Police cleared of wrongdoing in manhandling ex-president

The police watchdog has determined that police officers used proportionate force and acted legally when they escorted former President Mohamed Nasheed to the criminal court on February 23.

Nasheed appeared for the first hearing of his terrorism trial with his arms in a makeshift sling. Police officers had manhandled and dragged the opposition leader inside the court building when he stopped to speak with journalists.

However, citing testimony from police officers and video footage obtained for its inquiry, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) said “Nasheed stopped near the gate of the justice building and refused police orders to go into the building.”

Minivan News journalists saw Nasheed repeatedly asking the the police to let him walk into the court, but police officers dragged him in by force, ripping his shirt open in the process.

The PIC launched an inquiry after the former president submitted a complaint alleging police brutality.

Nasheed was subsequently sentenced to 13 years in prison over terrorism charges related to the detention of a judge during his tenure. Foreign governments, the UN, and international human rights organisations widely criticised the 19-day trial over its apparent lack of due process.

The PIC said in a press statement today that police officers acted in accordance with regulations and used “force necessary in the situation.”

The office of former President Nasheed has slammed the PIC’s statement, noting that the oversight body had not sought statements from Nasheed or journalists who witnessed the incident.

Nasheed’s office accused the commission of defending police for political reasons, calling on the watchdog to act independently and to conduct impartial investigations into complaints of police misconduct.

Meanwhile, Nasheed was brought to the Malé from Maafushi prison this afternoon for a doctor’s appointment at the Senahiya military hospital.

 

“He was brought for medical examination several days after doctors in Maafushi Health Centre recommended for him to be examined by medical specialists,” read a separate statement from Nasheed’s office.

Doctors at the health centre had recommended on May 7 that Nasheed should have an MRI and consult a dentist, but the authorities had denied requests from his family and lawyers to provide medical care, the statement added.

The former president’s office noted that “Senahiya is not a tertiary hospital and the authorities have not given any reason why he is being treated at a health clinic and not a well equipped hospital in the Maldives.”

Hundreds of supporters gathered near the Senehiya hospital this afternoon, hoping to catch a glimpse of the former president who has not been seen since he was sentenced to 13 years in jail on March 13.

Police arrested Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Eva Abdulla’s husband Ahmed Shahid (Saabe) near the hospital for allegedly disobeying orders. He was released by the court within hours.

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Home minister vows to keep ex president in jail

Home minister Umar Naseer has vowed to keep ex-president Mohamed Nasheed in prison despite growing calls for his release by the international community.

“We will not free Nasheed. This government will not free him. I repeat it,” Naseer said in an interview on pro-government private broadcaster Dhi-TV on Thursday.

Nasheed is serving a 13-year jail term on terrorism charges relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure. Foreign governments, international bodies including the UN and Amnesty International have criticized the trial for lack of due process.

The EU parliament in April passed a resolution calling for Nasheed’s immediate release and have urged member states to warn tourists on Maldives’ human rights record on their travel websites.

However, Naseer said the government “will not back down an inch” even if the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is backed by 50 foreign governments. He went on to describe the MDP as a “lie factory.”

“There is no way will we hand the country to MDP. We will not back down an inch even if they come with 50 countries behind them,” he said.

“The government is built upon a very strong foundation. There is no way we will budge.”

Naseer said the MDP had planned to torch several buildings during a mass antigovernment protest on May Day. Nearly 200 people, including opposition leaders, were arrested when violent clashes erupted between the police and protesters.

Approximately 20,000 people had taken to the streets on May 1 over Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s imprisonment.

Although the opposition has criticized the police for excessive force and brutality during the protest, Naseer congratulated the police force, saying they are the “most professional” force in the region.

He said the police had ten years of experience in controlling protests and condemned protesters for beating two police officers.

“MDP can only deceive others [the international community], not Maldivians,” he said.

The home minister once again denied allegations he had made of president Abdulla Yameen’s involvement in the brutal murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in 2012.

Naseer had contested against Yameen during the Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) presidential primaries of 2013. When he lost, he held a public rally accusing Yameen of corruption, vote-rigging, illicit connections with criminal gangs, and said he saw a suspect in Afrasheem’s murder meeting with Yameen.

Naseer was expelled from the PPM when he refused to apologize for his remarks. He joined the Jumhooree Party (JP), and was given a cabinet portfolio after Yameen won the second round of polls with JP’s backing. The party left the ruling coalition in January.

“I said I saw a suspect in Afrasheem’s murder, after he was released, at the PPM office seeking a meeting with president Yameen. I did not say there is any connection between president Yameen and Afrasheem’s murder,” he said.

Naseer on Thursday said he had made the comments because of the “rivalry in the campaign,” and said the investigation does not suggest the president was involved in the murder at all.

In recent months, several defectors from the ruling coalition, including MP Ahmed Mahloof, have claimed president Yameen will know the truth behind Afrasheem’s murder.

In December 2012, then-police chief Abdulla Riyaz had said that Dr Afrasheem’s murder was politically motivated with a local gang offered MVR4 million (US$260,000) to carry it out.

The late moderate religious scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives MP was brutally stabbed to death on October 1, 2013 in a murder that shocked the nation.

Riyaz, now a JP MP, was summoned to the police last week when he said he would reveal details of Afrasheem’s murder “when the time comes” in an interview with a local TV station.

Hussain Humam, the chief suspect in the murder and the only person convicted of the crime so far, has alleged president Yameen and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb’s involvement in the killing.

However, Adeeb accused the opposition of orchestrating Humam’s remarks in a “character assassination” attempt. Humam had said at the first hearing of his appeal at the High Court last month that president Yameen and Adeeb “will know best” the details of the murder.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom meanwhile told reporters that president Yameen should sue opposition politicians alleging his involvement in the murder for defamation and strongly condemned the insinuations.

 

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Underwater protest for ex-president Nasheed

One hundred divers staged an underwater protest in Malé today, calling attention to the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Photos by Ismail Humaam Hamid and Mohamed ‘Sindhi’ Seeneen

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Nasheed’s family raises fear of an assassination plot by security forces

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s family has raised concerns over a possible plot within the security forces to assassinate the imprisoned opposition leader.

Speaking to the press today, former First Lady Laila Ali said a very close friend whom she trusts and “could not help but believe” shared information that Nasheed would either be hanged with a note saying he could not remain in jail for 13 years or “disappeared” like Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

As the source was certain of the authenticity of the plans and had learned of it from two Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers, Laila said the information was “too serious to ignore.”

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison last Friday. Home Minister Umar Naseer has since said the former president would be kept at the Dhoonidhoo detention centre until a “prison apartment” could be built in Maafushi jail.

“I’ve never feared he might be killed while in jail. It is deeply saddening [that he is jail]. But I’ve never thought he might not come out [alive] when he completes his sentence,” she said.

Nasheed’s brother Ibrahim Nashid said he was certain no inmate would harm the former president and said the family had been reasonably certain Nasheed would return alive when he had been jailed under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

“I was previously certain it would never go that far. But now anything can happen.”

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokersperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told the press yesterday the party has also received information of the alleged assassination plans.

Fahmy referred to rumours of plans to kidnap Nasheed from Dhoonidhoo Island and expressed concern at lax security arrangements at the police detention centre.

“There is only one security personnel where he is kept at Dhoonidhoo. We don’t believe that there will be any security for him. The party believes there is room to organise an attack on him,” he said.

Laila meanwhile said today that she has written to President Abdulla Yameen and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as well as the home minister and police commissioner seeking assurances of Nasheed’s safety.

“In my letter, I expressed my grave concern and told them my husband is in your care. You must give me assurance, in writing or by your actions, that he would not come under any physical or psychological harm.”

The former first lady said she is awaiting a reply, but would make her letters public if she did not receive assurances from the government.

Laila said that she last talked to Nasheed on Tuesday night and shared her concerns. Nasheed told her that police officers had said they would increase security and patrol the island.

Laila noted that Nasheed has also been deprived of legally mandated MNDF protection since his arrest.

Laila said she now feared for his life, adding that she constantly heard of possible attempts to kill Nasheed since the “coup” in February 2012.

Meanwhile, at a press conference today, Police Superintendent Hamdhoon Rasheed dismissed the MDP’s allegations of plans to assassinate Nasheed as false.

Nasheed was safe and under police protection at the detention centre, he said.

“Environment of violence”

British MP for Salisbury John Glen also raised concern over Nasheed’s safety in Westminster today, questioning Leader of the House of Commons William Hague over possible sanctions against the Maldives.

“Although it is believed that he is safe in Dhoonidhoo, it is expected that when he is moved to Maafushi island, there will be real concerns for his safety. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Foreign Office is doing all it can to highlight the concerns of Nasheed’s supporters, and can a statement be made to the House about sanctions and whether they should be taken against this much-misunderstood set of islands?” the MP asked.

In reply, Hague said he was deeply concerned over Nasheed’s sentencing and said the UK continues to monitor the case closely.

“We are pressing the Government in the Maldives to give international observers access to any appeal hearing and to allow them to visit the former President in prison,” he said.

Urging calm in the Maldives Hague said, “We have called on the Maldives to follow due legal process. The Foreign Office Ministers were the first to make a strong statement, making it clear that we are monitoring the case closely.”

In a statement on March 16, human rights group Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) also expressed concern over the “rising environment of violence” and threats to Nasheed and other political figures.

The NGO said it has received information of plans to kill Nasheed in Maafushi after instigating a prison riot, referring to previous outbreaks of violence at the jail, including the shooting of inmates in September 2003 and the death of an inmate last year after a fatal stabbing.

“An investigation is still pending and police are yet to inform the public about the progress of the investigation,” MDN said in reference to the latter incident.

Moreover, the NGO said it has also received reports suggesting “violent groups have been hired to harm and kidnap” opposition MPs.

“We believe that the law and order situation has become extremely fragile in the Maldives, and implore the international community to have a presence in the Maldives to prevent further disorder and to ensure a quick and smooth transition to peace and harmony,” MDN said.

MDN called upon international anti-torture organisations to send missions to the Maldives “where they can monitor the safety of former President Mohamed Nasheed.”

 


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High Court dismisses Nasheed’s arrest warrant appeal

The High Court today dismissed former President Mohamed Nasheed’s appeal challenging the legality of the Criminal Court’s February 22 arrest warrant, after the opposition leader asked for an open hearing.

The High Court denied Nasheed’s request, claiming neither members of the public nor journalists were allowed to observe appeal hearings.

The appellate court dismissed the case after the former president reportedly refused to enter the courtroom.

Hisaan Hussain from Nasheed’s legal team told reporters that the High Court had decided in a circular to hold closed hearings for appeals concerning arrest warrants.

She argued that the decision was in violation of Article 42 of the Constitution and Article 71 of the Judicature Act as circulars did not have the force of either laws or regulations that derived its authority from an act of parliament.

Nasheed’s lawyer, Hassan Latheef, told Minivan News that the legal team has decided to appeal the High Court’s decision at the Supreme Court.

Article 42 of the Constitution states that “trials of any matter shall be held publicly” while the presiding judge could exclude the public in the interest of public morals, order and national security, or where juveniles or the victim of the crime requires, and in cases where public interest would prejudice justice.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) subsequently released a statement contending that the High Court did not have the legal authority to bar members of the public and journalists from observing hearings.

“By carrying out court proceedings in a manner that prevents constitutional rights and protection, the High Court is losing public trust, with the appeal process losing its meaning,” the MDP said.

Following the Criminal Court convicting Nasheed on terrorism charges on Friday night (March 13), Latheef said the legal team has requested the court report in order to appeal the 13-year prison sentence at the High Court within ten days.

A Supreme Court circular in January shortened the maximum appeal period from 90 days to ten days, claiming it would ensure the right to appeal in a timely manner.

“The Criminal Court informed us that the report will be provided in seven to 14 days,” said Latheef, noting that it would leave the defence team two days to prepare for the appeal hearing.

“Every aspect of this trial is very different from normal procedures followed by the courts,” he said.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said yesterday that the government would ensure Nasheed’s right to appeal.

“I believe the Criminal Court would have afforded due process in the conduct of Nasheed’s trial. If you study this case, from the beginning to the end, it is clear the charges are not politically motivated,” Muaz insisted.

“We have a system of separation of powers. In a democracy, the head of state does not interfere in judicial proceedings and is not to blame for court proceedings,” Muaz said.

Nasheed was brought from the Dhoonidhoo detention centre to Malé around 1:30pm.

Hundreds of protesters were gathered near the High Court building, demanding the former president’s immediate release.

MDP High Court Protest

Police informed Minivan News that four individuals were arrested from the protest for allegedly obstructing police duties and for trying to harm police officers. Minivan News journalists observed police officers using pepper spray indiscriminately while making the arrests.

MDP High Court Protest

Throughout the Criminal Court trial, Nasheed maintained that he had been deprived of basic constitutional rights, including the right to legal counsel, right to appeal, and the right to be provided adequate time to prepare a defence. Judges also refused to hear defence witnesses claiming they did not appear to negate the prosecution’s case.

Delivering the guilty verdict Friday night, Judge Abdulla Didi said the prosecution’s evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that Nasheed as commander-in-chief ordered the arrest or “forceful abduction” of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

The former president was arrested on February 22 after Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin personally sought an arrest warrant from the Criminal Court ahead of the surprise terrorism trial.


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Tholhath vowed not to release Judge Abdulla even if he were to be jailed for 30 years, says witness

Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu vowed not to release Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed even if he faced 30 years in jail as a consequence, a state witness testified at the then-defence minister’s trial on terrorism charges today.

Lieutenant Ali Ihusan, who served as Tholhath’s personal assistant, told the court that he heard the minister saying he would not release Judge Abdulla.

Following the arrest, Ihusan said Tholhath called Nasheed concerning orders to release Judge Abdulla from the High Court and was told to ignore and file the orders without the defence minister’s signature.

At the last hearing of his trial, Tholhath claimed the operation to arrest Judge Abdulla – dubbed ‘Liberty Shield’ – was initiated by Nasheed and carried out by then-Malé Area Commander Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, currently opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for mid-Hithadhoo constituency.

Both Nasheed and Didi are also on trial on charges of terrorism along with then-Chief of Defence Forces Major General (Retired) Moosa Ali Jaleel – appointed President Yameen’s defence minister in January – and ex-Colonel Mohamed Ziyad.

Ihusan also said Didi was in charge of the operation and followed instructions from Tholhath and Nasheed.

However, Ihusan said he did not witness Tholhath issuing operational commands, noting that all orders were signed by Didi.

Operation Liberty Shield

Ihusan said he personally delivered two letters to Tholhath from then-Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh and then-Home Minister Hassan Afeef on January 16, requesting assistance from the military in arresting Judge Abdulla.

Tholhath asked Ihusan to provide copies to Jaleel, saying the letters “could save us one day,” Ihusan testified.

Ihusan also said there was a separate attachment with letters from Nasheed’s then-legal secretary, Hisaan Hussain, requesting an investigation of Judge Abdulla’s alleged obstruction of police.

Jaleel said at a hearing of his trial earlier this week that he participated in meetings between the heads of the police and military to discuss challenges posed to law enforcement and domestic security by the Criminal Court’s alleged release of dangerous criminals and refusal to grant search and arrest warrants to police.

Ihusan also revealed that a meeting with all senior military officers above the rank of colonel took place on January 15, 2012, a day before the chief judge’s arrest.

The state’s second witness, Colonel Abdul Raheem Abdul Latheef said he participated in the top level meeting, but could not recall any discussions on detaining the judge.

The meeting was about assisting police operations and investigations, he testified.

Latheef said he visited Judge Abdulla at Girifushi Island five to six times, accompanying visitors including members of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM).

The colonel noted that Tholhath ordered him to be present at some of the meetings.

Latheef revealed that Tholhath himself visited the judge at the military training island, alongside several civilian visitors whom he could not recall.

Concluding tonight’s hearing, the judges said another hearing on the case would be scheduled tomorrow.

Chief of Defence Forces “Uninvolved”

At today’s hearing of former Chief of Defence Forces Jaleel’s trial, four state witnesses reportedly backed up the current defence minister’s claim that he was not involved in the judge’s arrest.

Both Ihusan and Colonel Latheef testified that Jaleel did not participate in meetings concerning the judge’s arrest and was not consulted by Tholhath.

Dr Ali Shahidh, a military doctor, Aishath Zeena, a psychologist, both of whom attended to the judge during his detention also testified to not receiving any orders from Jaleel.

While hearings of Jaleel, Tholhath, and Nasheed took place today, the Criminal Court did not schedule hearings for ex-Colonel Ziyad or MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi’s trials.

Didi was hospitalised on Sunday night after complaining of chest pains. His family told Minivan News yesterday that the retired general would be flown overseas as soon as doctor’s gave approval.

All five defendants have pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges. The charges were filed under Article 2(b) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1990, which criminalizes kidnappings, forced disappearances and abductions and carries a jail term of between 10 to 15 years.

Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked 22 consecutive nights of violent anti-government demonstrations that culminated in a police and military mutiny on the morning of February 7, 2012, forcing President Nasheed to resign in what he subsequently called a “coup d’etat.”

In January 2013, Tholhath told parliament’s Government Oversight Committee that Nasheed had not resigned “under duress.” However, Tholhath had previously claimed that Nasheed’s life was in danger on February 7, 2012 and that the former president had no choice but to resign.


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Former President Maumoon “saddened” over Judge Shujoon’s resignation

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has expressed sadness over the resignation of Civil Court Judge Aisha Shujoon.

A tweet posted yesterday by the former president read that he was “saddened by the resignation of Judged Aishath Shujoon one of the first two women judges I had pleasure of appointing in 2007″.

Haveeru reported Shujoon gave her letter of resignation to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Monday (December 29).

Shujoon, a founding member of Maldivian Democracy Network, was recently re-elected to UN subcommittee on the prevention of torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment.

Earlier this month, the seven member Civil Court bench condemned the removal of two Supreme Court Judges, including the chief justice, saying the JSC was “forced” to deem the two judges unfit for the bench through an “unconstitutional” amendment to the Judicature Act.

A subsequent case challenging the decision was removed from the Civil Court’s jurisdiction by the Supreme Court.

In February, JSC launched an investigation into Shujoon after she announced on state television that she was once offered a US$5 million bribe, which she refused.

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Nasheed calls proposed changes to Supreme Court bench unconstitutional

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called the plans to reduce the number of judges on the Supreme Court bench from seven to five unconstitutional.

While speaking to the press before departing for a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rallys in Haa Dhaalu Atoll, Nasheed accused President Abdulla Yameen of trying to stack the bench in his favor.

“The constitution states the required procedure to bring changes to the bench of the Supreme Court. After extensive legal council we have deliberated that the proposed changes would be unconstitutional,” said Nasheed.

The amendments brought to the parliament by MDP MP Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef have been rejected by the party after the its national executive council convened and voted that the amendments were against its policies.

Speaking about the amendments, MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said Shareef had not consulted the party before he submitted the changes.

However, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has signaled the party’s support for the amendments with parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan said all ruling party MPs would support the proposal and that the PPM would welcome judicial reform.

Presenting the bill to the parliament Shareef said that he believed the number of judges on the apex court was too high for a country the size of the Maldives.

Nasheed had previously said that changing the number of judges on the Supreme Court bench would not amount to judicial reform.

Meanwhile, MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik – who has announced intentions to contest in the MDP’s 2018 presidential primary – appealed for pro-government MPs to cooperate with the party’s efforts to reform the judiciary.

Moosa described the formation of the current Supreme Court bench as a “shameful” political bargain between the MDP and then–opposition parties in 2010.

Nihan praised both Shareef and Moosa and suggested that the number of judges on the apex court was worth considering.

Former President Nasheed also reiterated party concerns with the annual state budget for the upcoming year which the party has previously labelled as aimless and serving only for administrative purposes.

The Supreme Court has recently been involved in numerous controversies both in and out of the court room.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court used a ‘suo moto’ proceeding – allowing the Court to act as both the plaintiff and the judge – against the Elections Comission (EC).

EC president Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz were subsequently charged with contempt of court and disobedience to order, being sentenced to six months in jail after the court used testimony given in the People’s Majlis independent commission’s oversight committee.

More recently, the court employed a similar ‘suo moto’ proceeding against the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) after it criticised the judiciary in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the UN Human Rights Council.

The court charged the HRCM with undermining the constitution and sovereignty of the Maldives by spreading lies about the judiciary.  It said that the UPR submission– based on a 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul – was “poorly researched”, “irresponsible” and “dangerous”.

Knaul’s report had detailed the pressing need for judicial reform, noting that the five-member transitional Supreme Court had been replaced by a seven-member permanent bench in 2010 with “no legal or constitutional basis”.

June this year also saw Judge Ali Hameed – a sitting judge at the Supreme Court – cleared of a sex tape scandal after three recordings surfaced allegedly showing Ali Hameed engaging in sexual acts with three different woman.

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PPM leader Gayoom says he does not know who is behind MDP attacks

Former President and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom has rejected claims that his party was behind – or has knowledge of – the recent attacks against opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP).

“I would not blame any political party or any individual over the attacks. The relevant authorities would investigate the attacks and let us know who did it. I would like to reiterate that it was not PPM’s doing,” said Maumoon.

While speaking to media at a ceremony held to celebrate the signing of 104 members of the Jumhooree Party to the PPM, Maumoon said the recent attacks were not conducted by PPM and that the party does not encourage violent behavior of this sort.

An MDP rally in Feydhoo last week was attacked by a group of masked individuals wielding wooden planks and rocks with the party’s main office in Malé set on fire last month.

The government and MDP have been involved in a heated blame game over the attacks with the President’s Office spokesperson reportedly suggesting that the attacks were coordinated by the MDP itself, while the party’s leaders have suggested a third – unnamed group – may have been behind the attacks.

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