The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office has filed criminal charges against both the former Defense Minister Ameen Faisal and former President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza, over their involvement in the 2006 ‘Namoona Dhoni’ incident.
A Criminal Court Media Official was quoted in local media as stating that the court had received the charges from the PG’s Office seven days ago.
The infamous incident involved the expedition of pro-democracy activists from the country’s southernmost atoll in an attempt to join a national demonstration organised by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) during the final years of the Maumoon Abdul Gayoom regime.
Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives returned to power last month after his half-brother Abdulla Yameen defeated MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed in the presidential election.
According to local media, both Ameen Faisal and Abbas Adil Riza are facing the charge of disobeying a lawful order under section 88 of the penal code.
The state has also charged Ameen Faisal with obstructing a state employee from executing his duty under section 86 of the penal code.
Apart from Faisal and Riza, the state has also charged Ali Abdulla, Ibrahim Sabree, Mohamed Azmy, Abdulla Asrar, Ahmed Mohamed, Ahmed Didi – the Captain of Namoona Dhoni – and Shahuruzman Wafir – the owner of Namoona Dhoni – who had all been part of expedition.
Both Abbas Adil Riza and Ameen Faisal – who were pro-reform activists of then-opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) at the time – were part the group which set off from Addu Atoll Maradhoo Island on November 6, 2006, to join the opposition-led demonstrations in Male’.
Faisal was president of the MDP’s Malé branch at the time of the incident.
The activists had planned to use the demonstrations to pressure then-government of Maldives thirty-year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to speed up the drafting of the constitution.
The state prosecutors in the case claimed that on November 6, 2006, local authorities – having come to learn of the expedition and the intention to join the anti-government demonstration, had sent a letter to Shahuruzman Wafir – the owner of Namoona Dhoni – ordering him not to embark on the journey.
The letter, according to the prosecution, had stated that “the government had come to learn” of the plot by the activists to set off to Male with the intention to “unlawfully sow discord among the public and to disrupt the public order and therefore orders Shahuruzman Wafir to not let his Dhoni to embark on the journey”.
Despite the letter ordering Shahuruzman Wafir to not allow anyone other that the regular fishermen that regularly used the vessel for fishing, the prosecutors claimed that Wafir had confessed to having accepted and cashed a cheque of MVR 10,000 given by the MDP’s Addu Atoll Office.
The famous ‘Namoona Dhoni’ incident
Despite the orders by the Maradhoo Island Office, the crew of Namoona Dhoni chose to depart to Male with the MDP activists.
The trip to Male was part of the MDP’s Addu wing’s collaboration with a previous resolution passed by the MDP’s National Council calling upon members from across the nation to gather in Male’ for the demonstrations.
Half-way through the journey, approximately three nautical miles away from Gaaf Alif Atoll Kolamaafushi Island, the Coast Guard intercepted the vessel and informed the crew to change its course to any island other than the capital.
Following the Coast Guard’s interception, the prosecution claimed that the Captain of Namoona Dhoni Ahmed Didi had demanded Ameen Faisal agree to an additional payment of MVR 150,000, should the journey be continued as according to the plan of activists.
Faisal finally agreed to pay the demanded sum when the vessel had entered the outer seas of Thaa Atoll near the Kimbidhoo Island, claimed the prosecution. Furthermore, the prosecutors also claimed that Abbas and other activists had pressured the captain to continue the journey regardless of the orders given by the Coast Guard.
After some confrontations between the activists and Coast Guard officials, the Namoona Dhoni was brought under Coast Guard custody in the morning of November 8, 2006.
The incident was widely reported by then opposition-aligned newspapers as a ‘brutal seizure by the Coast Guard’ though the allegations were denied by the officials.
Prosecutors also alleged that Abbas, at the time of Coast Guard interception, had given false alarms and reports about the seizure of the vessel.
According to local media reports at the time, 44 people were aboard the vessel during the time of incident, including three women.
Charges were pressed against Faisal, Abbas, and others even in 2007, but were later dropped by the PG.
Whilst Faisal is still an active MDP member, Abbas has since defected from the party, becoming a vocal critic of the post-2008 MDP government.
Abbas went onto serve as President’s Office Spokesman for Nasheed’s successor Dr Mohamed Waheed before sparking a diplomatic incident with criticism of Indian High Commissioner D.M. Mulay in 2012, after which he moved into a position with the Finance Ministry.
Correction: The previous version of this article described Ameen Faisal as having headed the activist group – an unsubstantiated claim which Faisal himself denies. Minivan News regrets the error.