Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Abdulla Jabir was presented to the Criminal Court by police today, after being kept in custody since Tuesday (September 10) ahead of his trial for alleged possession of alcohol and cannabis.
Jabir and fellow MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor are among several senior party figures charged with drug and alcohol offences, after being arrested on on Hondaidhoo Island in November whilst allegedly under the influence of illegal substances.
While Jabir at the time of his arrest was a member of the Jumhoree Party (JP) – he later defected to the opposition – the MDP has maintained that his arrest was politically motivated to coincide with a no confidence motion at the time against senior government figures.
The MDP has alleged that the treatment of its MPs, including, Jabir was noticeably different to those of other parties currently aligned to the present government, accusing prosecutors of persecuting its members and supporters.
The trial began earlier this month, with Ghafoor being the only MP in attendance to hear charges against him concerning the case.
A total of 10 people taken into police custody on November 16 after officers obtain a warrant to search the island of Hondaidhoo.
Criminal Court Spokesperson Ahmed Mohamed Manik said state prosecutors during the hearing read out a list of charges against Jabir. The MDP MP will be given a chance to respond to these charges against him at the next hearing, Manik added.
Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed to Minivan News that Jabir had been held in police custody ahead of the hearing, under an order previously issued by the Criminal Court. Police did not provide any further details on where the MP had been detained.
Jabir earlier this week had his passport held by immigration officials when trying to leave the country, after previously failing to attend the opening hearing of the trial into the charges against him.
Explaining the absence, MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy ‘Inthi’ told Minivan News he understood Jabir had not received a summons from the Criminal Court to attend the trial, but would have attended if having done so.
“He has been away from Male’ campaigning [for the presidential election held on September 7] and had not therefore received a summons,” he said, accusing the country’s courts of purposefully scheduling hearings against MDP MPs to try and stymie the party’s election campaign.
Fahmy additionally claimed that the Criminal Court had failed to follow its own procedures, and that a summons had to be re-sent if not received by the individual in question.
By comparison, he alleged that Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP and Deputy Speak of Parliament Ahmed Nazim had failed to respond to 12 summons without arrest in relation to his trial for fraud – charges which he was later acquitted of. That case is now the subject of an ongoing High Court appeal.
Fahmy said although the MDP had not been requested to provide a lawyer for Jabir, the party would be ready to provide assistance to him in what it continues to allege is a “politically motivated” arrest.
Fahmy also alleged that the judiciary was seeking to fast track cases against MDP members to hinder the party and its campaigning ahead of a run-off vote scheduled for September 28.
He himself is currently facing a charge of “disobeying orders” over allegedly contemptuous remarks he made against the judiciary during a television show.
Fahmy argued that Jabir, along with Hamid Abdul Ghafoor and the son of the former President Nasheed’s Special Envoy, Mohamed Hamdhoon Zaki, were on a “private island” when they arrested by police officers, who he alleged beat and then arrested them.
“This all happened at the time of a no confidence motion against Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim and is a clear attempt at intimidation,” claimed Fahmy.
He said that the arrest was against Majlis regulations that say an MP could not be arrested at the time of a no confidence vote.
The no confidence vote had been scheduled for April 8, but was postponed after MDP MPs objected to a decision to not hold the vote in secret despite a parliamentary decision approving a secret ballot.
Previous MP liquor cases
Police last year forwarded a case for prosecution against MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam, after a bottle of alcohol was allegedly found in his luggage in March 2012 upon his return to the Maldives after an overseas trip.
The bottle was allegedly discovered when his luggage was screened.
Shiyam is the head of the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), a new party allied with the Progressive Party of the Maldives and its bid for the presidency on September 28.
Newspaper Haveeru reported on September 3 this year that the case was sent back to police by the Prosecutor General’s Office in August 2012 to clarify further information.
Police have yet to send the case to the PG office over a year later.
The penalty for alcohol possession in the penal code is either a fine of between MVR1,000 to MVR3,000 or imprisonment, banishment or house arrest between one to three years.