to the Prosecutor General’s (PG’s) Office.

A source with knowledge of the case has told Minivan News that the PG’s Office had decided that evidence provided by police at the time had not been obtained under the required procedures and regulations.

The source who wished to remain anonymous, said the PG had requested that police resubmit the case with evidence that was “legally obtained”, if the case was to proceed to a criminal hearing – a request that had not been forthcoming so far.

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press for an official response.

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Civil Court to order police to bring historian Shafeeg to Court

Civil Court Judge Abdullah Adheeb has said today that he would order police to summon 82 year-old historian Ahmed Shafeeg.

Shafeeg is being sued by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom after Shafeeg publicly alleged that 111 custodial deaths occurred during Gayoom’s 30 year regime.

Shafeeg made the allegations in his book, “A Day in the Life of Ahmed Shafeeg”, and had failed to be present to the court due to poor health.

Judge Adheeb today said that after Shafeeg had failed to attend the hearings, the civil court staff had to ‘stick’ the summoning order at the front door of his residence. The judge added that when the summoning order was sent to Shafeeg, his son had said that he had been unable to attend to the court due to his old age and poor health.

The judge also said that he had asked Shafeeg to appoint someone to represent him at the court, but Shafeeg responded saying that he would attend to the court after he had recovered from his illness.

During today’s hearings, the judge handed over some medical documents highlighting Shafeeg’s medical conditions to Gayoom’s lawyer, Mohamed ‘Wadde’ Waheed Ibrahim.

Gayoom’s lawyer then requested the judge send the police to summon Shafeeg to court.

A similar request was made by Gayoom’s lawyer during president Nasheed’s presidency, which the judge acknowledged but today replied “We all know how things were at that time.”

Adjourning today’s hearings, Judge Adheeb stated that he would once again order police to summon Shafeeg to the court.

Earlier during President Nasheed’s presidency, he promised that the Maldives Police Service would investigate claims made by local historian Ahmed Shafeeg in his book, that 111 Maldivian citizens were held in custody and tortured by the former administration.

The claims led Gayoom to declare that he would file a court case against Shafeeg for politically-motivated slander.

The former president’s lawyer, Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim, at the time was cited in newspaper Miadhu as saying that lawsuits would be filed “against anyone who writes anything untrue and unfounded against Gayoom”, and noted that all such cases so far had been won.

During a ceremony at the Nasandhura Palace Hotel to launch Shafeeg’s book, titled “A Day in the Life of Ahmed Shafeeg”, Nasheed observed that the former President was not solely to blame for human rights violations.

“The [human rights] violations were not committed by Gayoom alone. A whole system committed them. The whole culture of the Maldives committed them,” Nasheed said at the time.

Shafeeg, now 82, was held in solitary confinement for 83 days in 1995 together with three other writers, including Hassan Ahmed Maniku, Ali Moosa Didi and Mohamed Latheef.

Shafeeg contends that 50 of his diaries containing evidence relating to the deaths of the 111 Maldivians were confiscated during a raid by 15 armed men. He was ultimately released by Gayoom with without charge, and was told by the investigating officer to write a letter of appreciation to the then-President for the pardon.

Last September, Civil Court Judge ordered that the passport of 82 year-old historian Ahmed Shafeeg be held.

The judge said the court would seize Shafeeg’s passport after Gayoom’s lawyer at the time alleged that he had information that Shafeeg was about to leave the country.

A medical certificate was produced to the court at the time by Shafeeg, which Gayoom’s lawyer said was against procedure and that Shafeeg would have to fill in a form stating that he could not appear at court due to his medical condition.

Gayoom’s lawyer told the judge that Shafeeg was intentionally dismissing the summons, “while he has been attending other functions.”

Given the current state of the Maldives judiciary, sensitivity of the issue and extreme political polarisation of the country, it is likely that any verdict with even a remote chance of being accepted by both sides would need to come from an international court. Shafeeg’s family had indicated that they are prepared for this course of action should legal proceedings falter in the Maldives.

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