MP Mahloof released after winning protest ban appeal

Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof was released from police custody today, after the high court overturned an ‘unconstitutional’ 15-day detention order and protest ban.

Mahloof was arrested from an opposition protest on March 26 for crossing a police barricade, but since then the criminal court repeatedly re-detained him when he refused to accept a conditional release that would require him to stay away from protests for 30 days.

“The High Court said Mahloof can only be held in custody if there is reason to believe he may flee or fail to attend court hearings. Judges said attending protests is not a reason for detention,” lawyers said.

Mahloof, a close associate of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was expelled from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in February after he publicly criticised President Abdulla Yameen and the government.

He is now part of the Alliance against Brutality, an anti-government coalition, which has been protesting daily over the imprisonment of rival politicians including former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Speaking to the press today, Mahloof apologised for campaigning to bring president Yameen to power.

“I would like to apologise to the people of Maldives for helping such a brutal ruler assume power,” he said.

Human rights group Madivian Democracy Network said the criminal court had released at least 50 protesters on the condition they do not participate in further protests for 30-60 days.

Former president of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Dr Ibrahim Didi was arrested and held for 15 days last month when he was seen at an opposition protest after having agreed to the criminal court’s conditional release.

Dr Didi was released yesterday.

Earlier in March, MDP MP Fayyaz Ismail was held for 15 days when he too refused the criminal court’s conditional release.

MDP MP Eva Abdulla today called on opposition supporters to disobey unlawful court rulings, and urged the watchdog judicial services commission (JSC) to punish “unqualified judges.”

“What we have here are judges who do not know democracy dispensing unconstitutional sentences. But the checks and balances provided in our constitution is simply not working. The JSC refuses to investigate the judges, and the parliament controlled by the government refuses to hold the JSC accountable. Ultimately, the people are denied any form of justice,” she said.

Last week, the police denied family visits to Mahloof after they discovered “illegal” areca nuts in his pocket.

Mahloof today accused the police of discrimination, saying his lawyers were only allowed to see him before 6pm, while others could see their clients until 11pm.