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.
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.