High Court overturns MDP chairperson’s remand extension

The high court has overturned today the criminal court’s ruling to hold the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s chairperson in police custody.

Ali Waheed was arrested under a court warrant on May 2 for encouraging violence at a historic anti-government protest on May 1.

The criminal court granted a 15-day remand on May 3 and extended the remand for seven additional days on May 17. The court supported the police’s claim that Waheed posed a danger to society.

But the high court judges noted Waheed had no criminal record, and said the police had not been able to provide sufficient reasons to keep him in custody for longer.

Judges also said the criminal court must consider the individual’s rights when extending remand detention and said long periods of pre-trial detention are prohibited by international law.

Waheed was released on Sunday when the remand period expired.

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla and Jumhooree Party council member Sobah Rasheed, arrested on the same charges, remain in police custody.


May Day protest pickup driver faces terrorism charges

The prosecutor general’s (PG) office has filed terrorism charges against the driver of a pickup that broke through police lines during the mass anti-government protest on May 1.

The pickup used at the protest drove through barricades and the line of Specialist Operations (SO) police officers at high speed and was stopped near the Islamic centre.

The police said at the time that the driver was instructed and paid by protest organisers to break through the police lines.

The police have also forwarded cases to the PG office against main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed, Adhaalath Party president Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party (JP) deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim, and JP senior member Sobah Rasheed.

The PG office media official told Minivan News today that it has not determined whether to press charges against the opposition leaders.

The leaders of the allied parties are accused of inciting violence in their speeches during the demonstration, which police contend led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

With the exception of Imran, the others had exercised the right to remain silent during the police interrogation. The three were arrested in the wake of the May Day protest, while Sobah Rasheed was arrested from a street protest on May 3.

Imran, Ali Waheed remain in police custody after the criminal court extended their remand detention for a second time on Saturday.

Ameen was released by the High Court last week after the appellate court overturned the criminal court’s 15-day remand detention order.

The High Court, however, upheld the lower court’s order to hold Imran and Ali Waheed in custody. The pair has appealed the High Court’s ruling at the Supreme Court.

Nearly 200 protesters were arrested in a police crackdown on the May Day demonstration after protesters attempted to enter Malé’s restricted Republic Square at dusk.

The police have since banned the use of four-wheeled vehicles during street protests.

According to local media, the PG office has not pressed charges against the driver’s wife and another protester on the pickup. The case against the driver was reportedly filed at the criminal court on Tuesday.

Of the 193 protesters arrested on May 1, the PG office had previously said that cases of 98 protesters have been sent to the committee reviewing first time offenders.

“That means we will press charges against only about 30 people. That includes repeated offenders and the people suspected of attacking police officers at the protest,” PG Muhthaz Muhsin told the press on Sunday.

The pickup driver is the only protester facing terrorism charges, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. The other protester face charges of disobedience to order and obstruction of police duty.

Scores of protesters and some police officers were injured during violent clashes on the night of May 1. Video footage shows protesters tripping and kicking an SO officer and one man hitting the policeman over the head with his baton.

Some 14 people have since been arrested on suspicion of assaulting the officer, who was flown to Sri Lanka for medical treatment.

On Tuesday, police appealed for public assistance in locating three more suspects: Abdulla Mufeed, Ahmed Miudhaan Hameed and Ahmed Unais.

The MDP has accused police of torturing and threatening to kill three suspects arrested for assaulting the police officer.

Other May Day detainees have also alleged that police beat them after their arrest from the protest, but police have denied the allegations and advised lawyers and families to file complaints at independent oversight bodies.


JP council member’s detention extended by 10 days

The criminal court has extended the remand detention of opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) council member Sobah Rasheed by ten days.

Sobah was arrested under a court warrant on May 3 from an opposition rally and held in police custody for 15 days. He is accused of inciting violence at a mass anti-government protest on May 1.

The high court yesterday upheld the criminal court’s initial 15-day remand.

The opposition has raised concern over what it calls unnecessary detention of opposition leaders, pointing out the constitution only allows the extension of remand if the accused is deemed a danger to society, if they may influence witnesses or might flee or if further interrogation is needed.

The criminal court on Sunday extended the remand detention of Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party chairperson Ali Waheed by 10 days and seven days, respectively.

The two were arrested on May 1 on charges of inciting violence and held in police custody for 15 days. The High Court last week rejected appeals from the pair challenging the legality of the criminal court’s remand detention orders.

Lawyers have filed a second appeal of the criminal court’s decision to extend remand detention.

The two were brought to Medica hospital in Malé for treatment yesterday. Ali Waheed was also brought to ADK hospital last week for an MRI scan of his spine.


Court extends detention of Adhaalath Party leader, MDP chairperson

The criminal court has extended the remand detention of Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed by 10 days and seven days, respectively.

The pair were arrested in the wake of the May Day anti-government demonstration with court warrants and accused of inciting violence.

The criminal court subsequently ordered police to the opposition leaders in remand detention for 15 days. The 15-day period expired today.

Ali Waheed and Imran were brought to the remand hearing at the criminal court today and escorted back to the Dhoonidhoo detention centre.

The High Court last week rejected appeals from the pair challenging the legality of the criminal court’s remand detention orders.


High Court upholds detention of MDP chairperson, Adhaalath Party leader

The High Court has upheld the criminal court’s order to hold Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party chairperson Ali Waheed in remand detention for 15 days.

However, the appellate court has released Jumhooree Party deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim from police custody, overturning the criminal court’s 15-day remand order.

The three leaders of the allied opposition parties were arrested from their homes with court warrants on the night of May 1. All three subsequently filed appeals at the high court challenging the legality of the criminal court’s remand detention orders.

The arrests followed a crackdown on the May Day anti-government demonstration. Nearly 200 people were arrested after protesters clashed with riot police.

The opposition leaders were accused of inciting violence against the government and threatening police in their speeches on May 1, which police contend led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

The High Court noted in the verdict in Ameen’s case that according to police an intelligence report and an audio recording of Ameen’s speech as evidence to the criminal court.

The criminal court judge accepted the report but did not accept the CD with the recording. Police had said at the appeal hearing that the report did not have a verbatim transcript of Ameen’s speech.

The criminal court judge had not determined whether Ameen had incited violence and encourage criminal offences before deciding that he posed a danger to society, the three-judge panel of the High Court ruled unanimously.

In Ali Waheed and Imran’s cases, the High Court ruled that the criminal court order was lawful. The judges dismissed procedural issues raised in the appeal and noted that police do not have to submit enough evidence to prove guilt to be granted a request for extension of detention.

However, in Ali Waheed’s case, judge Ezmirelda Zahir issued a dissenting opinion, while judges Ali Sameer and Abdulla Hameed issued the majority opinion to uphold the lower court order.

Waheed saying that protesters must go home after freeing imprisoned ex-president Mohamed Nasheed was not sufficient to determine that he threatened police or posed a danger to society, Zahir noted in her dissenting ruling.

All three were members of the opposition ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ alliance’s steering committee, which organised the protest.

Journalists were not allowed to observe the appeal hearings under a new rule that bars media from appeals of detention orders.

The criminal court has meanwhile issued an arrest warrant for JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, who is currently out of the country. The business tycoon is accused of funding the May Day demonstration.


“Maldivians against brutality” alliance to launch activities tonight


The newly formed “Maldivians against brutality” alliance is launching its activities at 9:00pm tonight at the artificial beach.

Adhaalath Party (AP) President Sheikh Imran Abdulla made the announcement on behalf of the “national movement” at a press conference this afternoon, but declined to reveal any details of the activities planned for tonight.

Imran said the alliance has formed a 13-member steering committee to plan and oversee its activities, which includes representatives from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Jumhooree Party (JP), and NGOs.

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed claimed that the country’s tourism industry was collapsing as a result of the government’s alleged efforts to “wipe out political opponents,” contending that the Maldives’ international reputation has been tarnished by “politically motivated trials.”

He stressed that the opposition alliance’s protests would take place within bounds of the law

MP Ahmed Mahloof – recently expelled from ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – meanwhile alleged that Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb was behind the death threats issued via text message to several opposition politicians last year under the name “ISIS.”

He also repeated allegations of corruption against Adeeb, claiming that the PPM deputy leader gifted a US$70,000 BMW car and US$100,000 gold ring to First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim.

Adeeb has denied the allegations, claiming the MP had been bribed to defame him and President Abdulla Yameen.


MDP, Adhaalath Party announces first rally of “Maldivians against brutality” alliance

The first rally of the newly formed “Maldivians against brutality” alliance of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and former rival Adhaalath Party (AP) is due to take place tonight.

At a press conference of the opposition alliance this afternoon, AP President Sheikh Imran Abdulla stressed the importance of a united and strong alliance to counter the “brutality” of President Abdulla Yameen’s administration.

“The goal of this alliance is to bring an end to the government’s brutality. That does not mean overthrowing the government,” Imran said.

The MDP’s national council adopted a resolution this week to work together with the AP after Imran called for the formation of a “national unity alliance” against the government.

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed said today that the opposition alliance would form a steering committee to organise its activities and invited the public to attend the rally at the carnival area at 9:00pm.

“We need to put our clashing opinions aside and work together for national interest,” Waheed said.

Jumhooree Party (JP) Deputy Leaders Ameen Ibrahim and Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan meanwhile told the press that they were working with the movement in their “personal capacity” as the JP’s council has not officially joined the movement.

Ameen said the party decided against formally joining the alliance as the public might perceive that the party was working to protect its leader’s business interests. Last month, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group was ordered to pay the state US$100 million allegedly owed as unpaid rent and fines in 30 days.

United front

Imran contended that the two people suffering the most under Yameen’s government was ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, along with Gasim, listing former President Mohamed Nasheed as the third.

He further claimed that the target of an amendment proposed by a pro-government MP for discontinuing state benefits for convicted ex-presidents was Gayoom.

Former President Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison last Friday (March 13).

Imran also alleged that a PPM member offered him a bribe today to scuttle the opposition alliance and claimed he could have accepted US$10 million in bribes from Indian infrastructure giant GMR to cease protests calling for the termination of the airport development deal in late 2012.

“I would like to tell all of Maldives that I would not sell my principles for money,” he said.

He further alleged that the AP chose to back Gasim in the presidential election despite the PPM offering large amounts of money in exchange for the religious conservative party’s endorsement.

Imran said the decision to form an alliance with the MDP has led to differences of opinion within the party, stating that the AP was the “most democratic” party in the country.

Imran played a pivotal role in the downfall of the Nasheed administration in February 2012, spearheading anti-government demonstrations against the MDP government’s allegedly anti-Islamic policies in 2011 and the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

After backing Gasim in the 2013 presidential election, the AP later endorsed PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen against Nasheed in the second round run-off.

A “career” of toppling governments

Asked at a press conference yesterday whether the government was facing domestic and international pressure due to the opposition alliance’s activities, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb insisted that the government was stable with a strong parliamentary majority.

“We are not surprised. It’s always the same people. Whenever a new government comes, they will be with the government. But before too long, they would say ‘[the government] did this or that’ and [should be] toppled,” he said in an apparent reference to the AP.

“Their whole career is bringing a government and overthrowing the government. This has become the same career for them.”

The PPM deputy leader contended that the opposition was unable to back up its allegation of the government violating the constitution and has now ceased that line of attack.

Those who protested against Nasheed “for the sake of Islam and the nation” were currently working with a party they alleged had “sold off the nation,” he said.

The current administration has neither sold off state assets nor carried out any anti-Islamic activities, Adeeb said, adding, however, that some religious scholars considered music shows a serious “wrongdoing”.

If the religious scholars believed in Islamic principles “with such harshness”, Adeeb argued that earning money from the sale of alcohol and pork should be forbidden.

“But it was these religious people who took the hands of such a person and ran with him twice to make him president. I don’t want to name names,” he said.

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MDP, JP rally supporters ahead of mass February 27 march

Additional reporting by Ismail Humaam Hamid and Mohamed Saif Fathih

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) marched in Malé last night in a bid to rally supporters for a massive demonstration on February 27.

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed said the February 27 gathering would usher in “a second February 7,” referring to the day former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned in 2012 following a police and army mutiny.

The allied opposition parties claim the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has repeatedly violated the constitution. They have held nightly protests since February 11 calling on President Abdulla Yameen to resign. The PPM has described the protests as an attempt to disrupt the peace and dismissed the opposition’s claims as baseless.

“When a government oversteps its bounds, the public must stand up. We must come out tomorrow night as well. Especially on February 27, the second February 7, everyone must come out onto the streets, with their families, as if it were an Eid,” Waheed told reporters.

Opposition supporters, led by MDP’s Nasheed and JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, set out from Usfasgandu at 8:30 pm, circled the city of Malé and stopped at police barricades in front of the Maldives Monetary Authority building.

Four opposition supporters carrying MDP flags were arrested from the Republican Square after the march ended at 1:00am.

Speaking to reporters last night, Nasheed said Yameen’s administration had lost all legitimacy with the JP’s recent split from the coalition.

“There is no support for President Yameen. We believe Maldives needs fresh elections,” he said.

Gasim told reporters the JP had been forced to the streets to establish justice and end executive influence on independent institutions.

“I believe in a government of the people by the people,” he said.

As the opposition marched, the PPM held a rally at the Alimas Carnival in support of President Yameen and announced two MPs and 15 councilors had defected from the JP to the ruling party.

In the crowd

Businessmen Ali Hussein, 49, said he was protesting to prevent a slide into authoritarianism: “If we do not protest now, Yameen will do whatever he can to stay in power.”

Aishath Ismail, 32, concurred, saying “We have to get rid of the government for the sake of our children.” The opposition rallies represented the real public, she said, alleging a PPM march on Thursday evening had been attended by “paid thugs.”

The PPM’s 400-strong march prior to its evening rally, consisted mostly of young men wearing pink head bands. Some had their faces covered. Tourism Minister Adeeb said MDP labeled young men as thugs, and said only the elderly supported the opposition.

An Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital worker at the opposition rally who wished to remain anonymous said she was a loyal MDP supporter and had no issues working with JP supporters, despite their key role in Nasheed’s ouster in 2012.

“We can stomach it. Yameen’s government has no principles. They are robbing the people, they are all thieves,” she said.

Meanwhile, Latheef, a loyal supporter of Gasim said the “MDP and JP are the same, with similar ideologies, even if they fight from time to time.”

“The whole country is in ruins. How can Yameen rule when he is so frequently out of the country?”

MDP Chairperson Waheed described the turnout as “an encouragement” to all citizens and said 20,000 people would participate in the Feb 27 rally.

President Yameen last night called on Gasim to remember the events of February 7 and end his alliance with the MDP. He also warned Nasheed he would not hesitate to implement a jail sentence, referring to stalled criminal charges over the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Yameen’s former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim is currently in police custody on charges of treason and terrorism.

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Opposition street demonstrations head into third consecutive night

Additional reporting by Mohamed Saif Fathih and Ismail Humaam Hamid

The opposition coalition will hold a third consecutive night of protest in the capital Malé tonight (February 14).

After hundreds gathered on the corner of Fareedhee Magu on Thursday and Friday nights, protesters and speakers called for President Abdulla Yameen’s resignation.

Criticism of the recent arrest of defence minister Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim by speakers at this weekend’s protests was joined by further support for the minister from the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

Despite a strong police presence on both nights, there was little unrest and no arrests, with police spokesmen describing the demonstrations as peaceful.

After previous support from party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla following Nazim’s arrest on charges of plotting a coup last week, Imran yesterday suggested no one was safe from arbitrary arrest.

“It is very likely that in the near future many others like Nazim will be thrown into jail cells like him,” read a tweet from Imran yesterday, followed by the ‘justicefornazim’ hashtag.

While the party is not officially part of the ruling Progressive Coalition, the Islamic ministry is headed by party member Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, and has so far rejected overtures to join the opposition’s campaign to ‘defend the constitution’.

“By saying that Adhaalath Party supports the current government, we do not mean that we agree with all their actions,” read another tweet from the party president earlier this week.

Adhaalath spokesman Ali Zahir – who recently joined Nazim’s legal team – was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Speaking at Thursday night’s rally, MDP Chairman Ali Waheed suggested that the government was removing all internal opponents, one minister at a time.

“The day before yesterday the defense minister was hailed and deemed trustworthy. Now he is in a jail cell accused of crimes of a magnitude never seen before in Maldives,” said Waheed.

Nazim’s lawyers have suggested that weapons police claim to have found in his home on January 18 were planted. Police last week claimed to have found evidence the minister “was plotting to physically harm senior Maldivian state officials” on a pen-drive obtained during the search.

Waheed suggested on Thursday evening that dismissals from within the police were imminent, while JP leader Gasim told crowds that further splits within the ruling party would soon result in the defection of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs to the opposition.

During yesterday’s protest, MDP MP Rozaina Adam reportedly described the country as having “Stockholm syndrome”, referring to what she described as society’s apathy in the face of government oppression.

Maamigili MP Gasim also blamed the president for the current difficulties being faced by educational institutions involved in land disputes with the government, which has prompted fears that courses will be disrupted.

“We do not have to ask anybody to resign,” Gasim told the crowds. “According to the CoNI report this govt does not have legitimacy. I call on relevant institutions to assume the responsibilities of presidency accordingly”.

Opposition leaders have suggested the withdrawal of Gasim’s JP from the governing coalition mirrors the circumstances described in the Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report into the controversial resignation of MDP leader Mohamed Nasheed from the presidency in 2012.

The report suggested that Nasheed’s government had lost legitimacy after coalition partners pulled out in the early stages of his administration.

Gasim himself was one of those who left the governing coalition in 2012, subsequently spearheading anti-government protests before rising tension led to a resignation Nasheed maintains was given under duress.

The CoNI report also pointed out that the MDP never enjoyed a clear majority in the 17th Majlis, a problem not currently shared by the Progressive Coalition, which has 49 seats in the house – with 11 members having switched to the PPM since last year’s polls.

Nasheed has argued that a succession of failed coalitions suggests the country should adopt a parliamentary system – previously rejected in a 2007 referendum.

While PPM spokesmen were not responding to calls at the time of publication, the President’s Office said it had no comments to make on the rise in street activity.

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