Soldier to be punished over Facebook support for ex-minister

A soldier who expressed support online for imprisoned former defence minister Mohamed Nazim is to be punished by the army.

Hassan Firaz, stationed in Addu City in the south, on March 26 wrote a Facebook post that went viral, reading: “We are with you, Nazim sir”.

He made the comment, which was widely reproduced on Twitter, after the ex-minister was found guilty of smuggling weapons and sentenced to 11 years in jail.

A source close to Firaz told Minivan News the lance corporal was accused of making political statements and flown to Malé on Saturday.

He now faces demotion or relocation to a remote outpost, the source said.

A spokesperson for the Maldives National Defence Forces declined to comment on “internal matters”.

Nazim, who had served in the army for 25 years and held the post of defence minister for three years, commands widespread support in the army, two soldiers who asked to remain anonymous told Minivan News.

“People are unhappy about what has happened but they are too afraid to speak out,” one of the soldiers said.

The ex-minister’s brother Adam Azim in a tweet on March 29 claimed many police and army officers are loyal to Nazim.

President Abdulla Yameen dismissed Nazim from the cabinet after police discovered a pistol and three bullets at his home during a controversial midnight raid.

The ex-minister says rogue police officers planted the weapons on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, a claim the police and Adeeb deny.

Nazim’s family meanwhile said the trial was a conspiracy “in which powerful forces within the Maldivian government have sought to destroy him and thus prevent him from contesting for the leadership of the ruling party.”

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said Nazim was unfairly sentenced, condemning the Criminal Court’s refusal to call a majority of defence witnesses.

Some nine high-ranking officers were dismissed for “sowing discord within the army” during the political turmoil of the contested presidential polls of 2013, which ended with a victory by president Yameen. Nazim was the defence minister at the time.

Ten aviation security command officers, who also report to the defence ministry, were also dismissed at that time. They were told they were being made redundant because of budgetary constraints.