The Maldives Police Service has decided it would no longer detain suspects arrested without a warrant on suspicion of having committed an offence after Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed ruled Monday night that the arrest of Gassan Maumoon violated article 46 of the constitution.
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.”
The legal team of the former President’s son argued at court that a Supreme Court ruling (page 11 point 11) on July 11, 2010 – which overturned a High Court ruling extending the arrest of MPs Abdulla Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim for alleged bribery – established a precedent for interpreting article 46.
Gassan’s lawyers contended that his arrest did not fall under the exceptions provided for in article 46 where a suspect could be taken into custody without an arrest warrant.
Responding to the legal argument at court, Police Superintendent Mohamed 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.
In a press statement released today, police noted that before Monday night’s ruling the Criminal Court had not followed the criminal justice procedure established by the Supreme Court ruling for suspects taken before the court since July 2010.
Article 48 of the constitution states that suspects must be brought within twenty-four hours before a judge, “who has power to determine the validity of the detention, to release the person with or without conditions, or to order the continued detention of the accused.”
Police therefore decided to only detain suspects arrested from the scene of the crime or after the arresting officer observed the offence being committed.
“Eleven suspects in police custody have now been released,” the statement revealed. “However they do not include people detained from the scene of the crime or while committing the crime. The [police] service has done this in order to enforce court verdicts with fairness and equality and to ensure that such an incident is not repeated before the constitutional problem is resolved.”
Police were consulting with the relevant authorities to resolve the constitutional dispute, it added.
Meanwhile, the Criminal Court issued a court order today demanding that police answer to the release of two Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists released from custody after the court extended their detention.
The activists were arrested for their part in disturbances outside the former President’s residence, Maafanu Endherimaage, which resulted in damage to private property.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan News today that police did not wish to comment on the matter or clarify whether the police appeared at the Criminal Court in accordance with the court order.
Local media however reported that police sent a letter in response to the court order explaining that it had the authority to release suspects after interrogation, notwithstanding an extension of detention. The letter reportedly noted that a number of suspects had been similarly released in the past.
In a statement put out today, the Criminal Court said an individual had sent a letter requesting the court take action against Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh as the police spokesperson Sub-Inspector Shiyam’s statements in the media claiming police were considering the release of over 300 suspects amounted to contempt of court.
Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was not available for comment at the time of press.