President Yameen grants clemency to 169 convicts

President Abdulla Yameen has granted clemency yesterday to 169 convicts serving banishment, house arrest, or jail sentences.

According to the President’s Office, Yameen granted pardons or commuted sentences in accordance with Article 29 of the Clemency Act.

Some 116 individuals were released on parole with conditions following consideration of “age, health, type of medical treatment, time and circumstance, compassion, and behaviour,” the President’s Office revealed in a statement.

Convicts sentenced for drug abuse would be required to complete rehabilitation programmes, the statement noted.

Moreover, released inmates would be returned to jail to serve out the remainder of their sentences if they violate parole or commit a crime.

Persons convicted of murder, a crime with a punishment (hadd) prescribed in Islamic Shariah, terrorism, child sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape, and homosexuality were not among the 169 released convicts, the President’s Office said.

“In addition to the above-mentioned [exceptions], sentences were commuted based on records from the Maldives Police Service without including persons who could pose a threat to society’s safety and security,” the statement read.

It added that President Yameen had announced his intention to release prisoners at a campaign rally in Fuvahmulah last month.

Home Minister Umar 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.

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 or expunged criminal records of 1,023 young persons who were arrested for various criminal offences, as part of the government’s pledge to facilitate youth employment.

“Political stunt”

Following President Yameen’s announcement last month, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy described the move 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,” the Maafanu North MP said.

Fahmy also defended the release of convicts under the MDP government’s ‘Second Chance Programme,’ which he stressed was “a structured effort, under which applicable prisoners were released under parole to be under the guardianship of a family member.”

They were given training 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 said.

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

In July 2012, Jameel blamed a “surge in crime” partly on the ‘Second Chance Programme’, claiming that over 200 convicted criminals released under the scheme had been returned to prison for re-offending.

Jameel also published a comment piece in newspaper Haveeru in September 2011 criticising the programme and emphasising the importance of granting clemency in accordance with the Clemency Act.


Convicted drug kingpin leaves for Sri Lanka

The ringleader of a nationwide drug network convicted and jailed in November departed to Sri Lanka last night, ostensibly for medical treatment, local media has learned.

Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzaq, 32, of Maafanu Lonumidhilige, was sentenced to 18 years in prison and fined MVR75,000 (US$4,860) after being found guilty of drug trafficking.

According to newspaper Haveeru, the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) was not informed of a date for the inmate’s return. Shafaz was not accompanied by an MCS officer, the local daily reported.

Opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV reported that a “reliable source” claimed Shafaz was not listed in the immigration control system as a convict when he boarded the midnight flight with his family.

Raajje TV also alleged that Shafaz was allowed to leave the country on orders from Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Responding to the allegation, Adeeb told Minivan News today that as tourism minister he did not have “a say in the decisions by the independent institution formed by the law called Maldives Correctional Service.”

“Raajje TV is a very irresponsible media directing all the allegations towards me politically,” the deputy leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said.

MCS officials could not be reached for comment today.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz was meanwhile unable to confirm for Raajje TV whether Shafaz was among 24 convicts whose sentences were commuted by President Abdulla Yameen last month.

President Yameen commuted the sentences of persons banished, serving jail sentences or under house arrest “with conditions.”

In the final days of his administration, former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan also commuted the sentences of 35 convicts under authority granted by the Clemency Act.

Individuals convicted of murder, terrorism, a crime with a punishment (hadd) prescribed in Islamic Shariah, disturbing the peace – including attacking or threatening a security officer or vandalising public property – child abuse, rape, homosexuality, and drug trafficking involving an amount more than four grams were not eligible for clemency, the President’s Office said last month.

Details of the convicts, the conditions for granting clemency and the reduced sentences were not disclosed on either occasion.

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.”

“Operation Challenge”

Shafaz was arrested on June 24, 2011 with 896 grams of heroin from a rented apartment in a building owned by PPM MP Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem.

Former head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED), Superintendent Mohamed Jinah, told the press at the time that police raided Henveiru Fashan based on intelligence information gathered in the two-year long “Operation Challenge.”

Jihah labeled Shafaz a high-profile drug dealer suspected of smuggling and supplying drugs since 2006.

The traffickers had been using an authorised money exchanger called A J Emporium to transfer funds to Sri Lanka, Jinah revealed.

The drugs were believed to have been smuggled via Sri Lankan Airlines.

Jinah claimed that the network smuggled drugs worth MVR1.3 million (US$84,306) to the Maldives between February and April 2011.

Police also discovered that Shafaz had bought a shop named ‘Charm’ for MVR150,000 (US$9700) that was sold in June 2011 for MVR200,000 (US$12,970).

Moreover, Shafaz was renting three apartments in Male’ and owned a tailor shop bought for MVR200,000 (US$13,000), a shop in Kaafu Atoll Maafushi, and a Suzuki Swift car worth MVR180,000 (US$11,673), later sold for MVR170,000 (US$11,025).

As Shafaz was not in the room with the drugs at the time of the raid and his fingerprints were not found on the confiscated drugs, the Criminal Court ruled last year that there was not enough evidence to convict Shafaz on one count of the drug charges.

However, he was found guilty on the second count based on recorded phone conversations and financial transactions with a contact in Colombo, believed to be the supplier.

Three of Shafaz’s accomplices who were caught with the opiates and packing equipment – Ismail Shaheem, Mohamed Meead and Anas Anees – were meanwhile found guilty of possession and trafficking and sentenced to ten years in prison.

In a speech a few days after the drug bust, former President Mohamed Nasheed said he found it “quite shocking [that] 800 packets of heroin a night were getting sealed in the house of an honourable member of parliament.”


President Waheed commutes sentences of 35 convicts, approves lump sum payment for ministers

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has commuted the sentences of 35 convicts under authority granted by the Clemency Act of 2009 and approved a lump sum payment of three months’ wages for cabinet ministers.

President Waheed exercised the executive power on the last official working day of his administration before the end of the current presidential term on Monday, November 11.

The President’s Office revealed in a statement that Waheed had commuted the sentences of persons banished, serving jail sentences or under house arrest “with conditions.”

Details of the convicts, the conditions and the reduced sentences were not disclosed.

President Waheed considered “age, illness, nature of medical treatment, time and circumstance, behaviour and conduct, or a compassionate view,” the President’s Office stated.

Persons convicted of murder, a crime with a punishment (hadd) prescribed in Islamic Shariah, terrorism, child sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape, and homosexuality were not included among the 35 convicts, the President’s Office claimed.

Under the law passed in 2009, prisoners who have completed one-third of their sentences and exhausted all avenues of appeal are eligible to apply for clemency.

Local media meanwhile reported that President Waheed has also decided to provide a lump sum payment of three months’ salaries and allowances for cabinet ministers.

While the proposal was made at the last cabinet meeting, a decision was not finalised last week.

As ministers earn MVR57,500 (US$3,729) a month, the lump sum payments would amount to MVR2 million (US$129,702) for the 12 ministers presently in the cabinet.

Local media has also reported that the government signed an agreement on Wednesday (November 6) to hand over the Kaadehdhoo airport in Gaaf Dhaal atoll to Villa Air, owned by business tycoon and Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim, for a 50-year period.

Transport Minister Ibrahim Ameen, who signed on behalf of the government, is a senior member of the JP representing the party in the coalition government.

Former Transport Minister Dr Ahmed Shamheed – filling a JP slot in cabinet at the time – was sacked in November 2012 after extending the lease of the privately-owned airport in Maamigili for 99 years. Despite the dismissal, the decision was not reversed and Shamheed was replaced by Ameen.

In February this year, the Anti-Corruption Commission began investigating the lease extension of the airport operated by Gasim’s Villa Shipping and Trading.

In March, Dr Shamheed told Minivan News that President Waheed wanted “credit” for extending the Maamigili airport lease.

The media reports today also revealed that an agreement was signed with Island Aviation to hand over the Ka’dhoo airport in Laamu atoll, while agreements were signed with Reol Investment and Millenium Capital Management to build and operate airports in Dhaal Kudahuvadhoo and Noonu Maafaru, respectively.

The companies were given uninhabited islands as an airport subsidy – Noonu Kummala and Raa Ufulandhoo to Millenium and Dhaal Hiriyafushi and Kadimma to Reol – to be developed as resorts.