A senior official at the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office has revealed that the 2006 ‘Namoona Dhoni’ case, thought to have been re-opened earlier this month, has now been retracted.
“We decide not to continue with the charges and we have retracted the case,” said the official.
“We only found out the case was still still active when the Criminal Court scheduled the hearing. I was under the impression that this case had been retracted and discontinued.”
A Criminal Court Media Official was quoted in local media as stating that it had received the charges from the PG’s Office at the start of this month.
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) member Ameen Faisal, alongside former member Abbas Adil Riza were reportedly facing charges of disobeying a lawful order under section 88 of the penal code.
Seven other individuals were also reported to be facing charges in relation to the incident.
The PG Office official, however, stated that the retention of the case had been an “oversight” as the PG had previously opted to retract all cases for which it lacked constitutional authority.
“Before 2008 constitution, the government could make laws and issue guidelines for people to follow, and if they fail to follow them they could be prosecuted. One of the bases of this prosecution was that there was an announcement made by the Home Ministry.”
The official confirmed that the announcement in question was order for the fishing vessel ‘Namoona’ not to set-off from Addu in November 2006.
State prosecutors had claimed that authorities ordered the journey not to go ahead, arguing that the group intended to “unlawfully sow discord among the public and to disrupt the public order” by joining an MDP demonstration in the capital.
The journey had been prompted by the MDP National Council’s call for party supporters to travel to the capital in order to pressure autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to expedite the drafting of the new constitution.
“We can’t base our prosecution on a statement or an announcement made by the ministry. After the 2008 constitution, there was no basis to continue with the prosecution,” said the PG official.
The November 2006 incident involved the Namoona travelling from Addu to Male’ being forced to change course by the Coast Guard.
A press release from Amnesty International shortly after the incident raised concerns that the government was suppressing freedom of expression and assembly.
Investigating the Namoona Dhoni incident, Amnesty said: “A gunship reportedly came within several metres of the passenger boat causing big waves, which rocked the boat violently.”
“The gunship followed the boat and reportedly forced it to anchor near an uninhabited island.
According to reports, for a period of about eight hours the gunboat deliberately prevented the boat from reaching habitable islands to replenish its food supplies, which had run out. The passengers were then taken into custody.”