Ministers have sought to give their legal justification for the involvement of the armed forces in the arrest of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, amid spiraling political tensions.
In a televised statement on MNBC One last night, Home Minister Hassan Afeef said military assistance was sought for “fear of loss of public order and safety and national security” on account of Judge Abdulla, who has “taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist”.
Afeef and Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfan said police requested the involvement of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) in the arrest of Abdulla Mohamed.
Defence Minister Tholhath revealed that police 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,” he said.
MNDF therefore exercised authority under chapter nine of the constitution and the Armed Forces Act of 2008 to take the judge into custody, he said.
He noted that Article 243 of the constitution charges the military “to defend and protect the Republic and its people”, while article two of the Armed Forces Act states that it must “protect the lawfully elected government of the Republic of the Maldives from any unlawful action that may in any way diminish its stature.”
Moreover, he added, the Armed Forces Act authorises the military to assist law enforcement agencies upon request, during which it would be given “all lawful powers accorded to police.”
“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,” he said in conclusion.
Afeef meanwhile listed 14 cases of obstruction of police duty by Judge Abdulla, including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts.
Afeef accused the judge of “deliberately” holding up cases involving opposition figures, and barring media from corruption trials.
Afeef said the judge also ordered the release of suspects detained for serious crimes “without a single hearing”, and maintained “suspicious ties” with family members of convicts sentenced for dangerous crimes.
Afeef also alleged that the judge actively undermined cases against drug trafficking suspects and had allowed them opportunity to “fabricate false evidence after hearings had concluded”.
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.”
Prosectutor General Ahmed Muizz has meanwhile maintained that the MNDF acted illegally, telling local media that he would comply with an order from the Criminal Court to prosecute the Chief of Defence Forces for contempt of court, as well as those officers responsible for arresting the judge.
Muizz has also asked the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to investigate the case, stating that he would decide who to charge based on their conclusions.
“The military arrested Abdulla Gazi in violation of the Judges Act. Action will be taken against those involved,” he said.
The first case against Abdulla Mohamed was brought to the President’s Office in 2005 by then Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed, now the leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).
That complaint referred to the judge allegedly demanding that the underage victim of a sexual assault reenact her attack in the courtroom. The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) subsequently dropped the inquiry.
However in an open letter to parliament in March 2011, President’s member on the JSC and outspoken whistle-blower Aishath Velezinee claimed that the politically-manipulated JSC was protecting the judge despite the existence of “reasonable proof to show that Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed was systematically committing the atrocity of setting free dangerous criminals and declaring them innocent with complete disregard to the evidence [presented at court].”
The JSC formed a complaints committee to investigate the cases against Judge Abdulla in December 2009, which met 44 times but failed to present an update report every thirty days as required by article 29(b) of the Judicial Service Commission Act and had not presented a single report as of March 2011.
Opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Afrashim Ali spoke in defence of the judge and insisted the complaints could not be investigated, but declined to provide reasons in writing to the commission.
Despite Judge Abdulla having been sentenced for a criminal offence, Speaker Abdulla Shahid pushed for his reappointment and later “bequeathed the Criminal Court to Abdulla Mohamed until 2026” under the Judges Act, which was passed hastily during the constitutional crisis period in July-August 2010.
Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has meanwhile called for the immediate release of the judge, accusing the government of disregard for judicial and constitutional law.
Interim Deputy President of PPM, Abdul Raheem, told local media that the government was seeking the declaration “of a state of emergency”.
“Recent actions suggest [the government] is capable of anything,” he said.