High Court has concluded hearings of the appeal filed by the state following the release of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor by Kulhudhuffushi Magistrate Court.
MP Ghafoor was arrested along with Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Abdulla Jabir and several senior opposition figures on the uninhabited island of Hodaidhoo on November 16, for alleged possession of drugs and alcohol. Police in a statement released following the arrests claimed that 10 people were arrested during a ‘special operation’ on the island.
Police claimed they found large amounts of “suspected” drugs and alcohol during the raid and stated that the arrests were made “based on information received by police intelligence”. Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef earlier told Haveeru that the suspects were arrested with alcohol and “hash oil”.
State requests order to re-arrest MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor
During Sunday’s appeal, the state prosecutors requested an order to re-arrest the MDP MP and invalidate article 202(d) of the Parliament Regulation that bars the police from arresting an MP ahead of a no-confidence motion in parliament.
The state prosecutors argued that Ghafoor should be kept under police custody or else he may “influence” the witnesses that the state wished to present to the court. They also claimed that some of those 21 people arrested might also have evidence.
State prosecutors said that police had informed them that Ghafoor possessed an ‘intoxicant’ when he was arrested but had refused to provide urine to police to conform whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
However, Ghafoor’s lawyer Hisaan Hussain said her client denied the charges levied by the state.
She also contended that Ghafoor did not possess the capacity to influence the witnesses by the state arguing that the only witnesses the state had produced were the police officers who made the arrests.
She also claimed that according to an earlier rule established by the Supreme Court, an institution cannot in their own capacity decide to not to adhere to a section of a law or a regulation on the grounds that it contrasted with the constitution, unless a court of law ruled such a section invalid.
She therefore challenged that police could not decide for themselves that the article 202(d) of the Parliament Regulation was invalid, and that thereby the arrest of MP Ghafoor was unlawful.
During the hearing, the judges posed several questions to the state prosecutor, Aishath Hana.
In one such question, the panel of judges questioned whether the court could decide on the validity of the article 202(d) of the Parliamentary Regulation, in an appeal that concerned extension of a detention.
Responding to the question, the state prosecutor said that the request to invalidate the article of parliamentary regulations was made because Kulhudhuffushi Magistrate Court had also referred to the same article in releasing the detainees.
Chair of the judges panel, Judge Abdul Ghanee Mohamed, responded stating that the court will consider Kulhudhuffushi Magistrate Court’s decision to refer to the concerned article when issuing the verdict.
However the court rejected the state’s request to invalidate the concerned article stating that the request was filed in contrast to the established procedures of the court.
The panel of judges also inquired about the progress of the investigation of Ghafoor’s case, to which the police who had been present in the hearings said that statements from all the officers involved in the arrests had been taken.
Police during the hearing also stated that while Hodaidhoo was an uninhabited island, it was questionable as to whether alcohol had been found on the island.
The court concluded the hearings and stated that a date would be announced later on which it would decide on the case.
“Attempt to frame” – MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor
Speaking to Minivan News, Ghafoor claimed the case was an attempt by the government to “frame” opposition politicians for attempting to impeach the President.
“I am a parliament member who is working to bring an end to this government through legitimate means. Now they want to frame me for possession of drugs and sentence me so that I would not be able to do that,” he said.
Ghafoor described the current developments as a “desperate” attempt by the government to unseat MPs opposed to the current government.
“After the coup, we have been working on ways to defeat this coup government through the parliament. Now we see even political parties that initially opposed us starting to support us. They have started to work with us as well. This is what this government fears most,” he explained.
Ghafoor claimed that the government had been monitoring each and every move of their political opponents including himself, and alleged that their phone calls are “continuously recorded”. This, he added, was what led the police to arrest them on the island of Hodaidhoo, where they had gone to “discuss our concerns about the government”.
“I don’t see it any other way. This is clearly a politically motivated case,” he contended.
Meanwhile, the MDP also claimed the arrests wer politically-motivated and stated that it was an attempt to disrupt parliament ahead of a no confidence motion against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, and an amendment to voting procedure to make such votes secret.
Last week an amendment to voting procedure to make such votes secret initiated by the opposition MDP MP Ahmed Shifaz was defeated in the parliament floor by 34 to 39 votes. However, MDP MP Ibrahim ‘Bondey’ Rasheed has again re-submitted the amendment to Parliament’s Privileges Committee.
“It is such a coincidence that whenever the Waheed government wants to frame those critical of their government, they come up with trumped up charges and very often it is something to do with alcohol,” said former MDP Chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi, in a statement.