The Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) last night informed Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s wife and parents of his whereabouts and condition, following complaints made by the family.
“The judge is under our supervision at Girifushi in Kaafu Atoll (an MNDF training facility. He has no injuries and is in good condition,” said MNDF Chief Spokesperson Abdul Raheem, discounting local media reports to the contrary as “false messages”.
The Maldives’ famous underwater cabinet meeting was held off Girifushi in 2009, catapulting President Mohamed Nasheed into the environmental spotlight.
This is the first time that an individual has been held in custody at an MNDF training facility rather than Dhoonidhoo detention center. Raheem said the MNDF did not wish to specify why the judge is being held at the training facility.
Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested by the MNDF on the evening of Monday, January 16, in compliance with a police request. The judge’s whereabouts were not revealed until January 18, and the MNDF has acknowledged receipt but not replied to Supreme Court orders to release the judge.
Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz lately joined the High and Supreme Courts in condemning MNDF’s role in the arrest as unlawful, and requesting that the judge be released.
According to the PG, police have to go through the PG’s Office to obtain an arrest warrant from the High Court.
“They haven’t followed the procedures, and the authorities are in breach of law. They could be charged with contempt of the courts”, he said.
PG Muizz added that as MNDF has violated the Constitution he has ordered an investigation by the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM), and will evaluate the situation following the commission’s findings.
Raheem said the armed forces did not wish to comment on the PG’s statement.
According to government officials, military assistance was sought for reasons of national security.
In a televised statement on MNBC One on January 17, Home Minister Hassan Afeef said military assistance was sought during the arrest for “fear of loss of public order and safety and national security” on account of Judge Mohamed, who has “taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist”.
Judge Mohamed has been implicated in 14 cases of obstruction of police duty, Afeef alleged. Actions include ordering unlawful investigations, withholding warrants for up to four days, limiting the issuance of warrants to himself exclusively at times, disregarding decisions of higher courts, strategically delaying cases involving opposition members, and barring media from corruption trials, according to Afeef.
The judge has also released suspects detained for serious crimes without a hearing. One murder suspect proceeded to kill another victim.
Afeef further alleged that the chief judge “twisted and interpreted laws so they could not be enforced against certain politicians” and stood accused of “accepting bribes to release convicts.”
Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfan has said police had sent a letter to the armed forces on Monday, January 16, “requesting assistance to carry out its legal duty under article 71 of the Police Act, stating that the Criminal Court was not cooperating with police and that as a consequence of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed obstructing police work, the country’s internal security was threatened and police were unable to maintain public order and safety.”
MNDF therefore exercised authority under chapter nine of the Constitution and the Armed Forces Act of 2008 to take the judge into custody, he concluded.
Indicating the gravity of the moment, Minister Kaleyfan said, “I assure citizens that at this critical moment the country is faced with, the armed forces will do everything it must to restore national interest and defend the lawful government.”
The public has been protesting for six consecutive nights the detention of opposition party members who last week made statements of “hate speech” against the government, as well as the arrest of Judge Mohamed.
Meanwhile, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is circulating a petition calling for PG Muizz’s removal from office in a stated effort to clean up the judiciary.
“We are calling for a strong and independent judiciary for the people,” party chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik told Minivan News today. “The judiciary will never work without a PG, an AG, police and courts. They have to work closely.
“We have found that cases related to the opposition stay in the PG office. We do not believe the cases are being properly prosecuted,” Moosa said, estimating that the petition currently has 1,000 signatures. “We will be discussing the results in our parliamentary group before submitting it [to a parliamentary committee]”, he added.
Addressing the matter of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, Moosa said, “this country will not stop for only one judge”, later adding that he holds Criminal Court Judge Abdul Ghazee responsible for the judiciary’s deterioration.
Moosa argued that MNDF’s actions against the judge were accordance with its duty to protect the Constitution. “MNDF are always responsible for the country. They are helping the police because the police currently have so many cases to investigate. The judge did not respect the police summons before, he assumed he was above the police. That’s not fair to the people.”
Speaking in his own capacity, Moosa continued, “If a judge does not respect the Constitution, who does? Article 207 of the Constitution gives the military the power to do what they need to do to defend the law.”
Moosa claimed “we will do anything to bring justice to the courts”, but added “ we don’t want to arrest anybody, we are calling on the people to please respect the country and bring justice for all.”
Spokesperson for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Ahmed Mahlouf, was not responding to calls at time of press, however yesterday the party accused the government of trying to tip the country “into a state of emergency”.