PG to appeal former president’s terrorism conviction

Citing irregularities and rights violations in the terrorism trial of former president Mohamed Nasheed, the Prosecutor General has announced today that he will appeal the criminal court’s verdict.

The decision comes amidst rumors that President Abdulla Yameen will pardon the opposition leader ahead of July 26, the day Maldives marks 50 years of independence from the British.

In a brief statement issued at 6pm, PG Muthaz Muhsin said: “As various parties are raising questions about how the trial proceeded, and as Mohamed Nasheed has said his rights were violated, and that he did not have sufficient time to prepare for the case, and that he did not receive the case documents for an appeal, and since Mohamed Nasheed has asked the prosecutor general to appeal the case, the Prosecutor General’s office has decided to appeal the terrorism conviction against Mohamed Nasheed at the Maldives’ High Court under authority granted to the prosecutor general by article 233(i) of the Maldives’ constitution.”

Article 233 authorises the PG to appeal any judgment, verdict or decision in a criminal matter.

It may take days for the appeal to begin with state offices closed until July 29 for independence day celebrations. The criminal court will now have to issue a trial record and the High Court registrar will then make a decision on accepting the appeal.

Nasheed was found guilty on terrorism charges over the military’s detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih, MP of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said he could not comment as Nasheed’s lawyers were presently discussing the development.

The Attorney General Mohamed Anil today dampened talk of an imminent pardon for Nasheed saying: “Such matters will be dealt with through established procedures in the criminal justice system… It will not happen without my knowledge. I have not received any information yet.”

On June 20, President Yameen rejected Nasheed’s appeal for clemency, urging him to exhaust all appeal processes first. The opposition leader’s lawyers say that the Clemency Act grants the president the discretion, on the president’s own initiative, to commute the sentence of any individual convicted of a criminal offence.

The next day, Nasheed was transferred to house arrest for eight weeks.

The MDP and the government subsequently began talks on clemency for Nasheed and other jailed politicians and withdrawal of charges against some 1,400 opposition supporters.

The opposition has backed several government proposals in hope of freedom for Nasheed, including the impeachment of vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel and a constitutional amendment setting new age limits for the presidency and vice presidency. The amendment allowed President Yameen to replace Jameel with the influential tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

The MDP also issued a free whip on a second constitutional amendment to allow foreign freeholds in the Maldives. Some 19 opposition MPs, including ten MDP MPs, voted to pass the amendment.

At the fourth meeting of talks last week, Ibu had suggested that Nasheed may be released before July 26.

The UN working group on arbitrary detention is expected to rule on Nasheed’s imprisonment in September or October. In a response to the UN, the government insisted Nasheed must appeal the sentence.

The opposition leader’s lawyers maintain they have no legal avenue to file an appeal as the Supreme Court had shortened a 90-day appeal period to 10 days, weeks before Nasheed’s trial began.

The High Court, citing lateness, last month rejected an appeal filed by the Prosecutor General over a murder acquittal. Public prosecutors blamed the delay on the criminal court’s failure to issue a trial record, as had happened in Nasheed’s case.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court last week acquitted a convicted drug trafficker citing irregularities similar to that raised by Nasheed’s lawyers.

In the unprecedented ruling, the apex court said the accused was not given access to a lawyer or the opportunity to call defence witnesses.

In a separate development, only four of the nine High Court judges are eligible to hear Nasheed’s appeal. This is because of two factors; three judges were transferred to a newly created appellate court branch in the south on June 23 and two of the three presiding judges in Nasheed’s prosecution were promoted on June 8 to fill two vacancies at the High Court.

Since the Judges Act states that an odd number of judges must preside over appeals, Nasheed’s appeal can still proceed with three judges.

An appeal filed by ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim was stalled at the High Court when the Supreme Court transferred judges overseeing his appeal to the southern branch.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the European parliament, and influential US Senators have called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

Reporting by Ahmed Naish and Shafaa Hameed. Writing by Zaheena Rasheed.


Nasheed’s appeal for clemency rejected

Rejecting jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s appeal for clemency, President Abdulla Yameen has urged him to first exhaust all appeal processes in his terrorism conviction.

“President Yameen responded to Nasheed’s letter with the same answer he’s always maintained – to complete all appeal processes,” said the president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali.

Nasheed is serving a 13-year-jailterm on a terrorism charge relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure. The rushed trial was widely criticized for its apparent lack of due process.

President Yameen’s letter was sent to Maafushi Jail.

Nasheed’s lawyers maintain they have been blocked from filing an appeal after the criminal court failed to release a report into case proceedings within the shortened 10-day appeal period.

The Supreme Court has removed discretionary powers granted to high court judges to accept late appeals, in the same ruling that had shortened the 90-day appeal period to 10 days, lawyers have said.

The government, however, insists Nasheed can still appeal.

Meanwhile, two judges who sentenced Nasheed were promoted to the high court last week.

The opposition leader has previously said he does not trust the Maldivian judiciary to accord him justice unless recommendations of judicial reform are fully implemented.

Nasheed’s imprisonment has triggered a political crisis with daily protests for three months, two historic mass marches, and the arrest of hundreds of protesters. Three more opposition leaders have been charged with terrorism.

In the appeal for clemency, Nasheed’s lawyers noted that the Clemency Act grants the president the discretion, on the president’s own initiative, to commute the sentence of any individual convicted of a criminal offence.

Calls for Nasheed’s release are growing. Amnesty International called Nasheed’s conviction a “travesty of justice” while the UN human rights chief said Nasheed was sentenced after a “hasty and apparently unfair trial” and noted “flagrant irregularities.”

The UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers noted “serious due process violations” such as denial of the opportunity to present defence witnesses, which led her to believe “the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”

The European parliament in April adopted a resolution condemning the “serious irregularities” of Nasheed’s terrorism trial and called for his immediate release.

The US secretary of state John Kerry said during a visit to Sri Lanka that Nasheed was “imprisoned without due process”.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon,” he said.

US senators John McCain and Jack Reed have urged their government to press for the release Nasheed and all other political prisoners in the Maldives.


Former President Nasheed appeals for clemency

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyers have appealed to President Abdulla Yameen to reduce the 13-year jail sentence of the opposition leader.

In a letter sent to the president yesterday, lawyer Hassan Latheef noted that the clemency law gives the president the “full power and discretion” to reduce the sentence.

“The president has the discretion, on the president’s own initiative, to commute the sentence of a person convicted of a criminal offence, based on their age, health, treatment they are currently undergoing, their status and circumstance, or from a humanitarian perspective,” reads article 29(c) of the Clemency Act.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told Minivan News that the office attends to letters in accordance with procedures and declined to comment on whether President Yameen would consider the appeal.

Despite the lapse of a 10-day deadline for filing appeals, the prosecutor general and the government have insisted that Nasheed could still appeal at the High Court. President Yameen has maintained that he does not have constitutional authority to pardon convicts before the appeal process is exhausted.

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism on March 13 over the military’s detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012. The former president’s conviction drew widespread international criticism over the apparent lack of due process in the 19-day trial.

Latheef contended that Nasheed was denied the right to a fair trial as guaranteed by both domestic law and the Maldives’ obligations under international conventions.

The former human resources minister noted that foreign governments, international human rights organisations, and the UN have condemned the trial.

Amnesty International called the conviction a “travesty of justice” while the UN human rights chief said Nasheed was sentenced after a “hasty and apparently unfair trial” and noted “flagrant irregularities.”

The UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers noted “serious due process violations” such as denial of the opportunity to present defence witnesses, which led her to believe “the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”

The European parliament in April adopted a resolution condemning the “serious irregularities” of Nasheed’s terrorism trial while US secretary of state John Kerry said during a visit to Sri Lanka that Nasheed was “imprisoned without due process”.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon,” he said.

Last week, US senators John McCain and Jack Reed urged their government to press for the release of all political prisoners in the Maldives.


Calls grow for President Yameen to intervene, resolve political crisis

Following imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed’s decision not to seek an appeal, the Maldivian Democracy Network has called on President Abdulla Yameen to intervene and resolve Maldives’ deepening political crisis.

Nasheed, convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in jail, said he desired a political solution, claiming the judiciary is under executive control and could not assure a fair appeal process.

Hence, “the only state power with the capacity to act equitably on the matter is the President,” MDN said in a statement today.

“We believe President Yameen must take immediate action in light of the manner in which the criminal proceedings were held, with a view to bring an end to the continued civil unrest in the country,” the human rights advocacy group said.

Hundreds have been arrested in opposition protests and police have threatened a crackdown claiming protesters were disrupting local businesses and inciting violence against the police.

Meanwhile, the Elections Commission has fined Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and its ally Adhaalath Party (AP) with MVR 47,000 and MVR 33,000, respectively.

The MDP and former ruling coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) first began daily protests on February 10, against President Yameen’s alleged constitutional breaches. Former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Nasheed were subsequently arrested and brought swiftly to trial over weapons smuggling and terrorism, respectively.

Over 10,000 protesters took to the streets on February 27 calling for President Yameen’s resignation.

The government meanwhile ordered JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group to pay US$100 million in unpaid rents and fines by March 30 on properties leased for resort development.

On March 17, AP withdrew support for Yameen’s administration and joined the MDP in an alliance against brutality. Opposition protests are now entering a seventh consecutive week.

Nasheed was sentenced on March 13 and Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail on March 26.

Explaining Nasheed’s decision not to seek an appeal, lawyer Hisaan Hussein on March 26 said: “As a former President, he is certain the judiciary is not independent, that President Yameen has full control over the judiciary. He is certain he will not gain a fair appeal.”

The Criminal Court’s decision to deny Nasheed legal representation, refusal to call defence witnesses, and refusal to provide adequate time to prepare defence demonstrates the former president would not be assured a fair appeal at the High Court, lawyers said.

High Court judges are “under pressure,” Hisaan said, noting the judiciary had not yet decided which judges were to be relocated to the regional courts in the north and south.

According to a December 2014 amendment to the Judicature Act, pushed through by the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), the nine-judge High Court bench is to be divided into three branches. Only the central branch in Malé could hear matters relating to the interpretation of laws or elections. The regional branches are to only hear appeals.

Hisaan said Nasheed believed the allocation of judges depended on the outcome of his appeal.

“There will be no justice in any of the appeal processes,” she said.

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed on Thursday called on Yameen to show leadership as head of state and pardon Nasheed.

“I call on you, President Abdulla Yameen to use your presidential powers and pardon the opposition leader, pardon him and end this political turmoil,” he said.

Article 29(c) of the Clemency Act states that the President has the discretion, on his own initiative, to commute a sentence of a person convicted on a criminal offence, with regards to their age, health, their status or circumstances or based on a humanitarian perspective.

The President’s Office spokesperson, the Attorney General and the PPM parliamentary group leader were not responding to calls.

President Yameen has previously said the government could neither interfere nor influence the decisions of the judiciary.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul said the trial made a “mockery” of the Maldives Constitution and said: “The speed of proceedings combined with the lack of fairness in the procedures lead me to believe the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the trial was “hasty and apparently unfair” and urged Nasheed be given adequate time to prepare and present his defence during the appeal process.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has since invited the United Nations Secretary General, the Commonwealth, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the EU to send experts to observe Nasheed’s appeal process.


President Yameen launches MVR200 million ‘Maldives Youth Entrepreneurship Programme’

President Abdulla Yameen launched the ‘Get Set – Maldives Youth Entrepreneurship Programme’ at a function held last night to mark ‘National Youth Day.’

According to the President’s Office, MVR200 million (US$12.9 million) worth of loans would be provided through the initiative to encourage entrepreneurship among youth and assist the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“Two individuals may jointly apply ‎for loans to start up their businesses under this scheme,” the President’s Office explained in a statement.

“The recipients of the ‎scheme will be granted soft loans, along with the required technical ‎assistances through business incubation programmes.”‎

In his speech at the function, President Yameen pledged to help all young job seekers secure employment, adding that enough job opportunities were currently available for skilled youth.

“However, Maldivian youth should have the courage to remain in a job,” he said.

Yameen referred to a report released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) two years ago, which found that the number of unemployed youth worldwide was 750 million or 16 percent.

The number of youth worldwide who earn less than US$2 a day was meanwhile 230 million, he noted.

At present, he continued, youth is synonymous with unemployed, homeless, and indebted.

However, the “strong, potent power” of youth could be “harnessed” to change the course of a nation, he said.

“The slogan I choose during the presidential election was ‘where there is life, there is hope’,” he said.

Efforts were underway to fulfil the Progressive Party of Maldives’ campaign pledge to create 94,000 jobs in five years, he said.

The government would establishe sports arenas in islands with a population in excess of 2,000 people by the end of 2015, Yameen pledged, which would include facilities and infrastructure for most sports played by Maldivian youth of both genders.

The government has allocated MVR300 million (US$19.4 million) in next year’s budget to conduct programmes aimed at youth, he noted, which Yameen said he considered “an investment”.

The government was also focused on rehabilitating wayward youth, he continued, and called on youth leaders to “harness positive energy” to enact “positive change” and “build the nation”.

The current administration believed Maldivian youth were “resourceful, innovative and productive,” he said.

Speaking at a function held last week to celebrate TC Sports Club’s promotion to the football first division, President Yameen said politicians would be “forced to walk down the path shown by youth”.

The government was erasing or expunging police records of youth who have served sentences under an inititiatve to provide employment opportunities, he said.

In July, Home Minister Umar Naseer told parliament that criminal records of more than 2,000 youth had been cleared.

A 2012 report on gang culture in the Maldives noted that lack of employment opportunities was one of the main reasons young people join criminal gangs.

Criminal records even for minor offences are not cleared for five years, the report noted.

Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office revealed earlier this month that it has declined to prosecute 56 first offenders as of the last week of October – part of the office’s ‘second chance programme’

Youth awards

At last night’s event, President Yameen also presented ‘National Youth Awards’ for 2013 and 2014 to “nine individuals and two NGOs for their outstanding accomplishments in the ‎areas of sports, journalism, Dhivehi linguistics, events management, fashion ‎design, and social service.‎”

“The National Youth Awards 2014 was presented to 4 individuals and two ‎NGOs for their ‎outstanding accomplishments in the areas of sports, ‎creative writing and social service,” the President’s Office noted.

The recipients included national football team captain Ali Ashfaq, who recently won the Malaysian league’s ‘Foreign Player of the Year’ title.

Related to this story

Criminal records cleared for over 2,000 youths, home minister informs parliament

PG announces policy for not prosecuting first time offenders

Yameen Abdul Gayoom identifies youth and economy as key focus for primary campaign


Criminal records cleared for over 2,000 youths, home minister informs parliament

Criminal records of more than 2,000 youth have been cleared or expunged since the current administration took office in November, Home Minister Umar Naseer told parliament last week.

Appearing for minister’s question time at Wednesday’s sitting of parliament, Naseer explained that criminal records are cleared for suspects involved in cases that are not forwarded for prosecution following investigation by police.

Criminal records would not be cleared for suspects whose cases are sent to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office, he added.

“So we are following that rule now and the number of youth with criminal records will be fewer than before now,” he said.

However, Naseer stressed that the Home Ministry could not expunge all criminal records as “this involves employers’ rights as well”.

Employers needed to “know who they are giving a job to,” Naseer said.

The home minister was responding to a question from Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP for Addu Feydhoo, Ibrahim Didi, who said he received a lot of calls from young people in his constituency who were unable to get jobs due to criminal records.

Most of the youth had criminal records for minor offences, he said.

In January, police revealed that records of 1,023 persons arrested for various offences were cleared under an initiative to provide job opportunities to youth.

A 2012 report on gang culture in the Maldives noted that lack of employment opportunities was one of the main reasons young people join criminal gangs.

Criminal records even for minor offences are not cleared for five years, the report noted.

“Sustained effort”

Meanwhile, in April, President Abdulla Yameen granted clemency to 169 convicts serving jail sentences or under house arrest or banishment following an announcement at a campaign rally in Fuvahmulah.

Naseer told Minivan News in the wake of President Yameen’s announcement that the release of inmates would not present any difficulties to ongoing efforts to combat drug trafficking.

“It will not be a hindrance because the present Clemency Act prevents serious offenders from being released. Furthermore, this process will be monitored by the Home Ministry,” he said.

President Yameen also commuted the sentences of 24 inmates in January while his predecessor Dr Mohamed Waheed released 39 convicts during his last days in office.

The “main difficulty” at present for law enforcement was the delay in concluding cases through the criminal justice system, Naseer told MPs.

While the role of police was over after sending a case for prosecution, Naseer said cases were often delayed either at the PG’s Office or at court.

Asked about efforts to combat drug trafficking, Naseer said he estimated a period of 15 years would be needed with a “sustained effort” by successive administrations to address the country’s drug problem.

The police Drug Enforcement Department (DED) has conducted more operations in the past six months than was previously conducted in one year, Naseer claimed.

More drugs were also seized in the past six months than previous years, he added.

Discussions have taken place “at the technical committee level” with airport operators and customs officials to “seal” all points of entry, Naseer said.

In an interview with Minivan News in January, Naseer said that the main target of his ministry for the next five years would be curbing drug-related crimes.


President announces clemency plan for all prisoners except “extremely serious offenders”

President Abdulla Yameen has announced that he will grant clemency to all prisoners except those convicted for extremely serious crimes, including murder and terrorism.

“On the first of April, I will grant the highest form of clemency possible to all prisoners convicted for crimes other than the most serious ones,” Yameen stated on Wednesday night, speaking at a political rally held in Fuvahmulah.

Yameen stated that his administration wishes to re-introduce youth prisoners into society under a rehabilitation program. The government has therefore decided to grant clemency to all non-serious offenders who are currently in prison, he added.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have described the move as “irresponsible”, and a “political stunt”.

The president did not reveal what particular crimes would be subject to clemency, though the Clemency Act (2010) lists the following crimes as not being applicable for clemency or commutation of sentence: terrorism, murder, crimes punishable by a ‘hadd’ in Islamic Shariah, sexual harassment against children, illegal drug trading, rape, sexual assault and homosexuality.

Asked how this will affect the Ministry of Home Affairs’ efforts to end the abuse of drugs, Minister of Umar Naseer responded that the program will not present any difficulties.

“It will not be a hindrance because the present Clemency Act prevents serious offenders from being released. Furthermore, this process will be monitored by the Home Ministry,” he stated.

“An irresponsible political stunt”: MDP

MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy described Yameen’s initiative as “a very irresponsible political stunt”.

“This is a stunt they are pulling off as elections approach – an act without any form or structure. This is a stunt like they used to pull during the Gayoom administration – as every election nears, they’ll let out numerous prisoners and the streets will be teeming with drug abusers. This is a highly irresponsible act on the part of the government,” Fahmy stated.

“There is a huge difference between what this government is about to do, and the MDP’s ‘Second Chance Programme’. The Second Chance program was a structured effort, under which applicable prisoners were released under parole to be under the guardianship of a family member,” said Fahmy.

“They were given trainings in various skills and were provided with employment opportunities. They were monitored constantly and were taken back in when there is a risk of re-offending crimes.”

“Yameen and the people around him were those who most criticised our ‘Second Chance Programme’. And now look at what they are attempting to do. This clemency plan has no structure and will prove detrimental to the society,” he continued.

Fahmy further stated that the incumbent government has also been releasing serious and dangerous criminals, despite the Home Ministry claiming to be working against the drug trade.

“For example, the criminal who goes by the name of ‘Safa’. He is currently roaming about freely in Sri Lanka while authorities like the Anti Corruption Commission have spoken against his release,” Fahmy said.

Second chance

During the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, a clemency program under the name of ‘Second Chance’ was implemented, under which prisoners were reintroduced into society under a parole system.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who served as Minister of Home Affairs during the Waheed administration – shut down the program in March 2012, alleging that the Nasheed government had used it to “release unqualified criminals under political influence and without any clear procedure”.

Later in July, Jameel blamed a “surge in crime” partly on the ‘Second Chance Programme’, stating that over 200 convicted criminals released under the scheme had been returned to prison for re-offending.

Jameel also published a comment piece in local news website Haveeru in September 2011, speaking against the programme and emphasising the importance of granting clemency in accordance with the Clemency Act.

In its 2013 Human Rights Report, the US State Department described Maldivian prisons as generally meeting ‘most international standards’, while they were reported to be overcrowded.

“The Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) prison system, which had an estimated capacity of 885 prisoners and detainees, had a prison population of 1,050. There were 34 women in the system, as well as 14 boys under age 18. Drug offenders accounted for 47 percent of the prison population,” the report reads.


President commutes sentences of 24 inmates

President Abdulla Yameen has commuted the sentences of 24 inmates under the authority vested in the president by the Clemency Act of 2010.

According to a President’s Office statement, sentences were commuted based on the inmate’s age; time spent under house arrest, jail, or banishment; medical condition; and discipline. Conditions were attached to the commutation, the statement said.

The president considered the following criteria in commuting sentences:

  • Inmates must not have committed a disciplinary offense in the past two years
  • Inmates must not have received an presidential pardon or commutation of sentence, or drug rehabilitation through the Drug Court or been granted parole in the past five years
  • Inmates must not have been sentenced in 2013

Individuals who were convicted of murder, terrorism, disturbing the peace – including attacking or threatening a security officer or vandalising public property, child abuse, rape, homosexuality, drug trafficking involving an amount more than four grams, or a hadd crime were not considered, the statement said.

The president did not include anyone that could be determined as dangerous to the society. Yameen will grant clemency to an additional group of convicts on April 1, the statement said.

Article 115 of the constitution states that the president has the authority “to grant pardons or reductions of sentence as provided by law, to persons convicted of a criminal offence who have no further right of appeal.”

On January 9, police cleared the police records of 1,023 young persons who were arrested for various criminal offenses, as part of the government’s pledge to facilitate youth employment.

At the time, Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed urged all young persons to make the best out of this “golden opportunity” and to leave the crime environment and become useful individuals to society.

In March 2012, current Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed shut down former President Mohamed Nasheed’s flagship Second Chance program set up to reintegrate convicts into society.

Jameel, who was Home Minister at the time, said that Nasheed’s administration had used the program “to release unqualified criminals under political influence and without any clear procedure “.


Ayyubey’s final heir calls for death sentence

Ali ‘Ayyubey’ Hassan’s final heir has asked for the death penalty for the underaged defendants in his murder trial, reported Haveeru.

Ayyubey, 76, was found murdered with multiple stab wounds on Kudahuvadhoo in January this year.

The victim had been accused of using sorcery on a 37 year-old woman, whose body had been found in the lagoon the previous month.

The Prosecutor General (PG) pressed charges against three men and three male youths – two of whom admitted the charges, whilst the third awaits the results of DNA tests.

The final of nine heirs opted for qisas (equal retaliation) in Addu Court rather than choosing to accept blood money.

This process is standard under Sharia law, although the President’s legal authority to commute death sentences to 25 years has resulted in a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 1953.