The Majlis Parliamentary Privileges Committee has unanimously decided parliament should intervene in the appeal case of member Hamed Abdul Ghafoor, who was sentenced to six months for failure to attend Criminal Court hearings.
“The committee was of the opinion that the Criminal Court had acted outside of the boundaries of the law by summoning MP Hamid to court on a day when the parliament as well as committee sittings were scheduled,” said Deputy Chair of the Committee and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Imthiyaz ‘Inthi’ Fahmy.
“Therefore this action by Criminal Court was clearly against the Privileges Act, thus a violation of privileges of both an MP and the parliament as a whole. On this grounds the committee has sent the report to Majlis Speaker to which the Speaker.”
Hamed was handed the custodial sentence during a month-long period of refuge sought within the grounds of parliament, which ended following the conclusion of the presidential election on November 16.
Hamed was originally asked to appear in court regarding an alleged refusal to produce a urine sample when asked by police following his arrest on suspicion of drug and alcohol possession last year.
He was arrested on the island of Hondaidhoo along with a number of senior MDP party members last year.
The MP himself, however, maintains that his stay in the parliamentary grounds was intended to highlight the importance of MP privileges.
“My holding up in the Majlis was in defense of parliamentary privileges, which was not reported in the media. We have found out members privileges are not understood,” Hamed told Minivan News today.
The Henveiru South representative suggested that Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed scheduled a hearing to clash with the parliamentary schedule as the case against him was failing.
He has subsequently been placed under house arrest, with the newly appointed Home Minister Umar Naseer telling local media that the state did not have the resources to transport the MP to and from Dhoonidhoo island prison in order for him to fulfil his parliamentary duties.
During his period of sanctuary, Hamed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) amended the parliament’s standing orders to allow an MP convicted of criminal acts to continue to attend Majlis sittings.
Hamed, as well as the Speaker of the House Abdulla Shahid, have consistently maintained that the summons to appear clashed with the MP’s parliamentary duties, contravening the Parliamentary Privileges Act.
“He has been issued court summons in violation of the Privileges Act. He has been issued a sentence because he took the privileges he is legally afforded as an MP,” Shahid told Minivan News earlier this month.
“I have written about this matter to the Prosecutor General [PG]. The Prosecutor General agrees with me. He has written a letter to the Supreme Court. He feels that the judiciary in this case has gone out of its way to punish Hamid.”
The PG Ahmed Muiz has since resigned as the Majlis prepared no-confidence proceedings against him – the President’s Office is currently accepting applications for his replacement.