Criminal Court warns MP Ghafoor of trial in absentia

The Criminal Court has warned Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor that it will try him absentia if he fails to attend a court hearing scheduled for 1:30pm on Thursday.

Ghafoor took refuge inside the People’s Majlis on Thursday (October 24) following several police attempts to arrest him and present him at the Criminal Court. He is being tried for refusal to provide a urine sample – an offense that carries a one year jail sentence and could disqualify him from his parliamentary seat.

“The Criminal Court orders Hamid Abdul Gafoor of H. Shady Corner, Malé to attend court at 13:00 on 31 October 2013. If Hamid Abdul Gafoor is not present at the court at the specified date and time, we inform him we will continue with and conclude the above trial in absentia as per Article 30 (a) of the Regulations on court summons,” a statement issued by the Criminal Court today said.

Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed is presiding over the case.

Ghafoor has accused the criminal court of a “politically motivated personal hunt” to influence the MDP and its ally Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party’s simple majority in parliament. Ghafoor is also being tried separately for possession of alcohol.

The MP has pleaded innocent at the two hearings that have taken place so far. A third hearing was scheduled for October 23 at 9:00 am. But Ghafoor’s lawyers told the Criminal Court a day in advance that the MP could not attend due to a parliamentary proceedings scheduled at the time.

Article 11 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act sates that an MP cannot be summoned to court during Majlis sittings or parliamentary committee hearings.

However, the Criminal Court did not respond to the letter. Instead, it scheduled a new hearing for 1:00pm on October 24 and issued a court warrant ordering police to arrest Ghafoor and present him at court. The MP took refuge inside the Majlis and has not left parliament premises since.

The Criminal Court scheduled a second hearing on Monday October 28 at 9:00am and issued new arrest warrant. The police wrote to Speaker Abdulla Shahid to turn Ghafoor over, but Shahid cited Article 11 of the Parliamentary Privileges and Powers Act and said Ghafoor could not be summoned to court during Majlis hours.

Speaker obliged to protect MPs, says Majlis

Ghafoor’s lawyer Hussein Shameem said his client would appeal the Criminal Court’s “unlawful” arrest warrants at the High Court, saying that the Criminal Court had not followed due process.

Shameem also argued the state had no grounds to prosecute Ghafoor as there was no legal evidence of the police having requested a urine sample. According to the Drug Act, the police are to ask for a urine sample in writing and obtain a signature from the accused if they refuse to provide a sample, he claimed.

Shameem has written to Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz to review the case due to “procedural issues” and to carry out the PG’s duty to uphold the constitutional order and the law as per Article 223 of the constitution by taking action against the courts for issuing unlawful summons.

Ghafoor told Minivan News on Sunday that he was willing to stay inside the Majlis premises “until the judiciary is destroyed.”

“Now I know how helpless ordinary citizens are. I feel like I’m being hunted by a corrupt judiciary. You don’t feel good when you are being singled out. You feel like prey. You can never relax,” Ghafoor said.

The MDP has condemned the judiciary’s attempts to “purge” its MPs. On Thursday (October 24), the Supreme Court, in a controversial ruling, stripped MDP MP Ali Azim and DRP MP Mohamed Nashiz of their parliamentary seats over decreed debt.

Eight other MDP MPs are currently being investigated for contempt of court and disobedience to order. MP Abdulla Jabir is also being tried for refusal to provide a urine sample and possession of alcohol.

Meanwhile, former Attorney General Azima Shakoor has criticized Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid for allegedly helping MPs evade courts by harboring those who had committed criminal acts inside the Majlis building. Azima was voted out of office in a no confidence motion on Tuesday.

A Majlis secretariat statement has refuted the allegations, arguing that the speaker is constitutionally obliged to protect MPs.

“The People’s Majlis Speaker assures all the citizens he will uphold the rights and privileges enshrined in the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act for all Members of Parliament without any political bias,” it said.

The Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) has expressed alarm over the prosecution of MPs and is to send an urgent IPU delegation to the Maldives.

“I propose that an IPU delegation returns urgently to the Maldives to discuss and agree with the relevant authorities and stakeholders effective steps to ensure that the parliament can fully discharge its legislative and oversight functions freely and independently and that its members can do their work unhindered, without fear of intimidation and harassment or attack on their physical integrity,” said the Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson.

MDP MP Ahmed Easa has submitted an amendment to the Drug Act to reduce the jail time for refusal to provide a urine sample from one year to 15 days. Easa said the specific article in the Drug Act was being used unfairly for politically motivated reasons.

Speaking to local media, the National Drug Agency’s CEO Ahmed Shahid spoke against the amendment, claiming that reducing the sentence for refusal to provide urine would obstruct identifying drug abusers and providing treatment for drug abuse.


10 thoughts on “Criminal Court warns MP Ghafoor of trial in absentia”

  1. ..."Now I know how helpless ordinary citizens are."

    You are a true champion of humanity for drawing such a beautiful expression of empathy from your suffering, Brother.

    If this were about Justice, nearly fifty percent of every adult Maldivian would also be being hunted down.

    I'll be with you tonight in my prayers brother, I am sure - many will be-please stay strong.

  2. Looks like the Criminal Court Judge is re-activated to get rid of the MDP MPs, activists and those supporting MDP!
    And this could not be the first case the Criminal Court Judge tried in absentia!

  3. Well, Hamid & Co brought this upon themselves! We can complain about how unjust this is, when we have bigger criminals either in power or sitting in courts. That may be the case, but, we have to ask why Hamid got himself into this situation in the first place.

    But if Hamid was quietly sipping his tea at home with his family, none of this would have happened.

  4. @ Ahmed Bin Addu Bin Suvadheeb.

    Agree with you. In Jabirs court proceedings day three days before (28 Oct), he was informed that cannabis was found immediately below where he was standing, near the Joali fathi they were sitting in, and on the ground near him. In addition alcohol were found in the glasses near them. Also bottles of alcohol piled up in the rooms where they were staying, in suitcases ! And what was his defense ? Ow they were hurting me, why wont u listen to me ! They were hurting me ! You have to address me as honourable (no matter how much alcohol i was drinking or pot i was smoking).

    In Spite of all this, no MDP member is willing to accept that either Jabir, Zaki or Hamidh was drinking alcohol or smoking canabis. And the laughability of MDP, a party that got 90,000 votes of the people, striving to implement the wishes of the people, is that they chose to elect this alcohol ridden and drug smoking person to the post of Muqarir of Maaliyathu committee in Majilis ! Imagine Jabir high on cannabis passing resolutions about our budget !

    And now we have both Hamidh and Jabir conspiring together and submitting revisions of laws in Majilis to change the law that their crimes do not cause them to lose their seats in Parliament. Reducing their implicable punishment from one year to 15 days. Hamidh fearful of the evidence that will be presented in court has holed himself inside the Majilis and is unwilling to stand trial, (forget corrupt courts, this guy just doest want the evidence against him to be submitted in court so that he wont lose face !) Inthi submitting revisions to abolish whole parts of the law ! And Ibrahim Rasheed, the 'honourary' member of parliament who went around hitting police guys with flagpoles is now submitting revisions so that Majilis members do not lose their seats in Parliament even if they committ criminal acts. Hows that for honourary member !

    This is the ultimate level of corruption of all of our political parties. MDP elected parliament members are changing the laws so that they cannot be prosecuted even if they commit crimes. PPM and JP are conspiring to delay and delay this vote unless their candidates get wins. The whole political spectrum of Maldives is filled with maggots and worms.

  5. @ Individual

    Your account of the proceedings against Jabir for possession and sale of cannabis is not correct. Jabir was handcuffed in the back, dragged 30 feet from where he was standing and placed in a place that was chosen by the police before being photographed. What Jabir was asking was, how he could be charged for possession and sale of cannabis when cannabis was not found on him, when there was no evidence that he was in possession of, carried and engaged in its sale. There were twenty persons on the island that day and even at that moment there were five people in the vicinity and this was a place where he was dragged to by the police. The other point he was making was that the Court cannot accept any evidence produced by those who had brutalized him - because there is inherent unreliability. This is known as the exclusionary rule. In Surah Maidah and Talaq, the Quran speaks of 'just' witnesses and what Jabir was saying was, those who brutalized him cannot be just witnesses against him.

  6. Unlike Hamid, Jabir went to Court but he was unrepresented. So I think he didn't know how to put his point in legal terms. What he was asking for was a motion in limine, known in some jurisdictions as the exclusionary rule. In Maldives this rule is framed as a fundamental right in Article 52 of the Constitution; that evidence should not be obtained unlawfully and that no court should accept that evidence. So Jabir maybe right in that if he was indeed beaten and violated as he claims to be, the police acted unlawfully and evidenced so gathered would be inadmissible in a court of law

  7. @ individual

    A trial required proof on the basis of legal standards. The law is designed to ensure proof on very high standards and so while we might think that a particular person committed a crime, it must be proved in court according to the standards set by the law. So yes, in this case if the police had inflicted violence, then their testimony and evidence claimed to be gathered by them cannot be relied upon - for it immediately calls into question the veracity and reliability of that evidence and jeopardize the accused's right to a fair trial.

  8. There is a moral dimension to accepting evidence gathered in situations of police violence. If a court accept that kind of evidence the court and also the State is regarded as complicit in police violence. In the words of Lord Hoffman, "The use of torture is dishonorable/ It corrupts and degrades the State which uses it AND THE LEGAL SYSTEM WHICH ACCEPTS IT."

  9. And the best part is these jokers will get re-elected to the parliament again and again while we remain spectators to their dramas.

  10. @ Gini

    If cannabis was found inside my home, on my couch where i was sitting, in my dining room, stashed in pots in my kitchen, under my toilet seat, in the luggage compartment of my car, behind my Tv set, and inside glasses,and i was the owner of the house, and i was numb, stoned, and talking gibberish while being intoxicated and arrested would any sane person with half a mind say that i didnt have anything to do with it ?

    Even if i had been dragged halfway across Male', could any person with a sane mind believe that i had nothing to do with it, and the drugs were planted by thirty police officers who busted me in my home ?

    Come on ! Even you know that this is B.S.

    With the amount of drugs and alcohol found in Hondaidhoo island and the fact that over twenty police officers participated in the raid, its just deception of the truth by MDP that it is trying to portray that Jabir is so innocent.

    And even so, it is unbelievable that the over twenty police officers or so that participated in the raid collaberated to frame Jabir.

    Heck, even Jabir and Zaki and Hamidh none of them HAVE DISPUTED that they were found with drugs and alcohol. They were just saying, ow this arrest is torture, where are my rights. etc. etc.

    Also, if they had been innocent, they would have given fingerprints so that the fingerprints could have been cross-examined to check whether the finger prints on the alcohol was theirs. Or agreed to a urine test. Their objection to both of these tests is just another testament and witness to their guilt.

    Guess Maldivians would rather believe the drama acted out by Dhiyana, rather than accept the alcohol bottles found with Jabir and Zaki, and the video of drunk zaki and jabir.


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