President Yameen authorised Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest

President Abdulla Yameen authorised former President Mohamed Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest today, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb has told Minivan News.

President Yameen made the decision at a meeting at 1:00pm this afternoon and sought advice from the attorney general, Adeeb said.

Home minister Umar Naseer was reluctant to approve the transfer, Adeeb added, but the president made the decision.

A family member told Minivan News that Nasheed was brought home around 4:00pm ahead of an appointment for an MRI scan on Thursday.

The opposition leader was brought to Malé around 8:30am this morning to consult a nerve specialist at the ADK private hospital. Nasheed was briefly detained at a custodial centre in the capital before being taken to his wife’s residence Yaagoothuge.

An official from the Maldives Corrections Service (MCS) told local media that Nasheed was transferred to house arrest for three days based on doctor’s advice.

The medical tests recommended by the doctor will take three days, the official said, after which Nasheed will be taken back to the Maafushi prison.

Adeeb said the duration of Nasheed’s house arrest will depend on the doctor’s advice.

The tourism minister is taking over as acting home minister tonight with Naseer due to depart for Singapore.

Nasheed’s lawyers have previously said he was being denied access to specialist medical attention despite recommendations from doctors.

The government had refused to authorise tests after doctors at the Maafushi Jail health centre and at a Malé military clinic recommended in May that he get an MRI scan, the lawyers said.

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism in March over the military’s detention of a judge during his tenure and sentenced to 13 years in jail.

The 19-day terrorism trial was widely criticised over its apparent lack of due process and international pressure on the government to release the opposition leader has been growing in recent weeks.

MCS media official Moosa Rameez told Minivan News earlier today that the prison authorities will arrange the MRI scan.

Senior members of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) along with the former president’s family members and supporters gathered outside the Malé jail this afternoon when Nasheed was brought to the custodial centre from the hospital.

Following his transfer to house arrest, several MDP MPs and politicians have started posting selfies with the former president on Twitter.

Supporters have also taken to social media to express joy over the former president’s reprieve from custody. Nasheed has been held in detention since his arrest on February 22, a day before the surprise terrorism trial.


Nazim ordered to return after treatment in Singapore

The correctional services has ordered convicted ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim to return from Singapore, where he is currently seeking medical treatment.

According to CNM, assistant superintendent of prisons Ibrahim Mohamed Didi sent letters to Nazim’s wife and his father on May 5 saying the prisons authority has learned that Nazim has completed his treatment.

The retired colonel was found guilty of weapons smuggling on March 26 and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was granted permission to seek medical treatment overseas for a period of 45 days.

The deadline for the medical leave expires on May 24.

Nazim’s legal team has said that he has a doctor’s appointment on May 23 and will come back by the deadline.


Murder convicts sue correctional services for refusing to authorise marriage

Ahmed Murrath and Fathmath Hana – sentenced to death for the murder of lawyer Ahmed Najeeb in July 2012 – have sued the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) for refusing to authorise their marriage.

According to local media, the first hearing of the lawsuit filed by the couple last year was scheduled for 1:30pm today. Inmates are required to seek authorisation from the MCS for marrying while incarcerated.

The pair have also appealed the Criminal Court’s guilty verdicts at the High Court. At a hearing last month, Murrath told the appellate court that police coerced his confession to the murder.

His lawyer had previously told the High Court that Murrath confessed in order to escape punishments he received during the investigation period, including sleep deprivation.

Murrath and his 18-year-old girlfriend Hana were arrested and charged with Najeeb’s murder after his body was discovered by police stuffed inside a dustbin, badly beaten with multiple stab wounds.


Six senior government officials abused power in drug kingpin’s temporary release, says ACC

The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has recommended charges be filed against six senior government officials for the temporary release of convicted drug kingpin Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzak in February.

Former Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Hanim personally paid a visit to a doctor at their home to obtain a signature claiming Shafaz required urgent medical care abroad.

However, the ACC found no evidence to suggest Shafaz required urgent treatment or care unavailable in the Maldives. Shafaz had not consulted a doctor at all in the week before his release.

Hanim, who is now the deputy minister of environment, also oversaw the illegal preparation of Shafaz’s travel documents and allowed him to leave the country without obtaining approval from the Maldives Correctional Service’s (MCS) medical board.

The investigations also revealed former Commissioner of Prisons Moosa Azim lobbied the medical board to approve Shafaz’s release despite knowing his paperwork was incomplete.

In addition to Hanim and Azim, the ACC has recommended corruption charges be filed against two members of the medical board, a technical officer at Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and a staff of the MCS.

Shafaz was caught in Sri Lanka in May in a joint operation by the Maldivian and Sri Lankan security forces when he failed to return to the Maldives in the three-month period he had been given.

The Criminal Court had in November 2013 sentenced the 30-year-old to 18 years in prison and had levied a fine of MVR75,000 (US$4,860) for drug trafficking.

Deputy Minister’s abuse of power

According to the MCS’s regulations, an inmate can only be allowed abroad for medical treatment if two doctors attest that the inmate requires urgent care that is not available in the Maldives.

The MCS’ medical board must then review the doctors’ referrals before endorsing the release.

According to the ACC, Chief Superintendent of Malé Prisons Mohamed Thaufeeg, on Hanim’s request, illegally entered the medical section and printed the forms required for Shafaz’s release.

Thaufeeq had entered the medical section’s premises in the absence of the officer in charge.

Hanim and Thaufeeq then paid a personal visit to a doctor at their home on February 2 to obtain signatures. Local media have identified the doctor to be Indian national Dr Ganga Raju.

The forms require signatures of two doctors, but a senior technical officer at IGMH, Abdulla Rafiu, filled in the second slot.

Hanim sent a letter to the Department of Immigration ordering Shafaz’s travel documents be prepared although such letters must in fact be sent by the individual who heads the Home Ministry’s Implementation Section.

The letter was prepared and dispatched before the medical board and the Commissioner of Prison’s approved Shafaz’s release.

When the head of the Implementation Section refused to allow Shafaz to leave Maafushi Jail on February 5, Hanim himself authorized the release.

According to the ACC, Hanim attempted to complete the paperwork only after Shafaz left the country.

Medical board’s role

The medical board met on February 4 to review Shafaz’s request for temporary release.

The board noticed only one doctor had signed his forms and that the forms did not provide details on Shafaz’s medical conditions or the type of treatment he was to receive abroad.

However, Azim assured the board that the proper paperwork would be submitted at the next meeting. Board members, Maldives Police Services Chief Inspector of Police Dr Mohamed Fazneen Latheef and Home Ministry’s Deputy Director General Ishaq Ahmed, supported the inmate’s release.

Fazneen admitted to the ACC that the medical board had not released any inmate without complete paperwork in the past, and said he believed he had failed to uphold the board’s stringent standards in supporting Shafaz’s leaving the country.

Azim only signed the medical board’s final approval after Shafaz had left.

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

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

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

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

Related to this story

Convicted drug kingpin Shafa caught in Colombo

Doctor’s passport held as drug kingpin’s medical release investigated

Police arrest suspected drug kingpin after months of investigations


Government implements new escaped prisoner regulation

The government yesterday started implementing a new regulation on procedures regarding escaped inmates.

The regulation was made in compliance with Article 144 of the Prisons and Parole Act, 2013.

The regulation gives the authority to the director of prisons to declare that an inmate has escaped from detention, failed to return from temporary release, or taken flight while on medical release.

The new regulation obliges the most senior officer in-charge of the prison security to inform the director of prisons immediately if an inmate escapes or attempts to escape. The director must then inform the Commissioner of Prisons before submitting a detailed incident report within 24 hours.

Correctional services are subsequently obliged to inform police with a written document and to publish the escaped inmate’s picture on the media as well as informing the family of the escape.


Cabinet to discuss implementation of death penalty

The cabinet had not discussed implementing the death penalty before Home Minister Umar Naseer ordered the correctional services yesterday to enforce death sentences through lethal injection, President Abdulla Yameen has revealed.

Asked by reporters last night upon his return from a state visit to Sri Lanka if the home minister’s directive followed cabinet deliberations, President Yameen said the cabinet has not discussed capital punishment as his administration “has not faced this issue before.”

“This issue has not been discussed in our cabinet yet. However, as a rule, since the death penalty is already in the penal code, the home minister has issued his opinion,” he said.

“Broad discussions” on the subject will take place in cabinet next week, Yameen said.

“Our government will prioritise protecting the rights of innocent citizens. However, I have to say along with that, in such matters, even a convict who had a judgment passed upon him in the first stage has rights. He has stages of appeal to conclude,” he said.

The government would make a decision after the appeal process was exhausted and guilt has been established beyond doubt, he added.

“Before it comes to that, we have now decided to have discussions in cabinet. Even if I have my own thoughts [on the issue], decisions on such serious matters will be made after cabinet deliberations,” Yameen said.

The government’s highest priority was assuring a safe and peaceful environment for citizens, he stressed, adding that legal advice would be sought on enforcing the death penalty.

President Yameen had spoken in favour of introducing the death penalty during the campaign for last year’s presidential election.

“Murder has to be punished with murder,” Yameen had said.

While he was previously against the death penalty, candidate Yameen said he “had a change of heart” due to “murders becoming too commonplace”.

Home Minister Umar Naseer – who lost the Progressive Party of Maldives’ presidential primary against Yameen and was subsequently dismissed from the party – signed the order to the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) in front of the press at a ceremony yesterday.

The MCS was ordered to implement the death penalty through the use of lethal injection and to set up the necessary equipment at the Maafushi prison.

The move comes after a death sentence was handed to Hussain Humam Ahmed on charges of murdering the moderate religious scholar and MP, Dr Afrasheem Ali, in October 2012.

Naseer told the press that the order was in line with provisions of draft legislation on implementing the death penalty prepared by the government for submission to parliament, adding that legal advice was sought from the attorney general.

“We will not wait for laws to be drafted and passed. The law allows for implementation, and it is at the discretion of the home minister to order implementation,” Naseer said.

Since the execution of Hakim Didi in 1954 for the crime of practising black magic, there has been an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty with the president commuting death sentences to life imprisonment.

While 20 individuals currently face the death penalty, according to an official from the Home Ministry, all such cases have been appealed at the High Court and have yet to reach the Supreme Court.

In May 2013, the UN country team called for the abolition of the death penalty in the Maldives: “In view of the country’s more than 50-year moratorium, the United Nations call upon the Maldives to take the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to its international human rights obligations, and abolish the death penalty.”

Earlier in 2013, calls for limiting the presidential power to grant clemency resulted in then-Attorney General Azima Shakoor asking the High Court for a ruling.

Azima drafted a bill in December 2012 outlining the implementation of the penalty through lethal injection.

The proposal was met with opposition from religious groups, including NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, which called for the draft to be amended in favour of beheadings or firing squads.

In June 2013, MP Riyaz Rasheed submitted a bill asking for the death penalty to be implemented by hanging. The bill was rejected by 26 votes to 18, with no abstentions.


Police seize mobile phones and drugs in Maafushi prison

The Maldives Police Services have seized illegal narcotics and mobile phones in Maafushi Prison on Sunday.

A Police and Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) joint operation uncovered 50 rubber packers, one bullet size packet, one can and 22 cellophane packets containing illegal drugs. Five additional packets with traces of illegal drugs were also found.

Police discovered 15 mobile phones, 17 mobile phone batteries, 26 SIM cards, three mobile phone chargers, one SD memory card and one knife during the raid.

In a statement on Sunday, the police said that the operation was conducted after police received reports that inmates in Maafushi prison had been calling various people, asking them to recharge their phones with large amounts of cash.

Police said that inmates have also phoned people outside jail and told them that they will conduct useful projects in the Maldives and beneficial work and asked for money in return.

Inmates had also called shops pretending to be fishermen calling from a fishing boat or staff working on a safari boat, and have asked the shops to put credit in their mobile phones promising to pay the shop back at a later date, the police said.

The police advised people not to participate in money transactions proposed by strangers and not to recharge mobile phone accounts of unknown individuals.

Police said they clarified these reports first through police intelligence department before raiding the cells.

When asked how inmates were able to smuggle illegal substances into prison, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Hanim said he had not yet received details on the operation.

The police said they have previously issued statements to increase awareness among the public regarding such crimes, and said it was regrettable that not enough cooperation is being received from the people to stop these types of crimes.

In March 2010, the then-State Minister for Home Affairs Ahmed Adil said that jail officers were being investigated on suspicion of helping inmates bring mobile phones and drugs into cells in Male’ prison.

In May 2011, the then-Head of Department and Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) Mohamed Rasheed  confirmed that a police officer was being questioned for allegedly attempting to smuggle charged phone batteries to inmates at Maafushi prison.