Verdict in ‘airport protest’ delayed to August 6

The criminal court has postponed the sentencing of 15 opposition supporters accused of protesting at the main international airport to August 6.

A sentence was expected on June 14, but the court delayed the hearing after presiding judge Sujau Usman was promoted to the High Court last week.

If the sitting judge in a case leaves the court, the case is immediately referred to the Chief Judge, who then has to allocate another judge to oversee the case.

“We still don’t know if a new judge has been allocated to the case. Even then, the new judge cannot immediately issue the sentence. He has to hear the case again,” said lawyer Nazim Sattar.

Some 14 women and one man are being charged with disobedience to order, after they were arrested carrying posters of imprisoned ex-president Mohamed Nasheed at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in March.

The 15 belong to the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The Freedom of Assembly Act prohibits protests at airports and carries a MVR150 (US$10) fine, or six months in jail, house arrest or banishment.

Nazim contends the group’s actions do not constitute a protest.

“State witnesses include testimonies from the police officers who arrested the individuals. How can that be used to prove they were protesting?” Nazim questioned.

Malé City deputy mayor Shifa Mohamed and MDP women’s wing vice president Shaneez “Thanie” Saeed are among the defendants.

The criminal court had previously conditioned the group’s release from remand detention on avoiding protests. The High Court later said the court’s conditions are unconstitutional.

Shifa has previously accused the criminal court of misconduct and bias in the treatment of those arrested at protests, and said that the individuals are being punished for the same crime twice with the 60 day protest ban.

Judge Usman sat on the three-judge panel that sentenced ex-president Nasheed to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges. The trial was widely criticised for apparent lack of due process.


Opposition condemns Defense Minister Nazim’s apartment raid

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the police raid on defense minister Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim’s apartment in the early hours of Sunday morning (January 18).

In a press statement released yesterday, the party expressed concern over the lack of information made available regarding the raid, noting that a “police raid on a defense minister’s house is not an issue which can be taken lightly”.

Media reports suggested that masked officers forcefully entered the premises in the Galolhu ward of Malé at around 3:30am, searching the apartment of Nazim’s wife and the apartment opposite.

After the President’s Office had expressed its continued confidence in Nazim yesterday, the minister announced via twitter that he was unaffected by the incident.

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed has alleged that Nazim’s house was searched in order to confiscate a letter written by Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb to the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

“I have received information that one of the items police was looking for was a letter written by Adeeb when he was temporarily in charge of the ministry when Nazim was on holiday,” said Nasheed before departing to Abu Dhabi to take part in Zaid Future Energy prize last night.

Nasheed said the letter had requested the immigration department allow some individuals to travel to Syria for Jihad, and that Nazim had obtained the documents after arriving back at the ministry.

However, Adeeb told Minivan News today that there was no such letter, saying “all government letters are passed through computerised system”.

“If there was such a letter, it would be impossible to hide it,” he added.

The same day on which Adeeb was appointed as acting defense minister (January 4), reliable sources told Minivan News that Azlif Rauf – a suspect in the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali – left the country for jihad in Syria with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang.

Earlier this month, however, the Criminal Court told Minivan News that there were no pending charges against Rauf, and so no reason for immigration to have held his passport.

Police have told Minivan News today that they have no further information to give regarding the raid on Nazim’s apartment.

Elsewhere yesterday, crowds gathered outside Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim’s home after rumours of an imminent police raid on his house in Maafannu ward.

“I am not trembling,” Gasim told press gathered outside his home. Flanked by senior MDP members, Gasim said that he was willing to work with anyone who stands to defend the Constitution and that he will stand firm in spite of intimidation.

Related to this story

Police raid Defence Minister Nazim’s home in early hours

“I am not trembling” says Gasim after reports of imminent police raid on his home

Tourism Minister Adeeb temporarily in charge of Defense Ministry

Two immigration officers and Afrasheem murder suspect among group of twelve jihadis


Nasheed calls proposed changes to Supreme Court bench unconstitutional

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called the plans to reduce the number of judges on the Supreme Court bench from seven to five unconstitutional.

While speaking to the press before departing for a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rallys in Haa Dhaalu Atoll, Nasheed accused President Abdulla Yameen of trying to stack the bench in his favor.

“The constitution states the required procedure to bring changes to the bench of the Supreme Court. After extensive legal council we have deliberated that the proposed changes would be unconstitutional,” said Nasheed.

The amendments brought to the parliament by MDP MP Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef have been rejected by the party after the its national executive council convened and voted that the amendments were against its policies.

Speaking about the amendments, MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said Shareef had not consulted the party before he submitted the changes.

However, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has signaled the party’s support for the amendments with parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan said all ruling party MPs would support the proposal and that the PPM would welcome judicial reform.

Presenting the bill to the parliament Shareef said that he believed the number of judges on the apex court was too high for a country the size of the Maldives.

Nasheed had previously said that changing the number of judges on the Supreme Court bench would not amount to judicial reform.

Meanwhile, MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik – who has announced intentions to contest in the MDP’s 2018 presidential primary – appealed for pro-government MPs to cooperate with the party’s efforts to reform the judiciary.

Moosa described the formation of the current Supreme Court bench as a “shameful” political bargain between the MDP and then–opposition parties in 2010.

Nihan praised both Shareef and Moosa and suggested that the number of judges on the apex court was worth considering.

Former President Nasheed also reiterated party concerns with the annual state budget for the upcoming year which the party has previously labelled as aimless and serving only for administrative purposes.

The Supreme Court has recently been involved in numerous controversies both in and out of the court room.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court used a ‘suo moto’ proceeding – allowing the Court to act as both the plaintiff and the judge – against the Elections Comission (EC).

EC president Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz were subsequently charged with contempt of court and disobedience to order, being sentenced to six months in jail after the court used testimony given in the People’s Majlis independent commission’s oversight committee.

More recently, the court employed a similar ‘suo moto’ proceeding against the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) after it criticised the judiciary in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the UN Human Rights Council.

The court charged the HRCM with undermining the constitution and sovereignty of the Maldives by spreading lies about the judiciary.  It said that the UPR submission– based on a 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul – was “poorly researched”, “irresponsible” and “dangerous”.

Knaul’s report had detailed the pressing need for judicial reform, noting that the five-member transitional Supreme Court had been replaced by a seven-member permanent bench in 2010 with “no legal or constitutional basis”.

June this year also saw Judge Ali Hameed – a sitting judge at the Supreme Court – cleared of a sex tape scandal after three recordings surfaced allegedly showing Ali Hameed engaging in sexual acts with three different woman.


Nasheed questions government’s legitimacy and record as one-year anniversary looms

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) President, Mohamed Nasheed has criticised the government for failing to keep promises made when it came to power almost one year ago.

Beginning by questioning the manner by which President Abdulla Yameen came to power, the former president suggested the election coalition had faltered and investor confidence had not been restored.

While giving an interview to Raaje TV last night (November 11), Nasheed also slammed the government for its failure to respond adequately to the abduction of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan 96 days ago.

“There is no doubt that Rilwan was abducted. All the information obtained by the police and other separate investigations point to an abduction,” said Nasheed.

Recalling the much-delayed, and once-annulled presidential elections last year, Nasheed reminded viewers that yesterday’s Republican Day has traditionally seen the start of a new presidential term.

“Republican Day has always been the day when the new presidential term begins and ends,” said Nasheed. “However, President Yameen’s gave oath after the assigned date. This raises legitimacy issues with how the Government came to power.”

Last year’s Republic Day saw former President Dr Mohamed Waheed inform the nation that he would stay in power for one week beyond the constitutional end of his term in order to avoid a power vaccum after repeated delays in the poll to find his successor.

The 2013 presidential elections eventually saw the MDP and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidates contesting the second round, with the PPM’s Abdulla Yameen eventually winning the election after forming a coalition with the Jumhooree Party (JP).

“Recent events have made it clear the that the coalition has failed,” said Nasheed in reference to the government’s acquisition of JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Kaadedhoo Airport after the MP spoke against the government’s flagship Special Economic Zones (SEZ) bill.

Nasheed noted that the people in charge of the government right now received a very small percentage of the total votes once the votes from JP supporters were discounted.

Promises broken

Nasheed pointed out that the government made a lot of promises towards the betterment of fishermen – including a pension of MVR10,000 (US$650) which was not included in next year’s proposed budget. But the price per kilo of tuna has dropped from a healthy MVR18 during Nasheed’s government to a mere MVR6 today, he continued.

President Yameen recently announced a foreign policy shift from west to east, partly as a result of the Maldives’ failure to qualify for extended duty-free status for fish exports after non-compliance with international conventions concerning freedom of religion.

Nasheed also attacked the government’s SEZ Act, suggesting that there has been little interest shown by foreign investors even after all the necessary laws and regulations have come to place.

The SEZ act – which offers relaxed regulations and tax concessions – described by President Yameen as a landmark law that will “transform” the economy through diversification and mitigate the reliance on the tourism industry.

While speaking about the proposed 2015 annual budget, Nasheed said that like during Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom’s 30-year regime, the current government has included a large sum as expected earnings which would eventually lead to higher budget deficit.

“For example, expected earnings from SEZ investments is valued at MVR1.5 billion (US$ 100 million). This is ambitious and unrealistic,” explained Nasheed.

The 2015 annual budget includes MVR3.4 billion (US$220 million) as expected revenue from brand new income generating measures including acquisition fees from SEZ investments and the introduction of a green tax on tourism.

A recent MDP budget review concluded that such expectations were unrealistic after stating that even if the government were to obtain MVR1.5 billion (US$100 million) as acquisitions fees at a rate of 10 percent of the investment it suggests an investment of US$1 billion.

The single biggest investment in the country to date was the ill-fated MVR7.6 billion (US$ 500 million) deal with India’s GMR group for the development Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in 2010. A Singapore court of arbitration is currently evaluating the amount owed by the government for the wrongful termination of the deal in November 2012.

The former president described the government’ abrupt terminations of foreign investments as saddening, suggesting that it would decrease investor confidence in the nation.


Nasheed submits details of police alleged to have destroyed Malé city’s areca palms

Former President Mohamed Nasheed today revealed details of the culprits he believes to have been behind the felling of the areca palm trees planted by Malé City Council (MCC) last weekend.

Speaking to the media outside of MCC office, Nasheed said he had shared the names of some of the police officers involved with the council, after it had requested the public to submit any relevant information.

Around 25 areca palm trees planted on both sides of Majeedhee Magu – the city’s main thoroughfare road – were chopped in the early hours of October 24 by a group of masked men wielding machetes.

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer revealed in a tweet today that he has received Nasheed’s report.

“This govt will NOT ask Police/MNDF to carryout anything unlawful,” wrote Naseer.

Nasheed alleged that two men were arrested by Maafannu police at around 3am following the incident and that a senior official from the Special Operations (SO) unit arrived and demanded the arrested men to be put into an SO vehicle which arrived simultaneously.

Two officers from Maafannu Police followed the SO vehicle after the arrested men were handed over to the SO unit only to find that the vehicle entered Iskandhar Koshi police headquarters, explained the former president

He also accused one high-ranking police officer of revising a statement given by a Maafannu police officer at the scene that night, cutting down the two-page statement to half a page and instructing other officers at the station not to speak about the incident.

Meanwhile, a police media official told Minivan News that a professional standards investigation is being carried out after the increasing prevalence of reports of police involvement in the incident. The home minister has also instructed all police executives to assist the Police Integrity Commission it any investigation.

While speaking at a separate conference with all MDP Malé MPs, Galolhu Uthuru MP Eva Abdulla condemned the government for its lack of response over the recent events happening in the capital.

“With the lack of response from the government after the palm trees incident and the fear spreading the society at the moment, it is clear to us that the government wants the society to remain in in this fear,” said Eva.

MDP Spokesperson and Maafannu Uthuru MP Imthiyas Fahmy accused the government of “state sponsored terrorism” by its refusal to take adequate action for the crimes happening in Malé.

In a statement released on October 25, Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab condemned the chopping down of the palm trees by saying that the “unlawful act was an injury caused to all citizens of the Maldives and especially the beloved people of Malé”.

Meanwhile, Former Police Commissioner and Jumhoree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz told local media that police should have stopped the group of people in the act and said that the police have the technology and competence to arrest the people involved – referring to an extensive network of cameras in the capital.


Government taken hostage by the police and gangs operating in Malé: Nasheed

Maldivian Democractic Party (MDP) President, and former president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed accused the government of being taken hostage by the police and the many gangs operating in the capital Malé.

“At the moment, the government has failed in providing a path to bring perpetrators of serious crimes in front of justice,” Nasheed said while speaking at an MDP rally held in the carnival area of the capital last night (October 26).

Nasheed also alleged that four individuals from the MPS Special Operations (SO) unit were behind the recent chopping down of the areca palm trees planted on both sides of the city’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu.

“Two nights ago, we saw Maafannu police chase and attack four SO police officers who were wielding machetes around the city. Maafannu police tried to arrest the culprits but the SO officers ran into Iskandhar Koshi where they were protected by SO commander sub-inspector Abdulla Ibrahim,” claimed Nasheed.

Nasheed also criticised the government for its decision to ‘freeze employment’ in an attempt to reduce the ballooning budget deficit.

More than 5000 students are to finish their O levels, said the former president, with a further 2000 completing A levels – suggesting that these groups would be lost to gangs without gainful employment.

“The budget deficit has risen higher than ever before. The government is in huge amounts of debt after selling treasury bills to make ends meet,” continued the MDP leader, referring to the budget deficit which is now believed to exceed MVR4 billion (US$260 million).

He also spoke again of President Abdulla Yameen’s numerous visits to Singapore saying that the President Yameen is carrying out his presidential duties and obligations at a time where the whole country is descending into fear and chaos.

“If President Yameen is ill, we would not criticise these visits. However, the President’s Office has informed the media that the President and the First Lady is in good health, making us question the motive behind trips to Singapore,” said Nasheed.

President Yameen and the first lady have since returned from their unofficial trip.

Nasheed pointed out that the government has taken little to no action when an MDP rally held at Addu City was attacked by masked men wielding batons or when an MDP office in Malé was set on fire by two individuals on motorbikes.

Last night’s rally was held amidst a large number of threats issued against the opposition party. During the party’s last rally in the Malé, MP Eva Abdulla received a message threatening a suicide attack at the next MDP gathering while vowing to ‘fight to the last drop of blood’.

Despite party members continuing to receive threats prior to yesterday’s rally, the event passed without incident. Earlier today (October 26), the MDP held a press conference announcing that over 12,000 new members has signed to the party.


Majlis election: Nasheed calls for MDP restructuring after election defeat

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called for new leadership within the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) following defeat in what he described as an “unfair” but accepted parliamentary election.

“I request new people to come and run the party,” Nasheed told the media today.

The party’s figurehead said he will continue to serve the party in the future and hopes that members of the party would make clear his role.

“I want new people to come forward to run the party. But I will not go away from the party, I will always remain in doing party work,” he added.

Nasheed, a co-founder of MDP and it’s first chairperson, was elected as the President of Maldives in the first democratic election in 2008.

The position of both president and vice president of the party remain vacant after party president Dr Ibrahim Didi and VP Alhan Fahmy were removed in a no-confidence vote in April 2012. Nasheed said today that a new party president should be elected soon.

“It is important for the party to restructure with these new results and with new people and go forward fast,“ he said.

Commenting on the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) comments about reforming the MDP, Nasheed said that the work done by all parties in the Maldives needed reform.

“If PPM says that, it should be an inspiration for us. I believe when parties tell each other to strengthen their functioning, it must be accepted,” Nasheed said.

The function of holding the government accountable would be difficult without a majority, he noted, but it would still be carried out by the MDP in other forms such as questioning state institutions and bringing issues to the attention of the public.

“We did hope for a majority. I was hoping for around 45 seats. Not winning the election was a great loss for us. But I don’t think the result is such a loss that we should be so worried that we stop our work and become weak.”

“The MDP will remain as a big party, will hold rallies, give speeches, take trips, will say whatever has to be said politically at anytime. The MDP will protest, MDP will raise their voice over issues. MDP will carry out peaceful political activity?” Nasheed continued.

An official party statement issued today said that the party hopes its members will remain in reforming the country, and assured that the elected candidates of the party will remain in “preventing the country from going off track” and in reforming the judiciary.

“The MDP will always go forward in the path shown by the members and supporters of the party, in ways which are most beneficial for the country,” the MDP press statement read.

Parliamentary Elections

The reasons for losing the election previously suggested by members of the MDP leadership were echoed by Nasheed today

He said the defeat was a result of multiple factors, including undue influence, fear, money, candidates, policies, campaign budget shortages, and a lack of confidence in the election.

Nasheed suggested that expelling employees from companies with government shares and government positions also had a negative impact on the results.

“The voter turnout was very low in many areas. I believe among these reasons are removing Elections Commission members, and lack of confidence in the election from the members of the public,” Nasheed said.

Criticising the Supreme Court’sremoval of the Elections Commission (EC) president and vice president a few days ahead of the parliamentary elections, Nasheed said that such an election will be “very difficult to be considered fair”.

He said that it was a display of power to the public and it resulted in a low voter turnout, as many people believed the election would not make a difference.

“We believe this is not a fair transparent election because of that. I am not saying that things didn’t go well on election day. I’m not saying that we don’t generally accept the election.”

He also noted that the leadership of any party and the those involved in it should take responsibility for the victories and losses.

Commenting on the leadership’s responsibility for the defeat, Nasheed said that negligence of leaders should be accepted when faced with a failure, but that there had been no such negligence to a level which required going into detail and pointing fingers.

Congratulating President Abdulla Yameen for achieving “a great victory”, Nasheed called on him to lead and work with the MDP in reforming the judiciary and sustaining the democratic system.

“We hope that our members will do substantial work in the parliament as an opposition party. We believe there is a lot of work that has to be done through the People’s Majlis.”

“I hope the government will use their parliament majority with care, that they will not take our members to court, and that these members will not have to face extraordinary obstacles.”


Government will not seek to speed up Nasheed’s trial, says President Yameen

Read this article in Dhivehi

President Abdulla Yameen has said that the current government will not try to push the courts to speed up the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was charged for “unlawful arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed’’.

Local media did report, however, that Yameen noted the opposition leader must be sentenced if there is rule of law in the country.

Speaking at a ceremony held to open the campaign office of the Progressive Party of Maldives’ Majlis candidate for the Maafannu-West constituency, Yameen noted that there were things the government could to expedite proceedings, but said that the government did not wish to enter the criminal justice procedure.

Yameen also said that international groups had no concerns over this issue or any other other issues such as the delay in appointment of a new prosecutor general (PG) – which has led to a backlog of over 500 cases.

A UN report on the independence of judges last year did make mention of the Nasheed case, noting that it was “difficult to understand why one former President is being tried for an act he took outside of his prerogative, while another [Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] has not had to answer for any of the alleged human rights violations documented over the years.”

In July 2012, Nasheed and Former Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim were charged with violating Article 81 of the penal code, which states that the detention of a government employee who has not been found guilty of a crime is illegal.

If found guilty, Nasheed and Tholhath will face a jail sentence or banishment of three years or a fine of MVR3000 (US$193.5).

The case was first filed at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court before Nasheed’s legal team argued that it did not have jurisdiction to preside over the case, filing a procedural issue at the High Court.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) appointed a three member panel consisting of judges Shujau Usman, Abdul Nasir Abdul Raheem, and Hussain Mazeed to hear Nasheed’s procedural issue.

Before the court reached a conclusion on the issue, however, the  JSC suspended Chief Judge in the High Court bench Ahmed Shareef before changing Judge Mazeed and Judge Usman to the Civil Court.

Since this time, no hearings of the case have been conducted or scheduled.

Abdulla Mohamed’s arrest

Abdulla Mohamed was a central figure in the downfall of the former president. He was detained by the military in January 2012 after the government accused him of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, having links with organised crime.

The home minister at the time described the judge as “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.

The chief judge was detained after he had opened the court outside normal hours to order the immediate release of the current Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, arrested after the President’s Office requested an investigation into “slanderous” allegations that the administration was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.

Prosecutor general (PG) at that time – the recently resigned Ahmed Muizz – joined the High Court and Supreme Court in condemning the MNDF’s role in the arrest, requesting that the judge be released.

The police are required to go through the PG’s Office to obtain an arrest warrant from the High Court, Muizz said, claiming that the MNDF and Nasheed’s administration “haven’t followed the procedures, and the authorities are in breach of law. They could be charged with contempt of the courts.”

Muizz subsequently ordered the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to investigate the matter.

Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked three weeks of anti-government protests, while the government appealed for assistance from the Commonwealth and UN with reform of the judiciary.

As protests escalated, elements of the police and military mutinied on February 7, alleging that Nasheed’s orders to arrest the judge had been unlawful. A Commonwealth legal delegation had landed in the capital only days earlier.

Nasheed publicly resigned the same day, later saying he had been as forced to do so “under duress” in a coup d’état. A Commonwealth led investigation would later rule the transfer to have been legal.

Judge Abdulla was released on the evening of February 7, and the Criminal Court swiftly issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest. Police did not act on the warrant, however, after mounting international concern.


Maldives Decides 2013

Click to visit Maldives Decides 2013

Minivan News has launched ‘Maldives Decides 2013’, a hub of content concerning the four candidates competing in the 2013 presidential election.

Each candidate’s entry includes an overview of their recent political history with extensive links to relevant articles published by Minivan News, an overview of their policy positions, and a brief analysis of their support base.

The hub also includes an unofficial poll, links to Minivan News’ ongoing election coverage, and resources provided by the Maldives Elections Commission.

Additionally, all candidates have been sent and invited to respond to the following 10 questions, which will be published unedited as received:

  1. What about your personal experience makes you suitable to become President?
  2. What are the top three challenges facing the Maldives, and how do you intend to address these?
  3. Given the present state of the economy, how are you going to get the money to fulfill your pledges?
  4. Is there a need for judicial reform, and how do you intend to address the state of the judiciary should you be elected?
  5. How do you expect the events of 7 February 2012 to affect voter sentiment at the ballot box?
  6. Is Islamic fundamentalism a growing concern in the Maldives, and how should the government respond?
  7. What role should the international community play in the Maldives?
  8. Why should a woman vote for your party in the election?
  9. Why should a young person vote for your party in the election?
  10. What will the Maldives be like in 10 years time, should you be elected in September?

Minivan News hopes ‘Maldives Decides 2013’ is of value to its readers, and looks forward to a free, fair and inclusive election on September 7.

Visit Maldives Decides 2013

Feel free to discuss this project below, or send enquiries directly to [email protected]