Allegations of conspiracy with Nazim “deliberate fabrication,” says Gasim

Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim has dismissed allegations that former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim was conspiring with the business magnate’s Villa Group to harm senior government officials.

Speaking to reporters prior to departing for Colombo last night, Gasim dismissed the allegations as a “deliberate fabrication” intended to “frame” President Abdulla Yameen’s political opponents.

“We are talking about Colonel Nazim being framed and all of us Maldivian citizens know that what police are saying is self-contradictory,” he said.

At yesterday’s first hearing of Nazim’s trial on possession of weapons, State Prosecutor Adam Arif said documents on a pen drive confiscated from the then-defence minister’s apartment during a January 18 raid showed he was planning individual and joint operations, financed by the Villa group, to cause bodily harm to “senior honourable state officials.”

Gasim told reporters that Nazim was “not a madman to write a script and put it on a pen [drive],” adding that the government’s efforts to discredit Villa Group were regrettable.

“What this shows is that anyone who might contest the presidency is going to be framed,” Gasim said.

The Prosecutor General’s Office meanwhile withdrew charges against Nazim’s wife, Afaaf Abdul Majeed, after she was summoned to the first hearing of the weapons possession trial alongside the former defence minister yesterday.

Earlier this month, Gasim’s JP formed an alliance with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to “defend the constitution” from alleged breaches by the administration of President Abdulla Yameen.

Gasim departed with a delegation of JP and MDP leaders to Colombo last night to “inform foreign diplomats about the current political situation of Maldives.”

MDP MP Abdulla Shahid said foreign diplomats would be informed about the “violations of the constitution by this government,” adding that “the world sees the government for what it is.”

Both Gasim and Shahid told reporters that they would be back tonight ahead of a mass demonstration planned for tomorrow (February 27).

Meanwhile, the anti-government demonstrations continued on the streets of the capital last night with  protesters gathered at Malé’s main thoroughfare, Majeedhee Magu.

Protesters called for the immediate release of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Nazim.

Senior members of both JP and MDP as well as MPs spoke at the rally and repeated calls for President Yameen’s resignation.

Speaking to Minivan News at the protest, Ahmed Ali, 29, vowed to join the mass rally planned for February 27.

“If not, in a couple of years I am sure my children would ask me what I did when a democracy turned into a dictatorship,” he said.

Mohamed Yoosuf, 47, expressed his discontent with the criminal justice system and the law enforcement authorities.

“The judiciary is political. The police are doing politician’s bidding. Even the Prosecutor General is a puppet on a string,” he said.

“The country’s entire justice system has gone down in ruins with the current government. We need to improve it,”said Mauroof Hameed, 30.

The government, however, insists that it is not responsible for the charges against Nasheed and Nazim, stating the trials were initiated by an independent Prosecutor General and tried through independent courts.

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PG, presiding judges among state witnesses, reveals Nasheed’s legal team

The Prosecutor General (PG) and two of the three judges presiding over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial on terrorism charges are among the state’s witnesses in the case against the opposition leader.

Documents sent by the court at 11:30am yesterday (February 24) contained witness statements from PG Muhthaz Muhsin, Judge Abdulla Didi and Judge Abdul Bari Yusuf, revealed Hassan Latheef from the former president’s legal team.

“This is a clear violation of Islamic Sharia and law and also international judicial principles. The prosecution, witnesses and the judge cannot be the same person or same parties,” Latheef said.

PG Muhsin – a former Criminal Court judge – filed terrorism charges against Nasheed, his former defence minister and senior officers of the military over the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Nasheed’s secretariat also released a statement today suggesting that “the conflict of interest that arises from the deliberation of a trial by both the prosecutor and the witness is blatant.”

In counter-statement, the PG office noted that while all documents, including all the witness statement obtained by the police, were forwarded to the court, “no witnesses or evidence have so far been presented to the court regarding the case.”

Despite repeated attempts by Minivan News to seek clarification, PG Office Media Officer Adam Arif was unavailable for comment due to scheduled appearances at court.

Meanwhile, Nasheed’s legal team has appealed the Criminal Court’s arrest warrant at the High Court.

Nasheed’s legal team member Hisaan Hussain also confirmed that all lawyers representing the former president – including Ibrahim Riffath, Ahmed Abdulla Afeef, Abdulla Shaairu and herself – have also been registered at the court this afternoon.

On Monday (February 23), the Criminal Court informed Nasheed’s lawyers that they had to register at the court two days in advance despite being unaware of the trial until the former president’s arrest the previous day.

Former Human Resource Minister Hassan Latheef will not be representing Nasheed at the trial as he had provided a witness statement to the authorities regarding the arrest of the judge.

The second hearing of Nasheed’s trial is scheduled for tomorrow night (February 26) at 8:00pm.

The PG’s office withdrew charges against Nasheed on February 16 after initially filing charges under Article 81 of penal code for detaining a government employee who has not been found guilty of a crime.

Hours before his arrest on Sunday (February 22), Nasheed was charged under Article 2(b) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1990, which criminalises kidnappings and abductions and carries a jail term between 10 and 15 years.

Nasheed’s lawyers yesterday named two of the three judges overseeing the terrorism trial as witnesses for the defence, and requested the pair’s recusal from the bench.

The former president’s lawyers stated that the two judges witnessed a conversation between Judge Abdulla Mohamed and military officers on January 16, 2012, and could testify that he had not been kidnapped.

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High Court overturns stay order halting seizure of Villa properties

The High Court today overturned a Civil Court stay order halting the seizure of three islands and two lagoons belonging to the Villa Group, a company owned by Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim.

The Tourism Ministry on February 5 ordered the Villa group to return Thaa Atoll Elaa, Raa Atoll Maanenfushi, Gaafu Dhaal Atoll Gazeera, Kaafu Atoll Maadhihgaru lagoon, and Vaavehdhi lagoon.

The islands and lagoons had been granted as compensation for the nationalisation of several development projects, including Kadhdhoo airport.

In its February 11 stay order, the Civil Court said the ministry’s termination of the settlement agreement could cause irrevocable damages to the company, and noted the properties had been granted due to the government’s inability to bear the burden of a financial or monetary compensation.

However, the High Court ruled that the lower court had not considered protecting the state from potential damages from the stay order.

“The interests of the state protected from not issuing the stay order is larger than the interests of Villa Hotels and Resorts”, the High Court ruling said.

The Civil Court’s injunction also violated “judicial and legal principles”, the panel of three judges unanimously ruled.

The Tourism Ministry’s Senior Legal Officer Faseeh Zahir said the ministry had not yet made any moves following the High Court order as they are yet to receive confirmation from the Attorney General’s Office.

Gasim has previously contended the ministry is punishing him for his recent alliance with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) against what they allege to be President Abdulla Yameen’s repeated violations of the constitution.

The JP’s opposition to key government legislation last year saw Gasim suffer setbacks to his businesses, as well as physical threats against his person – both of which the party blamed on Gasim’s former political allies.

Speaking at a joint rally of JP and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on February 5, Gasim stated that “the Maldivian people will not allow injustice.”

“Forget it, nobody can push us back, we will be in the service of the Maldivian people. We will defend the fundamental rights and freedoms of the constitution,” Gasim said.

“You can seize everything, take it. Take it. After all, things can only be taken from people who have them,” he said.

President Abdulla Yameen has denied Gasim’s business reversals were a result of political events, stating that all businesses were treated equally under the law.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb claimed the Villa Group owes the government US$100million as rent and fines for properties leased to the company.

Gasim has denied the claim and called for Adeeb’s resignation.

Related to this story

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Ex defense minister’s wife charged with illegal weapons possession

Former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim’s wife has been charged with the illegal possession of weapons and arms, lawyers have confirmed.

Afaaf Abdul Majeed has been summoned to a first hearing at the Criminal Court on February 25, at 4:00pm, despite having received no indication she was under suspicion for possessing illegal weapons, lawyer Maumoon Hameed said.

“Afaaf has received a summons. But we have not received any additional information other than what was provided on the summons. We do not even know which laws the state is charging her under. We are yet to receive the court documents,” he said.

Hameed said Afaaf had been questioned over the controversial discovery of a pistol, bullets and an improvised explosive device at the former Defense Minister’s residence on January 18, but the police had not questioned her again afterwards.

“Apart from the statements police took from all family members during the alleged discovery of weapons from Nazim’s residence, no other investigative processes involving Afaaf has taken place.”

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Spokesperson Adam Arif declined to comment on the case. Meanwhile, a Criminal Court Spokesperson was unable to confirm if the PG had filed charges against Nazim and his wife.

Nazim is currently in police custody over terrorism and treason charges. The Maldives Police Services said the former minister had been plotting to overthrow President Abdulla Yameen’s administration and was planning to harm senior government officials.

Nazim’s lawyers say the weapons were planted at his house and say he is being framed.

According to lawyers, Specialist Operations (SO) officers forced open Nazim’s door in the early hours of the morning on January 18, gathered Nazim, his wife and two children in the sitting room, and spent at least ten minutes without independent oversight in the then-minister’s bedroom. Shortly afterwards, investigative officers arrived on the scene, checked Nazim’s bedroom in his presence and discovered the weapons in a bedside drawer.

The police insist they were unaware whose house they were raiding.

Nazim was dismissed as Defense Minister on January 20, and subsequently declared no citizen was safe in the Maldives. He was arrested days after the police filed charges at the Prosecutor General’s office.

The Criminal Court on February 11 remanded Nazim for 15 days. The High Court upheld the detention on February 19.

Lawyers are appealing the police’s search warrant at the High Court.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, also arrested for terrorism charges yesterday (February 22), and Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim have repeatedly called for Nazim’s immediate release from custody, accusing the government of “framing” the former minister.

Opposition parties have described Nasheed and Nazim’s arrest as President Abdulla Yameen’s efforts to silence opposition voices and to disqualify presidential contenders.

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Opposition rallies encourage terrorism, says PPM

Opposition protesters called for the overthrow of President Abdulla Yameen’s government through a suicide attack, the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has alleged.

In a statement on Wednesday, the PPM called on the Elections Commission, the Maldives Police Services and the Prosecutor General to take the call “encouraging terrorism” as a serious matter.

Since February 12, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and former PPM ally Jumhooree Party (JP) have been protesting nightly against alleged unconstitutional acts by the PPM, including the controversial dismissal of the Auditor General and two Supreme Court judges.

However, the PPM said opposition parties had failed to demonstrate how the government had breached the constitution and were only attempting to disrupt public order.

“This party believes these protests are aimed at obstructing President Yameen’s administration’s successful work at establishing peace and security. [The opposition] is disrupting the economic, social and political order in the country,” the statement read.

PPM Spokesman Ali Arif told Minivan News that the PPM “does not have any problem with protests held within the boundaries of law” and that “the leaders who organize the protests are ultimately responsible for what is being said on the mic.”

In response to the opposition’s claim that the government had lost legitimacy with the JP’s split from the PPM, Arif said the Maldivian people had voted for President Yameen and Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel, and not the PPM, JP coalition.

“The people marked a ballot paper that had the name of President Yameen and Dr Jameel as his Vice President. Neither the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives nor Maldivian laws include any mention of the word ‘coalition.’ In constitutional and legal terms the word does not exist,” he said.

When asked if the PPM would initiate talks with the opposition, Arif said: “street action is not the way to pave way for discussions and dialogue”.

Yameen, who gained 29 percent of the vote in the first round of 2013 presidential polls, was elected as president after JP’s Gasim Ibrahim backed him at the eleventh hour. Yameen won the election against MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed with 51.4 percent of the vote.

The PPM and JP coalition first fractured in May 2014 following the ruling party’s refusal to back Gasim for the Majlis Speakership.

Speaking to supporters last night, MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy denied that the opposition had called for a suicide attack, but said: “everyone gathered here  is willing to sacrifice not only their lives, but their goods as well, in order to bring good governance to the Maldives.”

“We are a coalition of MDP and JP, the majority of the Maldivian people. This is why President Yameen should listen to our demands and stop repeatedly violating the constitution.”

The Maldives Police Services arrested two protesters from the rally last night. In response to media reports that police had used pepper spray at the rally, a spokesperson told Minivan News that officers had used “adequate and necessary force.”

Government supporters are to march today calling for an end to anti-government protests. The march will begin at 4 pm from the Artificial Beach in Malé.

Tourism Minister and PPM’s vice president Ahmed Adeeb tweeted in support of the rally and called on “All Youth who Support President Yameen” to attend the rally “against Nasheed & Gasim, destroying our future”

The Broadcasting Commission of Maldives today released a statement reminding all media outlets to follow broadcasting code of ethics, stating that “some content broadcasted in relation to the ongoing protests are in violation of the broadcasting code of ethics”.

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Former presidential advisor accuses tourism minister, finance minister of corruption in Fushidhiggaru deal

Former presidential advisor Ahmed ‘Sandhaanu’ Didi has accused Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb and Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad of illegally selling off Fushidhiggaru Lagoon in Kaafu Atoll without the knowledge of then – President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Speaking at a press conference today, Didi showed an agreement signed between the government and Ukranian company Prime Capital Pvt Ltd during Waheed’s administration on developing Fushidhiggaru.

The former Special Envoy on Human Rights claimed Waheed only discovered news of the deal when the investors attempted to register a joint venture company at the Ministry of Economic Development, but said both ministers denied the move at the time.

“I was at the president’s office then. Dr Waheed summoned Adeeb and Jihad and asked whether Fushidhiggaru lagoon had been sold off to a foreign party and they denied that any such thing was done,” he told the press.

Neither Adeeb nor Jihad were responding to calls at the time of press.

The Fushidhiggaru deal first came to light during the 2013 presidential elections, when current Home Minister Umar Naseer claimed Adeeb had sold off the lagoon without a transparent and public bidding process.

JP coalition claimed that the agreement was compiled, signed and stamped without legal advice from the Attorney General, in the late hours of January 18, 2013, a Friday night.

At the time, Adeeb denied the existence of an “official” lease agreement and dismissed the allegations as an attempt at “political assassination.”

Despite Adeeb’s denial, local media in September 2013 reported that the Economic Ministry had refused to register a joint venture company for the development of Fushidhiggaru lagoon with Prime Capital.

The company subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Economic Ministry at the Civil Court.

In a verdict (Dhivehi) delivered on July 15, Civil Court Judge Ali Naseer ordered the government to register the joint venture company within a seven-day period, sign a master lease agreement within five days of registration, “and [to] make all arrangements undertaken by the government in accordance with the agreement.”

Didi today said he has submitted relevant documents and letters to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Anti-corruption Commission and Maldives Police Services requesting the matter be investigated.

“This is the most deceitful and biggest embezzlement in recent Maldivian history,” he said.

“I am aware that by talking about this I am endangering my own safety, but this must be done for the future generation. Prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him advised us to reveal the truth no matter how bitter it may be.”

Didi was imprisoned in 2003 for writing and distributing a newsletter called “Sandhaanu” which criticized President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s policies.

Former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim in November released a report implicating Adeeb in a US$6million corruption scandal.

Adeeb has denied allegations, and accused Niyaz of colluding with MP and former Deputy Speaker of parliament Ahmed Nazim in releasing the audit report. Adeeb suggested Nazim had a personal vendetta against him following his refusal to support Nazim for the Majlis Speakership in May.

Niyaz was subsequently dismissed from the post through a surprise amendment to the Audit Act, and Hassan Ziyath, the brother of an official implicated alongside Adeeb, was appointed as the new Auditor General.

The Criminal Court on October 26 withheld Nazim’s passport on allegations of blackmail while the Supreme Court today held the first hearing into an appeal of the High Court’s acquittal of Nazim from four counts of corruption.

Photo: President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet

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Further pursuit of Nasheed case not in public interest: MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called on the state to drop the criminal charges against former president and party leader Mohamed Nasheed.

Describing the charges against Nasheed as the reason for many “unjust obstacles to the party and President Nasheed”, the MDP said that the pursuit of the case any further would not reflect “public interests” but rather “serves political agendas” of the government.

Charges pending in the Hulhumalé Magistrates’ Court regarding the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012 were withdrawn yesterday (February 17) by the Prosecutor General’s Office for further review.

PG Media Officer Adam Arif told Minivan News today that the office had informed the court that the charges had been withdrawn, requesting the case files be sent back. He did not provide any further details.

Under the powers granted in the Prosecutor General’s Act and the Constitution, the PG has the authority to discontinue or withdraw for further review any case prior to judgement.

Nasheed’s legal team had been in the process of challenging the assembly of the Hulhumalé Court bench in the Civil Court. Similar cases against the controversial court had seen Nasheed’s case stalled since April 2013.

“As President Mohamed Nasheed is a politician who continuous to receive support and love from a substantial portion of the Maldivian population, the decision to continue pursuing the case against public interests cannot be anything but an act of ridicule against the Maldivian people”, said the MDP statement today.

Minivan News was still awaiting a statement from Nasheed’s legal team at the time of publication.

Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s detention in January 2012 followed the failure of repeated attempts to investigate the judge’s conduct, with Nasheed citing grounds of national security for the decision.

The judge’s arrest by security forces led to an increase in tension on the streets of the capital, culminating in Nasheed’s resignation on February 7 after elements of the police and Maldives National Defence Force refused to obey his orders.

The Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report – released in August 2012 – found that the arrest had been “unconstitutional” and “illegal”, while the PG filed charges the previous June.

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PIC investigating Nazim’s complaint against Police Commissioner

Former defence minister Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim’s legal team has submitted an official complaint to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) regarding claims that explosives were found in his home on January 18.

Lawyer Maumoon Hameed confirmed that the complaint was related to claims by the Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed on January 29, in which he stated that an improvised explosive device was found at Nazim’s residence along with a pistol and ammunition.

Hameed stated that the search records given to Nazim listing the items that were found and confiscated by the police during the raid did not include any explosive devices, explaining that police only announced its discovery after an analysis conducted without independent oversight.

“We submitted the search record along with the recording of Hussain Waheed’s press conference. No explosives were listed to have been found. That is false information,” Hameed told Minivan News today.

The claims that explosives were found – cited by police as evidence that Nazim intended to harm senior officials and overthrow the government – has also prompted Nazim’s legal team to file a defamation case against the commissioner in Civil Court.

PIC Chair Fathimath Sareera confirmed that the case has been received and is now under investigation, though no further details were given.

As well as suggesting that police had planted the evidence in Nazim’s home, former Commissioner of Police MP Abdulla Riyaz – also on Nazim’s legal team – suggested earlier this week that the discovery of such a device should have prompted the evacuation of the area.

The legal team has also raised questions over why Nazim was arrested after more than 20 days had passed since the police raid on his residence.

The High Court appeal into Nazim’s 15-day remand period – approved on the day of his arrest last week (February 10) – was concluded yesterday, though no hearing was scheduled for today.

Amnesty International are investigating his disappearance as a social media and poster campaign has sprung up calling for his release.

Nazim was dismissed as the defence minister on January 20, being replaced with Major General (retired) Moosa Ali Jaleel who served as the Chief of Defence Force during President Mohamed Nasheed’s presidency.

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Police and PG’s Office announce regulations for faster prosecutions

New regulations to speed up investigations and prosecutions have been announced by the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office and the Maldives Police Services (MPS).

Specified cases will now be prosecuted within seven days, with police saying that the measures would “reduce the number of repetitive offenders” as criminal cases can now be prosecuted within the time frame of the initial remand period.

In a joint press conference held today (February 15) Police Superintendent Hamdhoon Rasheed explained that the regulation enacted on January 4 will apply to five types of cases.

These will include cases in which: the accused confesses to the crime; witnesses and video/photo evidence clearly identify the accused and the crime; there is forensic evidence and witnesses; there is two clear witness statements; there is a police witness.

The cases in which the accused confesses to the crime and the cases in which police personnel are witnesses will be prosecuted within 3 days, while other three types of cases will be prosecuted within 7 days.

The PG’s Office representative at the conference, Information Officer Adam Arif, stated that the new regulations have so far been applied to 20 cases.

Of these, he explained that eight are in court, seven have been put on hold, three require further clarification, one suspect was given leniency given for first time offenders, while the PG decided to dismiss another case.

In answering queries regarding the cases the seven cases that have been put on hold, Arif said that they had involved offenders who are currently under the drug rehabilitation programme, mandated by the drug court,or under trial in that court.

“According to drug court regulations and rehabilitation policies, these cases have to be put on hold until the drug court decides on the continuation of their rehabilitation programme or on the cases lodged against them,” said Arif.

In response to questions regarding potential weaknesses in the cases due to the speeding up of the investigation and prosecution process, Arif stated that the regulation applies to considerably small offences.

“We believe this will facilitate justice by speeding up the judicial process. We do not think this will weaken the investigation or the prosecution process,” Arif stated.

Recent moves to have also been made to speed up the appeals process, with the time allotted for appeals from lower courts reduced to 10 days – from the usual 90 (180 for cases from the atolls).

The Supreme Court has said that the move to expedite proceedings will ensure the constitutional right to hearing within a reasonable time, though critics have argued the new regulations effectively remove the legal right of appeal.

Nazim case

When asked during the conference today about whether the case of former Minister of Defence and National Security Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim had been sent to the PG’s Office by police, Superintendent Hamdhoon noted that “his case is serious and related to terrorism”, and that these regulation did not apply to his case.

While neither the office itself nor police have provided any confirmation on whether Nazim’s case has been sent to the PG, his legal team has reported that police told the Criminal Court during a remand hearing on February 10 that the case had been sent to the PG on February 9.

Nazim’s legal team noted that the police had said, under oath, that some forensic processes had not yet been completed despite the case being sent to the PG.

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