The Criminal Court ordered the immediate release of minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) Deputy Leader Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed from police detention for a second time tonight, ruling that his arrest on charges of slandering the government was unlawful.
The former cabinet minister under both current and previous governments was first summoned for questioning Thursday night after the President’s Office requested an investigation into “slanderous” allegations that the government was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.
Jameel was taken into custody on Sunday night after being repeatedly summoned for interrogation along with DQP council member ‘Sandhaanu’ Ahmed Didi.
Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, ordered his immediate release after midnight and ruled that the arrest was unlawful. Police however summoned Jameel again last night and took him to Dhoonidhoo detention.
Speaking to press outside the Justice Building following his release around 9.30pm tonight, Dr Jameel criticised police for arresting him for a second time for the same offence despite the court ruling that the arrest was unlawful.
Jameel said the court has vindicated DQP’s stance that the government could not silence the opposition “every time we stand up and speak in defense of the country’s sovereignty, independence, businesses and mostly importantly the country’s religion.”
The former Justice Minister explained that the court ruled that section 125 of the 1968 penal code was invalid in reference to articles 27 and 66 of the constitution.
Section 125 of the penal code states, “Where a person makes a fabricated statement or repeats a statement whose basis cannot be proven, he shall be punished with house detention for a period between one to six months or fined between Rf25 and Rf200.”
In an earlier statement, DQP noted that the provision was “one of the most frequently invoked clauses by the 30-year rule of President Gayoom to suppress press freedom and dissenting views,” arguing that the liberal constitution adopted in 2008 and decriminalisation of defamation in 2009 rendered the offence of slander or lying “invalid.”
While article 27 of the constitution guarantees freedom of expression “in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam,” article 66 states, “All existing statutes, regulations, decrees and notices inconsistent with the fundamental rights and freedoms provisions in this Chapter shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, become void on the commencement of this constitution.”
Jameel meanwhile strongly criticised police officers involved in his arrest for allegedly questioning him after he exercised the right to remain silent.
“In my view, what these few police officers have done is rob the Maldivian people of constitutional protections,” he said.
Meanwhile, roving protests by opposition supporters – sparked by the arrest of Jameel and the unprecedented move by the Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) to take Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed into custody last night – continue in Male’.
As of press time, protesters were headed towards the residence of Home Minister Hassan Afeef.