Home Minister returns to Malé, High Court rejects appeal to overturn arrest warrant

Home Minister Umar Naseer has returned to the Maldives from an official visit to the Netherlands, although police have made no move to arrest the minister as per a Criminal Court arrest warrant.

The warrant orders the Maldives Police Services to arrest and present the minister at the Criminal Court on Tuesday (June 17) to answer charges of disobedience to order. The case has been scheduled for 11am tomorrow.

Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi issued the warrant on Thursday while Naseer was away in the Netherlands to source sniffer dogs and body scanners.

Naseer’s lawyer Adam Asif appealed the warrant at the High Court, but the court rejected the appeal today claiming an arrest warrant cannot be appealed.

Article 56 of the constitution grants individuals the right to appeal convictions, sentences, judgments or orders by the courts, but arrest warrants do not fall under the category, said the High Court.

The police were not responding to calls at the time of press.

Naseer had failed to attend three consecutive hearings. Two of the hearings were scheduled during Naseer’s Netherlands visit from June 9 – 16.

The minister is accused of calling for 2,000 volunteers on January 23, 2012 to storm the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) headquarters with 50 ladders during the two weeks of protests sparked by the military’s controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

If convicted, Naseer faces banishment, imprisonment or house arrest not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding MVR150 (US$ 10) under Article 88(a) of the penal code.

He denied charges during the first hearing into the case on April 27. At a second hearing on May 22, he asked the court to strike down the clause he is being prosecuted under.

The Prosecutor General’s Office is pressing disobedience to order charges under Article 88 of the Penal Code with reference to Article 8 (a) of the General Laws.

The General Laws was passed in 1968 and the clause in question prohibits writing or speech against any tenet of Islam.

Meanwhile, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP Eva Abdulla has tabled a motion at the People’s Majlis, to summon Naseer for questioning over comments he made in 2013 implicating President Abdulla Yameen in the death of MP Afrasheem Ali in 2012.

Naseer lost to Yameen in the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) primaries in April 2013. He held a rally in which he alleged widespread vote rigging and accused Yameen of illicit connections with gangs and the illegal drug trade.

Yameen met with an individual accused of Afrasheem’s murder at the PPM offices, Naseer said at the time.

He was later expelled from the PPM and joined the Jumhooree Party (JP), backing tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim for the presidency. The JP placed third in November’s presidential polls, before throwing its weight behind the PPM at the eleventh hour in exchange for a 35 percent stake in government.

Naseer was appointed home minister on a slot allocated for the JP although the coalition agreement was dissolved in May following a dispute over Gasim’s decision to stand for the Majlis speaker position.

Two of the four JP ministers have now joined the PPM and its ally the Maldives Development Alliance.