A high court appeal by three men sentenced to jail for the violent protest at Himandhoo has failed.
Ahmed Ramzee, Ahmed Ali and Adam Mohamed, all from Himandhoo, were originally sentenced for up to 10 years each for their involvement in the protest in October 2007.
The 200 police and army personnel who travelled to the island in search for evidence related to the Sultan Park bombing the previous month were confronted by the islanders, who donned red motorcycle helmets and armed themselves with batons and knives and denied the authorities entry to the Dhar-al-khuir mosque.
In the ensuing skirmish, a policeman was taken captive and another’s hand was severed. Shortly afterwards a video discovered on an Al Qaeda forum was found to contain footage taken inside the Dhar-al-khuir mosque moments before it was raided by police.
Senior High Court Judge Ali Hameed today ruled that the actions of the three men during the protest qualified as ‘terrorism’ under the law of Maldives, and said that the case was not open to appeal. Reading the verdict, Judge Hameed said their actions were “against the public order of the country and weakened the religious unity of the people.”
“The [verdict] of the criminal court cannot be overturned,” he said.
In the appeal, the men claimed their actions against the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were in “self defence”. Adam Mohamed and Ahmed Ramzy also told the court in previous hearings that their confessions had been extracted under duress.
At the time, Minivan News reported that Mohamed’s account tallied with other reports of abuse to have emerged from the police-run Dhoonidhoo detention centre. On 19 March 2008, he told the court he had been taken out of his cell at night during the investigation, handcuffed with his hands behind his back, and beaten in the football ground area.
On 9 February senior members of the Maldivian government met with the 16 people arrested and sentenced for the Himandhoo protest, to inform them that President Mohamed Nasheed had made the decision to lessen their sentences under the forthcoming clemency bill.
“One criteria of the clemency laws is that [the defendant] must have exhausted all other avenues of appeal,” said the President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair. “They are more eligible [for clemency] as a result of going through the [appeals] process.”
Zuhair said the accusation that the government was ‘releasing terrorists’ was unfair.
“I believe people cannot comment on the actions of the government without knowing the details of the matter,” Zuhair said. “There are complex issues being considered, such as the trial that was conducted under the previous constitution. The president has made it known he will alleviate their sentences.”
“This government came into power saying democracy would extend to religious matters,” Zuhair added.