The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called for a parliamentary debate on the judicial watchdog’s decision to clear Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed of misconduct charges in a sex tape scandal.
The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) on June 25 claimed insufficient evidence to indict the judge in a court. The three sex tapes leaked on social media appear to show Hameed fornicating with three different foreign women in a Colombo hotel room.
The commission did not suspend Hameed in the course of investigations despite several sub committee recommendations.
Critics have since argued the JSC is mandated to conduct disciplinary investigations which entail different penalties than criminal investigations.
MP Imthiyaz ‘Inthi’ Fahmy in a resolution on Wednesday said the JSC decision has “closed all the doors for unveiling the truth regarding the case.”
The resolution also stated that the JSC contravened its own standards in determining misconduct in order to save Judge Hameed, and had “sacrificed judicial independence and the Constitution and prioritized [Judge] Ali Hameed’s interests” by purposefully delaying the case for over a year.
In serious cases of corruption and misconduct, allegations must be investigated promptly and the judge must be suspended until investigations are completed, Fahmy noted.
Further, the JSC decision to retain a judge perceived to be “corrupted, shamed, dishonored and blackmailed’ on the Supreme Court bench affects the freedom and independence of the apex court and undermines trust in decisions of all other courts, the resolution said.
The JSC has violated the public’s constitutionally enshrined right to a fair trial at a free and independent court, Fahmy said.
The first reading of the resolution was held on Wednesday. It will be opened up for debate within a seven day period and MPs will cast a vote to accept or reject the resolution.
Speaking to Minivan News, Fahmy said he wanted a parliamentary probe in to the JSC decision.
“The decision has set a very wrong standard, we cannot allow this to continue. The JSC does not have to use criminal standards in a disciplinary case like this, anyone familiar with law will know with that. The parliament should look in to this and hold JSC accountable,” he said.
However, given the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) avoidance of the subject of judicial reform, Fahmy said he is skeptical of the outcome of the resolution. The PPM currently holds a majority in the parliament.
“Even so, I hope the parliament will approve this for the sake of an independent judiciary and justice. The hope is to reform the judiciary in this country,” Fahmy said.
Despite international and domestic criticism of the judiciary, President Abdulla Yameen has failed to respond to the issue. Yameen has said he left the subject out from his first presidential address due to the trust and respect he has for the judiciary.
The police formally launched an investigation against Hameedin July 2013 after still images of the sex tape began circulating on social media.
The police investigations consisted of two-parts, one concerning the content of the video and another regarding the use of the tapes to blackmail Hameed. At the time, the JSC voted not to suspend Hameed citing lack of evidence.
Soon afterwards, two more videos appearing to show Hameed engaging in sexual relations with two more foreign women surfaced on social media.
In December 2013 the police stalled investigation claiming they were unable to ascertain the identity of the man in the sex tapes.
At the time, local media Haveeru suggested the police had been unable to proceed with investigations due to the Criminal Court’s refusal to provide two key warrants in September. The warrants reportedly include a warrant to take a facial photograph of Hameed and another to search his residence.
A second JSC sub-committee to investigate the matter asked for the judge’s suspension, but JSC President Adam Mohamed refused to put the suspension to a vote.
The now defunct Maldives Bar Association in April also called for the suspension of Hameed until investigations were complete.
“Given the serious nature of allegations against Ali Hameed, that the judge continues to hold trial contravenes norms of justice, conduct of judges, and established norms by which free and democratic societies deal with cases of this nature,” the association said in a statement at the time.
In May, the police closed investigations and said it would only open the case if it receives new information.
In another leaked video , Hameed allegedly suggested he was one of then Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen’s “back-ups”, and that his stand was “to do things the way Yameen wants”.
The Prosecutor General’s Office in April also filed corruption charges against Hameed over illegal transfer of credit from his state- funded mobile phone in 2010. However, the Criminal Court in May claimed case files had been destroyed in a coffee spill.
A 2010 audit report of the Department of Judicial Administration reveals that MVR13,200 (US$856) was spent out of the apex court’s budget to repair a state-owned car used by an unnamed Supreme Court Justice, later revealed in the media to be Justice Hameed.
According to the police report cited by auditors, the driver of the justice’s car was responsible for the accident, which occurred on January 23, 2011.
The Supreme Court has dismissed allegations of corruption.