The Maldives Police Service is reviewing the legality of a number of arrests made under article 46 of the constitution, after the Criminal Court ruled last night that the arrest of Gassan Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was unlawful.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam explained that police were studying the cases to determine whether the arrests were lawful in light of the Criminal Court precedent, and considering releasing the suspects.
Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed ruled last night that Gassan was arrested in violation of article 46 of the constitution and a Supreme Court precedent establishing criminal justice procedures.
Article 46 states, “No person shall be arrested or detained for an offence unless the arresting officer observes the offence being committed, or has reasonable and probable grounds or evidence to believe the person has committed an offence or is about to commit an offence, or under the authority of an arrest warrant issued by the court.”
Gassan’s lawyers argued at court that as the former President’s son was taken into custody without an arrest warrant after he was summoned for questioning, the circumstances of his arrest does not fit the exceptions provided for in the constitution where suspects could be arrested without a court order.
Sub-Inspector Shiyam however said there were “dangerous criminals we have arrested following the same procedure for committing offences such as child molestation, drugs and assault and battery.”
Police were currently reviewing the cases of “over 300” suspects to determine if their arrests were constitutional, he said.
Responding to the legal arguments from Gassan’s lawyers at the Criminal Court hearing yesterday, Police Superintendent Mohamed Jinah said if Gassan’s arrest was unlawful, “every one police have arrested and brought before the court [for extension of detention] was arrested in violation of the constitution.”
Jinah insisted that the arrest was lawful as police had reasonable grounds to suspect Gassan had committed a crime and were prepared to submit early evidence for an extension of detention.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahlouf said the police statement was intended to “put the lid on Gassan’s arrest,” which he said had drawn public anger towards the government.
Mahlouf noted that only the Criminal Court, High Court or Supreme Court could order the release of suspects held in remand detention and “not the President’s Office or Home Ministry.”
“And the only way to change a Criminal Court ruling is to appeal it at the High Court,” he said, adding that the Supreme Court precedent in July 2010 established that only the Prosecutor General could file such appeals.
The PPM also filed three complaints at the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) regarding Thursday’s disturbances, Mahlouf said, which involved the police reaction to the MDP protest outside the Supreme Court and police failure to intercede when MDP activists damaged the property of the former President.
The party also filed a complaint about the summons chit sent to Gassan Maumoon, he continued, which he argued was “unlawful” as the former President’s son had exercised his right to remain silent when he was first summoned on Saturday.
The PIC had invited PPM members for a meeting regarding the complaints at 12:00pm tomorrow, he said, adding that the commission had formed three committees to investigate the matter.
Two activists of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) arrested for their involvement in disturbances outside the former President’s residence, Endherimaage, last Thursday were meanwhile released from custody today.
The Criminal Court yesterday approved a five-day extension of detention for MDP activist Ilham. Following his release last night, Ilham’s lawyer Abdulla Haseen said Gassan was arrested on suspicion of endangering a person’s life while Ilham was arrested on suspicion of damaging personal property during Thursday’s protest.
But, said Haseen, while Ilham was handcuffed and had his detention extended by the court, Gassan was treated very differently.
Supporters of the former PPM attacked Housing Ministry’s State Minister Dr Mohamed Shareef yesterday when he arrived from a conference in Bandos while PPM activists were demonstrating outside the police headquarters.
Sub-Inspector Shiyam said today that no arrests had been made yet in connection with the attack, footage of which was shown on Villa Television yesterday. The PPM supporters also stormed into the Home Ministry and met with senior officials to complain of Gassan’s arrest.
President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair meanwhile told Minivan News that in the wake of yesterday’s Criminal Court ruling, “all the arrests made in the past using the same procedure will be unlawful.”
Zuhair revealed that a team of senior police officers met with Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muiz today to discuss the implication of last night’s precedent.
“He did not speak on the issue and rather questioned the police about some past incidents that he asked police to investigate and told the police to leave the PG Office immediately,” Zuhair said.
Following the actions of the PG, said Zuhair, the executive believed the government could no longer work with him.
“We will file a no-confidence motion against him [in parliament] very soon,” he said.
PG Muiz was unavailable for comment today.
PPM Spokesperson Mahlouf said the party would do “everything we can to save the PG” and such targeting of independent institutions the government was displeased with was “unacceptable.”