Adhaalath party president denies terrorism charges in court

The criminal court has ruled tonight to keep the president of the Adhaalath Party, Sheikh Imran Abdulla, in police custody until a verdict is issued in a terrorism trial.

Sheikh Imran is charged under the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act with threatening to harm police officers and inciting violence at a historic antigovernment protest on May 1.

Imran has denied charges at the case’s first hearing tonight.

The Prosecutor General has also filed the same charges against Jumhooree Party’s deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed. Hearings were scheduled for Ameen at 8:30pm and Sobah at 9:00pm tonight, but cancelled as the pair are out of the country.

Imran is represented by lawyers Ali Zahir and former Attorney General Husnu Suood.

Citing a secret police intelligence report, state prosecutors claimed Imran was a threat to society and requested the three-judge panel detain Imran until the end of his trial.

Defence lawyers asked for five days to answer charges and requested Imran be kept under house arrest, noting the high court had last week overturned a May 17 criminal court order and transferred Imran from police custody to house arrest because of his diabetes.

Judges Abdul Bari Yoosuf, Abdulla Didi and Sujau Usman rejected the request.

They adjourned the hearing after saying Imran will be allowed time to answer charges, but did not specify the date for the next hearing.

Imran was kept in cuffs throughout the hearing.

He was arrested last night from his home on a criminal court warrant.

The same three-judge panel overseeing Imran’s trial had sentenced ex-president Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges, relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure.

Foreign governments and international bodies, including the UN and Amnesty International, have criticized the trial for apparent lack of due process.

Nasheed was not given adequate time to prepare defence, denied the opportunity to call defence witnesses and at times denied the opportunity to seek legal counsel, observers have noted.

The three judges had also sentenced ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim to 11 years in jail on weapons smuggling charges.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Adhaalath Party had allied after the ex-president and the ex-defence minister’s arrest. Imran had been at the forefront of the ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ campaign.

The May Day rally – the largest protest in Maldivian history – was the second mass protest staged by the opposition calling for Nasheed and Nazim’s release.

Nearly 200 people were arrested from the May Day demonstration following a police crackdown after protesters attempted to enter the restricted Republic Square at dusk.

Imran was arrested at 11:00pm on May 1 and held in police custody for 26 days.

The criminal court authorized his release shortly after the high court ordered police to transfer Imran to house arrest.

“I have never encouraged anyone to create unrest, fear, harm anyone, at any time,” he said on his release.

Photo from social media


MDP proposes radical roadmap for political reconciliation

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has proposed transferring imprisoned ex-President Mohamed Nasheed and other political leaders to house arrest as “immediate steps to build trust” in a draft roadmap for political reconciliation.

The roadmap was laid out in a preliminary paper compiled at a workshop held by the MDP national council last night, and is to be shared with Adhaalath Party and the Jumhooree Party (JP) for the three allied parties to arrive at a “consensus from which to begin negotiations with the government.”

The paper also proposes negotiations on changing to a parliamentary system of governance and reforming the police and the judiciary.

President Abdulla Yameen had called for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties, two weeks after a historic anti-government protest on May 1.

He has, however, ruled out negotiations for the release of Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, whose arrests in February triggered the ongoing political crisis.

Hundreds were arrested and injured in clashes on May Day.

Although the government has proposed separate talks, the MDP says it “would be of more benefit for the Maldivian people, if the MDP, Adhaalath and Jumhooree Party were to find common ground and present a united stance for negotiations.”

The national council is due to hold a second workshop tonight to discuss the paper, but Minivan News understand it will not undergo substantial changes.

Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla was meanwhile arrested last night ahead of the first hearing of his terrorism trial tonight, throwing the possibility of the talks going forward into doubt.

JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed are also facing terrorism charges. Imran and Ameen were among the representatives of their respective parties for the talks.

Building trust

Stressing the importance of building and maintaining trust among all political actors, the MDP said imprisoned politicians must be transferred to house arrest, until the truth of the accusations against them can be verified.

Along with Nasheed and Nazim, the MDP says former defence minister Tholhath Ibrahim and former ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim should also be transferred to house arrest.

The latter pair were convicted of terrorism and corruption, respectively.

The government must also withdraw charges against the opposition leaders and supporters arrested from protests, the paper said.

The MDP also called for an end to “politically motivated” targeting of opposition-aligned businesses, including JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group, former MP Abdulla Jabir’s Yacht Tours, and the VA Company.

The tax authority froze Villa’s bank accounts last month. Local media has said the criminal court has issued a warrant for Gasim’s arrest. The JP leader is in Bangkok at present.

Other immediate steps include ensuring job security of government employees facing dismissal for attending opposition protests, ceasing disciplinary action against councillors for participating in political activities, and stopping “government actions that disrupts the peacefulness of protests calling for the release of President Nasheed and other political prisoners.”

The government must also publicly disclose information gathered by Maldivian and foreign intelligence agencies regarding the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali and the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan and launch independent investigations involving civil society organisations, the MDP said.

Parliamentary system

Once the immediate steps have been taken, the MDP proposed negotiations for “a smooth and peaceful” change from a presidential to a parliamentary system of government.

The paper noted that coalitions led by the MDP and the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) won the 2008 and 2013 presidential elections, respectively. But both coalitions disintegrated soon after the polls.

Coalitions between political parties are incompatible with the presidential system and the Maldivian constitution, the MDP contended, and would not lead to stability as the electorate is unwilling to grant a popular mandate to a single candidate or party.

The party that holds a majority in the current parliament should form a government under the new system, the paper suggested.

The ruling PPM and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance controls a comfortable majority of the 85-member house. If the MDP’s proposal is accepted, the PPM will continue to lead the government.

However, public referendums should take place to legitimise the decisions of several MPs who have switched parties since the May 2014 parliamentary polls.

Judicial reform 

The MDP said the party believes that it remains “an easy task to change the government using the security forces” as a police and army mutiny had forced former President Nasheed to resign on February 7, 2012.

In order to prevent a similar situation, the party recommended identifying the mutinous elements and soldiers, seeking reconciliation, and establishing trust and good will between the officers and the MDP.

Among the steps for judicial reform, the party recommended changing the composition of the Judicial Service Commission, completing investigations into allegations of judge’s misconduct, and setting a university degree as the minimum qualification to become a judge.

Other proposed measures included immediately enforcing the new penal code, passing an evidence law and criminal procedures code, and repealing amendments brought to the Judicature Act that saw the removal of former Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain and Justice Muthasim Adnan.

The party also proposed amending the constitution to state that the Supreme Court would not have the authority to make laws and to allow an equal say for ruling and opposition parties in appointing members to independent institutions.


Minister faces corruption charges

The President’s Office minister Abdulla Ameen is facing corruption charges for writing off a fine issued on a company tasked with developing a domestic airport.

The opposition-aligned Raajje TV and the pro-government newspaper Avas said the Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin will file charges against Ameen by next week.

However, a PG office spokesperson said the office is still reviewing the case.

The anti-corruption watchdog completed the inquiry into the Thaa Atoll Thimarafushi airport last year and forwarded charges to the PG office in December.

Ameen has previously said the charges were a “character assassination attempt.”

President Abdulla Yameen last week said he will enforce court verdicts, even if they are issued against his ministers.

“I am obligated, and I will happily enforce any sentence, even if they are against my own ministers,” he said.

He also urged the judiciary to expedite cases.

In April, the president said he would enforce verdicts in corruption cases. “Corruption is present in the Maldivian government and in other foreign governments. But work is done to stop such acts. I will enforce verdicts, no matter who it is that is tried and sentenced for corruption.”

The opposition has accused the president of turning a blind eye to corruption within his government.


“Slide to dictatorship now complete”: opposition reacts to new terror charges

New terrorism charges against three opposition leaders have prompted concern over prolonged instability in the Maldives and raised fears that the government is out to silence the opposition.

The Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party’s deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and its council member Sobah Rasheed’s terrorism trials on charges of inciting fear are set to begin tonight.

If convicted, they face between ten and 15 years in jail. Imran was arrested from his home last night. Ameen and Sobah are out of the country at present.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned the charges in a statement today: “The government’s use of terrorism charges against opposition leaders at a time when the opposition have expressed their ongoing willingness to engage in talks to end the political crisis is worrying.”

But the president’s office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali today blamed lack of progress in talks on the opposition parties.

“The problem here is the main opposition party MDP and Adhaalath Party are not sincere. The government has set the rules. No prisoner or a person will legal or administrative barrier can participate in the talks,” he said.

The Adhaalath Party and the JP had proposed Imran and Ameen as representatives with the government in separate talks. The new charges mean the government will not accept the pair as representatives.

The ongoing crisis was triggered by the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim. The government has ruled out discussions over the pair’s release.

The MDP’s spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said: “The Maldives’ slide to dictatorship is now complete. There isn’t an opposition leader in the country who isn’t either in jail or facing charges.”

The Adhaalath Party said the charges against the oppositions leaders are “cowardly” and “proof the government is unfaithful to the people and lack the ability to fulfil pledges.”

The JP was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

Imran and Ameen were arrested after a 20,000-strong protest on May 1 and accused of encouraging violence in their speeches, which police contends led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

The May Day protest was the largest anti-government demonstration in Maldivian history.

Sobah was arrested from an opposition street protest on May 3.

The MDP chairperson Ali Waheed was also arrested on May 1, but the PG office has reportedly not made a decision on prosecuting the former MP.

The charges against the opposition leaders have sparked outrage on social media.

The former Attorney General Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed said she is “in shock.”

Others questioned the government’s sincerity in resolving the political crisis.

Many members of the public Minivan News spoke to previously have also said they are skeptical of a positive outcome from the talks with the government having ruled out Nasheed and Nazim’s release.

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said: “The Maldivian state has all the characteristics of a criminal organisation.”

JP MP Ali Hussein said the government will not enact the new penal code until it has jailed all the opposition leaders.

The new penal code, which would repeal the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act, was set to come into force in April. But ruling MPs delayed its enactment until July.

Meanwhile, the government has drafted a new Terrorism Act. MP Hussein in a separate tweet said: “Under the terrorism law even a tweet of mine could be an act of terrorism.”

The only MP of the Adhaalath Party, Anara Naeem, said she does not want “a culture where criticism of the government leads to jail sentences.”

Referring to Imran’s arrest, former MP Visam Ali asked: “How long will the police carry out atrocities like this?”

Before his arrest, Sheikh Imran tweeted: “It is not a crime not to follow unlawful orders even if the orders come from the police.”

Other opposition politicians remained defiant. Former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof said: “Do what you can do now. God willing, tyrants will be answerable before the law and will face justice soon enough.”

The opposition has called for a third mass protest on June 12. The mayor of southern Addu City on Sunday said he will be in Malé for the protest.


President and first lady distribute food to the disabled

President Abdulla Yameen and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim are distributing food to disabled people registered in the capital Malé and its suburbs Hulhumalé and Villingili.

A package of rice, dates and cans of tuna are being distributed with a message saying the gifts are from the president and the first lady.

The first lady visited homes of disabled people last week and visited chronically ill patients at the state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) on Sunday.

When asked if the couple if distributing the food on the occasion of the upcoming Islamic month of Ramadan, the first lady’s secretary Fathimath Rahma told Minivan News there was no particular occasion.

The gifts were bought on the couple’s own funds, she said.

One family reported receiving five kilos of rice, one kilo of dates and five cans of tuna, while another reported receiving 20 kilos of rice, one kilo of dates and six cans of tuna. They welcomed the gift from the president and the first lady.

An eyewitness at the IGMH said he saw the first lady handing out envelopes with money to the patients at IGMH.

“When I asked them what the envelope was, they gave it to me and I saw the envelope said it was from the couple and contained MVR1,000,” he said.

But Rahma dismissed rumours the first lady had distributed money to the sick at the IGMH.

“The first lady only visited the patients there, she did not hand them any envelopes,” she said.


Terrorism trials for Adhaalath, Jumhooree Party leaders set to begin

The terrorism trials of opposition Adhaalath Party and Jumhoory Party (JP) leaders are set to begin at the Criminal Court tonight.

Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla’s trial is set for 8:00pm, while trials for JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed have been set for 8:30 pm and 9:00pm, respectively.

The three are charged with inciting violence at a mass antigovernment protest on May 1. If convicted, they face between 10 and 15 years in jail.

At tonight’s hearings, state prosecutors will read out charges against the three and judges are expected to give them a three-day period to appoint lawyers.

Imran is in police custody at present. He was arrested from his home at 11:00pm last night on a criminal court warrant.

“The warrant stated Imran should be brought to court tonight under police guard,” a police spokesperson said.

A warrant is usually issued only if the accused repeatedly fails to attend court, or if the accused may abscond or flee from trial. The Adhaalath Party said Imran only found out about the hearing at the time of his arrest.

It is not yet clear if a warrant has been issued for Ameen and Sobah’s arrest. The police declined to comment on the issue. The criminal court was not responding to calls at the time of going to press.

Minivan News understands Imran, Ameen and Sobah are charged under Article 2 (f) of the 1990 Anti –Terrorism Act that states inciting fear and issuing threats to harm individuals or damage property is an act of terrorism.

Imran and Ameen were arrested after the May Day protest and accused of encouraging violence in their speeches, which police contends led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

Sobah Rasheed was arrested from an opposition street protest on May 3.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed was also arrested on May 1, but the PG office has reportedly not made a decision on prosecuting the former MP.

The police had also accused the opposition leaders of threatening President Abdulla Yameen and other senior government officials.

The terrorism charges follow the president’s invitation for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties. Imran, Ameen, and Ali Waheed are among the representatives of their respective parties.

Following his release last week after 26 days under police custody, Imran denied the allegations.

More than 20,000 people took to the street on May 1 calling for the release of imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, whose arrests sparked the ongoing political crisis.

The May Day demonstration was the largest anti-government protest in Maldivian history. Some 193 were arrested and scores were injured.

Nasheed was charged with terrorism over the detention of a judge during his tenure and sentenced to 13 years in prison in March.

Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail on weapons smuggling charges. The retired colonel maintains the weapons were planted at his home by rogue police officers.

Foreign governments and international bodies including the UN criticized Nasheed and Nazim’s rushed trials for apparent lack of due process. The parliament of the European Union has called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

The opposition alliance has meanwhile called for a mass protest on June 12.

The terrorism charges against Sheikh Imran also comes after President Yameen threatened to prosecute the religious conservative party’s leader over allegations linking the president to the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.