Court will provide VIP treatment when it sees fit, insists Chief Judge Abdulla

The Criminal Court will provide VIP treatment and escort persons facing trial in and out through the back door in circumstances where it sees fit, Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed has said.

Speaking at a function held on Saturday night (September 13) to celebrate the court’s anniversary, Judge Abdulla reportedly said that the court would allow accused parties to enter through the back door for safety reasons.

“If a court employee has to go an receive such a person, that would be done, too. That is done through the court’s administrative arrangements,” he was quoted as saying in local media.

The remarks followed criticism of the court for providing preferential treatment to MP Ahmed Siyam Mohamed in his alcohol possession case.

The leader of the government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance was escorted in and out of the backdoor when he arrived at the court for a trial date and was also seated in a separate area.

Moreover, the chief judge had taken over Siyam’s case in May after the business tycoon requested a change of judge.

Judge Abdulla also criticised the police and state prosecutors for failure to secure convictions as a result of poor planning, insufficient evidence, and glaring inconsistencies between statements submitted by police and witness testimony heard at trial.


State presents witnesses in Sun Shiyam’s alcohol possession trial

The Prosecutor General’s Office has presented witnesses in the alcohol possession trial against tourism tycoon and MP for Meedhoo constituency MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam.

Two Customs Services officers who checked Shiyam’s bag in March 2012 at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport testified to finding an alcohol bottle in his luggage at the Criminal Court today, local media has reported.

A Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) staff member who handled the luggage said they were not aware an alcohol bottle was in the bag when they took it for screening.  The staff said the bag was unlocked and it was possible for someone to have put the bottle in the bag.

Two police officers who carried out forensic tests on the bottle testified that the substance in the bottle is alcohol.

Shiyam has denied charges, claiming he is being framed.

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 for up to three years.

Under Article 73 of the constitution, an MP convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to more than one year in prison will lose his or her seat in parliament.

The case has garnered controversy after Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed took over the case from Judge Ahmed Sameer following a complaint by Shiyam in which he said Judge Aziz’s “hand gestures and facial expressions” indicated a personal grudge against him which could lead to an unfair trial.

The MP for Dhaal Meedhoo is the leader of Maldives Development Alliance – which has 7,537 registered members and five MPs – and is founder of the Sun Travel and Tours company.


MPs’ alcohol trial cancelled as Jabir remains in hospital

The Criminal Court has today cancelled an alcohol possession hearing against opposition MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor as Jabir remains in hospital for a second day over respiratory issues.

Jabir who is currently serving a one-year jail sentence for refusal to provide urine was hospitalized at Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) on Tuesday morning, but his condition is not serious, the Maldives Correctional Services (MCC) told Minivan News today.

The two Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs were arrested from a private picnic island, Hondaidhoo, in November 2012 on suspicion of alcohol and drug use.

The Prosecutor General’s Office pressed separate charges of refusal to provide urine and alcohol possession against the two MPs. The MDP has said the charges are politically motivated.

Hamid received a police summons on Tuesday requesting him to attend the Criminal Court under a police escort. The hearing at 2:00 pm was cancelled due to Jabir’s inability to attend court.

While Hamid and Jabir faced refusal to provide urine charges separately, the Criminal Court is hearing alcohol possession charges against the two MPs in one case.

A new hearing has been scheduled for April 22. If found guilty, the two MPs may be jailed up to three years.

Speaking to Minivan News before the hearing, Hamid said he had not been told which charges he was to answer to today and expressed concern he may be summarily sentenced.

The Criminal Court in October 2013 sentenced Hamid in absentia to six months in jail for alleged failure to attend court in the refusal to provide urine trial.

The High Court overturned the sentence stating the lower court had scheduled hearings in contravention to the Parliamentary Privileges and Powers Act during People’s Majlis work hours.

Hamid’s refusal to provide urine charges are still pending.

Media Official at MCC Moosa Rameez said Jabir’s condition was stable and doctors were keeping him under observation.

Jabir’s wife Dhiyana Saeed told local media the MP had been born with respiratory defects and had undergone several surgeries in the UK and Singapore.

In a text to MDP parliamentary group members, Dhiyana said: “The pulmonologist who saw him says his previous surgeries or severe sleep apnoea has failed and needs to be admitted.”

Sleep apnoea is a type of sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Special Envoy Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair and his wife Mariyam Faiz, Zaki’s son Hamdhan Zaki and Alidhoo Resort’s General Manager Jadulla Jameel were also arrested along with the two MPs.

The PG has charged Zuhair and his wife with refusal to provide urine, whilst Hamdhan Zaki faces charges of cannabis trafficking. Jameel is charged with alcohol possession and cannabis possession.

The six arrested on Hondaidhoo have accused the police of torture and brutality during their arrest.


Man fined MVR1000 for possession of alcohol

Criminal Court has fined a man who brought in alcohol to the Maldives and kept it in his possession.

The charged Mohamed Vildhaan of Dhemaagasdhoshuge in Henveiru ward of capital city Malé was fined MVR1000.

The Criminal Court verdict reads that Vildhaan had confessed in court to having been in possession of alcohol.

It further states that the sentence against him is a fine because the court was not made aware of the quantity of alcohol that Vildhaan had in his possession.


MP ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam faces trial over alcohol possession

MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam Mohamed has been charged with smuggling and possession of alcohol after a liquor bottle was found in his luggage in March 2012.

According to local media reports, the Criminal Court has scheduled the first hearing of the case for 9:00am on Thursday (November 7).

A bottle of alcohol was allegedly discovered in the tourism tycoon’s bag when it was screened at the airport upon his return from a trip overseas.

While police concluded the investigation and forwarded the case to the Prosecutor General’s Office last year, it was initially sent back in August 2012 to clarify further information.

The case was filed at court by the PG office over a year and a half after the incident.

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 for up to three years.

MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party are also currently facing charges of alcohol possession following their arrest on an uninhabited picnic island in November 2012.

Under article 73 of the constitution, an MP convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to more than one year in prison will lose his or her seat in parliament.

The MP for Dhaal Meedhoo is the leader of Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – which has 7,537 registered members and three MPs – and founder of the Sun Travel and Tours company.

Shiyam’s MDA formed an alliance with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in August to back PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen.

In March 2012, an audio clip of a conversation between Shiyam and Yameen was leaked on social media, in which the pair aired grievances against PPM figurehead and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In the leaked audio, Shiyam expressed disappointment with the former president for refusing to issue him a diplomatic passport and grant land for a boat yard in the industrial island of Thilafushi.

“These are the only two favours I ever asked of Maumoon,” Shiyam said.

“Once [Gayoom] took me to Singapore on some trip. All the vice presidents [of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party] went. All of them had red passports [diplomatic passports]. We went and I was given a very average room. Even when I travel on my personal business, I don’t stay in anything but a suite. So I went and said it is a very small room, I cannot stay there. They told me that was how it had been booked. So I told them to give me the presidential suite. I stayed in a suite bigger than Maumoon’s. Dr Shaheed [foreign minister under both Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed] and others ridiculed me quite a bit,” Shiyam said.

After Shiyam returned, he met with Gayoom and told him, “I am this party’s [DRP’s] vice-president. You have given red passports to many businessmen, and ordinary people as well. I would like one as well. And he told me he could not do so under the law.”

Yameen replied saying that arranging for a diplomatic passport was a small matter and that “it’s no issue at all.”