MDP will sign voter registry ahead of polling, rival parties undecided

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will accept the modified voter registry despite minor irregularities in order to ensure the re-run of the annulled 2013 presidential election goes ahead as scheduled on Saturday (October 19).

Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of the presidential election held September 7, the Elections Commission (EC) had been given less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll.

The Supreme Court ordered the EC to discard the commission’s voter registry and use the Department of National Registration’s (DNR) database to compile a new registry. In an additional midnight ruling on Thursday (October 11), the court ordered the EC to re-start the entire voter re-registration process.

Despite the expedited timeline, with a window of less than one day to re-register, more than 60,000 people submitted the new fingerprint forms to vote in the first round – just 5000 short of the 65,000 who re-registered ahead of the annulled September 7 poll.

The EC is still in the process of re-registering voters and has repeatedly extended the deadline for complaints with the newest deadline being 4:00 pm today.

The EC has said the final voter registry will be sent to political parties tonight and representatives will be given until sunrise on Friday to approve the registry.

The commission has said it normally requires 45-60 days of preparation to hold a presidential election in accordance with the Maldives’ constitution and general elections law.

In a statement released today, the MDP noted  a decrease of 395 names in the October 19 registry when compared to the September 7 list. The 7 September registry contained 239,593 names, while the October 19 registry contains 239,198 names.

The MDP highlighted 62 instances of repeated names and the addition of 789 new voters who had come of age. The party said the DNR had issued 2258 new identity cards, and when the new eligible voters are deducted from the number, there were 1469 people added to the voters list in “unclear circumstances.”

“Despite noting the aforementioned matters, since the margin of error (0.61%) is negligible and because the Constitution of the Maldives states that there must be an elected President on 11 November 2013, the MDP has decided to accept the list and go ahead with the Presidential Election scheduled to be held on 19 October 2013,” the statement read.

MDP candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed – the frontrunner of the now defunct poll held on September 7 – warned that a failure to hold on election on October 19 and to swear in a democratically elected head of state by November 11 would invalidate the constitution.

“We believe the voter registry is correct and we are ready to vote with that list,” he stated.

Rival candidates representing the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) have meanwhile expressed concern about the accuracy of the new voter registry, despite accepting the need for an election to be held as soon as possible.

JP and PPM still concerned

The JP yesterday raised concerns about re-registration, with the party’s own representative on the EC Advisory Committee accusing the MDP of being able to access the commission’s servers and directly register its own candidates – compromising the system.

The party said it had filed a complaint with police over its allegations, demanding law enforcement officials address the concerns it had raised, according to local media.

Police have confirmed that an investigation was being conducted into allegations raised by the PPM and JP, though Police Spokesperson Chef Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at time of press.

JP Deputy Leader Dr Ibrahim Didi and spokesperson Moosa Ramiz were not responding to requests for information on the allegations at time of press.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan today said the party was committed to doing “everything possible” to ensure the re-run of the 2013 presidential election scheduled for Saturday (October 19) goes ahead.

He argued that the PPM nonetheless remained concerned over “lots of issues” that had arisen as a result of the short timeframe given to the EC to amend the eligible voter list.  He pointed to a system crash that occurred during registration on Sunday (October 13), said to have resulted from a large volume of data provided.

The technical issue, which had resulted in data having to be manually entered into the system for a two hour period, led to the EC accusing some supporters of the PPM and its coalition partners of obstructing its work during the day, with police criticised for failing to help remove protesters for at least five hours.

Nihan accused the EC of failing to correctly address issues of double voting and deceased and underage voters included in the registry ahead of the now defunct polls held September 7, but said that the EC had shown this week it did have the capacity to deal with alleged issues in the voter registry.

“If the election that is held next Saturday October 19 goes ahead, we believe the percentage of rigged votes would be far less,” he stressed.

However, Nihan said that with EC once again extending the deadline to receive complaints about the recomposed registry, a decision by the PPM on whether to proceed with Saturday’s polls would be held was expected in the next 24 hours.

Speaking at a PPM press conference yesterday (September 16), Mohamed Tholal, a party member on the EC’s advisory board questioned the capability of commission to address issues raised with re-registration this week leading to a number of deadline extensions.

“If the forms were not processed because of the seven hour delay, then they should be done by now” he said.

The PPM also accused the EC of rejecting some forms it had submitted without providing an opportunity to address issues.

Both the PPM and coalition party the Maldivan Development Alliance (MDA) meanwhile on Tuesday (September 15) questioned whether an election could go ahead as scheduled on Saturday due to a lack of time to finalise the list.

“I believe the security forces have to take action. If they do not abide by the Supreme Court [verdict’s] spirit to allow every citizen the right to vote, this issue must be looked into,” the MDA’s Ahmed Amir was quoted as saying in local media at the time.

Ali Ahmed Manik of the EC meanwhile said he hoped that the three candidates representing the MDP, PPM and JP in Saturday’s election would agree to sign the registry for polling to commence on schedule.

“We have already sent a list to all the candidates,” Manik was quoted as saying in local newspaper Haveeru. “Re-registration will be added to that. So they can check our list even now. We will be able to submit a final list when [re-registration] is completed. I think the presidential candidates will do this for us.”

Despite the allegations, Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek has expressed confidence polling would go ahead as scheduled on Saturday, despite not everything being within the commission’s control.

“We are giving our maximum effort to reach the deadline. No rest, no sleep, two hours [maximum]. We were working 24 hours straight, then 36, now 48. Our officials are doing everything humanly possible. International observers are even surprised [at the intensive effort put forth],” said Thowfeek.


Trial hearing cancelled after police report failure to produce Nasheed

Additional reporting by Neil Merrett.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial hearing scheduled for 4:00pm today (February 20) was cancelled by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court after police were unable to present him to judicial authorities due to his presence in the Indian High Commission.

The High Court meanwhile threw out an appeal hearing into the first warrant issued on February 13, after Nasheed failed to appear at a hearing scheduled for 1:00pm this afternoon.

On Monday (February 18), the magistrate court issued a second arrest warrant requesting police present Nasheed on charges of illegally detaining Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed during his final days in office.

An official from the Judiciary Media Unit confirmed Nasheed’s hearing was cancelled after police said the former president could not be arrested while still inside the Indian High Commission.

“Police have said they won’t be able to bring Nasheed to Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court and so the hearing has been cancelled. A new hearing is yet to be scheduled by the court,” the official said.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have said Nasheed will remain inside the High Commission until an interim government is established ahead of the presidential elections in September.

Police have cordoned off the street outside the High Commission, but have so far taken a hands off approach towards the few hundred Nasheed supporters protesting at the barricades.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


Nasheed and the MDP have maintained that the charges against him are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent the former president from contesting in presidential elections scheduled for later this year.

Nasheed’s lawyer Hassan Latheef said the former president’s team of lawyers were having to rely on the media to receive updates regarding the latest news from Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, and were not being officially informed of any decisions it was making.

“It is very unfortunate that we are not directly informed by the court regarding the developments in this case. Instead, we are having to contact the court for information,” he said.

“We are relying on the media for updates. Now that the court hearing has been cancelled, we have no idea what will happen,” Latheef said.

Asked whether about the possibility of the trial being conducted in absentia, Latheef added: “The constitution states clearly that no trial can be held with the defendant being absent.”

“However, knowing this particular court and the knowing the magistrates on the case, as well as the police and government, I do not doubt it could happen,” Latheef said.

Earlier today, MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the Foreign Ministry had already been in touch with the Indian High Commission to try get them to hand Nasheed over to police.

“I wouldn’t put it past the government to raid the Indian High Commission, partly because nobody expects them to do it,” Ghafoor said.

India’s Special Envoy arrives

India’s Special Envoy Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Male’ today to try and resolve the stalemate, which has attracted widespread international media coverage, and extensive attention from the Indian media. No headway or details of meetings had been reported at time of press.

Meanwhile, a small police presence manned barricades around the the Indian High Commission building ahead of the scheduled trial.

Minivan News also observed a large UN contingent sitting in Traders Hotel opposite the High Commission. UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, is currently in the country for a scheduled visit until February 24.

A large number of tourists were passing through the barricades and having their photos taken with police officers controlling traffic outside the high commission. A row of 30 bouquets of flowers had been placed against the wall of the commission earlier in the day by a group of female Nasheed supporters. One had a card the read: “We will always be with our President (Anni) XX”.

As the time of the hearing neared, around 200 MDP supporters gathered outside the party office on Sosun Magu before moving to the Prosecutor General (PG)’s Office demanding the PG withdraw the charges against former President Nasheed.

As the 4:00pm deadline passed, a few hundered supporters and onlookers once again gathered on Sosun Magu, where they have been holding successive daily demonstrations since Friday (February 15).

Around 20 riot officers were deployed to control the crowd, remaining a few hundred yards away from the protesters.  The atmosphere was tense as supporters continued to heckle authorities, however at time of press police had taken no action to disperse the demonstration.

However police subsequently seized a yellow-painted pick-up truck equipped with a loudspeaker that was playing the party’s protest songs, claiming that it was disturbing nearby schoolchildren.


Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court issues second arrest warrant for Nasheed

The Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court has issued a second arrest warrant for former President Mohamed Nasheed, an official from the Judiciary Media Unity has confirmed.

Five days after Nasheed sought refuge inside the Indian High Commission, the Judiciary Media Unity confirmed to Minivan News that Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court has now issued a new arrest warrant, ordering police to produce Nasheed at the court on February 20 at 4:00pm.

Police Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef also confirmed that the Maldives Police Service had received the court order for Nasheed’s arrest.

The former president has been taking refuge inside the Indian High Commission building in Male’ since February 13 to avoid arrest, after Hulhumale’ court previously ordered police to produce him at his scheduled trial.

Nasheed and his party have maintained that the charges put forward against him – of illegally detaining Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed during his final days in office – are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent him from contesting presidential elections scheduled for later this year.

The latest arrest warrant comes after Nasheed failed to attend the last two scheduled trial hearings on February 10 and February 13.

An official from the Indian High Commission told Minivan News they were waiting to see the arrest warrant and are “watching the current situation”.

The situation has contributed to an escalation in diplomatic tensions between India and the Maldives, which has accused the former of interference in internal Maldivian affairs.

High Commissioner D M Mulay was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Sunday and presented with a protest note from the government.

On Monday the High Commission released a statement “denying in entirety” allegations that it was being used by the former President “for political meetings and instigating street violence”.

Thousands of supporters of the former president have been protesting in the capital Male’ since Nasheed moved into the Indian High Commission last Wednesday.

On Saturday (February 16) over 5000 supporters marched through the streets of Male’ clashing with police, which resulted in 55 arrests during the night.

Nasheed’s decision to seek asylum in the Indian High Commission caught the attention of the international community last week. The US, UK, EU, UN and Commonwealth have since urged the Maldivian government to show restraint, whilst calling for “inclusive, free and fair elections” in September.

Arrest warrant is a threat to Nasheed’s life: MDP

Following the news of the latest warrant, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said that the party are “firmly” against the former President from standing trial in an “illegitimate court”.

“The party firmly believes that he should not go [to Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court] and we firmly believe that the arrest warrant threatens his life.

“The moment he steps out of the Indian High Commission, that will be the end of him. Even the international community have recognised this as a witch hunt,” Ghafoor told Minivan News.

When asked as to whether former president will comply with the court order, Ghafoor said “it is Nasheed’s call”.

“The question is, what do the Indians do now? The Maldives authorities will now have to approach the Indian High Commission and ask them to hand him over.

“The minute the Indian government gave him refuge, they took a position. I can’t see the Indian government dropping Nasheed like a hot potato,” Ghafoor added.

The MDP spokesperson claimed the government had alienated itself from the international community given their stance on the matter. Ghafoor further claimed that foreign governments and organisations “can see” that attempts to arrest Nasheed “are nothing more than a witch hunt”.

India’s involvement criticised by Maldives officials

India’s involvement in the political dispute has been criticised by members of the Maldivian government, with the Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed tweeting last week: “What’s happening now gives us an indication of the extent and level of interest some countries prepared to take in our internal matters,” he said.

“I would strongly urge everyone to let our institutions deal with the challenges, and allow the Maldives to uphold rule of law,” he tweeted.

President of the Maldives, Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik released his own statement yesterday condemning Nasheed’s actions on Wednesday.

“I am dismayed that the former President Nasheed sought refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male’ when he was summoned to the court. The court order which required the Police to arrest Nasheed and have him appear before the court was due to his refusal to attend court hearing. It had expired at 1600 hours on the 13 February 2013, and there is no reason for him to remain in the High Commission and to instigate street violence.

“The court order has nothing to do with my government. Upholding the rule of law means nobody is above the law. I would like to assure the people of Maldives that the law and order will be maintained,” the President’s statement read.


Nasheed “seeking advice” in Indian High Commission following court order for his arrest

Police have been issued a court order to produce former President Mohamed Nasheed at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court ahead of his trial, scheduled at 4:00pm today.

The former President, who is due to attend a hearing regarding his detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012, was inside the Indian High Commission at 1:00pm this afternoon following the announcement of the court order.

Police had set up barricades around the High Commission area at time of press.

Police Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef today confirmed that police had received an order to produce the former president at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

“We have received the order and we will be trying to carry it out in accordance with the Maldivian constitution and the order itself,” Haneef said.

The court summons follows Nasheed’s failure to attend his previously scheduled trial hearing at Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court on February 10.

The former President was on an official visit to India after being granted permission to depart the country by the court. Despite his permitted travel period expiring on February 9, Nasheed arrived back in Male’ on February 11.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Rasheed at 1:00pm said the former President was inside the Indian High Commission in Male’, “seeking advice” after news of the court order calling for his arrest was made public on Tuesday night.

“He went to the hospital in Male’ this morning and then returned back to his home. After a few minutes he went to the Indian High Commission with a couple of MDP MPs.

“[Nasheed’s] lawyers are not around at the moment, but from what I know they are attempting to appeal the order at the High Court,” Rasheed said.

Last night Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members camped outside the former President’s residence in order to prevent police from entering the narrow street where Nasheed lives.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed  police had intended to arrest Nasheed in secret in order to present him at his court hearing today.

“They [Police] were going to pounce on Nasheed, but we received intelligence about it and let people know what was happening,” Ghafoor said.

“This is pre-2008 procedures. At least one hundred people were outside Nasheed’s residence last night throughout the night,” Hamid told Minivan News today.

Minivan News observed crowds of supporters still filling the street this morning at around 10:30am.

LIVE UPDATES: Refresh page for latest

1:15pm: The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have issued a statement condemning the arrest warrant for Nasheed.

“The MDP reiterates its belief that the arrest warrant and the charges against him are politically motivated and calls on the international community to remain vigilant and immediately intervene to ensure a free and fair trial for President Nasheed,” the party said.

“President Nasheed’s legal team was informed by the Maldives Police Services that the court order was issued to arrest President Nasheed and summon him to the court on 13 February 2013. However, the court has not yet informed him or his legal team of the scheduled hearing.”

1:39pm: Maldives Police Service (MPS) were standing outside the Indian High Commission building in Male’.

The second hearing of the case was scheduled on 10th February 2013 while President Nasheed was on an official visit to India and was unable to return to Male’ due to a medical emergency.

The lawyers informed the court in writing as stated in the court’s regulations. According to the regulations, if the accused is unable to attend the hearing and after informing the court, documentation must be provided to the court within 2 working days.

While time frame to produce the documents has not even passed, and when the documents were being processed, the court issued an arrest warrant on President Nasheed on 11th February 2013. The courts also have an option to fine the accused (MVR 75) for failing to appear before court.

1:59pm: ‘MDP News’ Twitter feed shows woman being apprehended by police outside the High Commission building.

“This highlights, once again, how biased the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court is against President Nasheed. This illegal court has no interest in the rule of law, it exists merely to serve the political aims of its paymasters. This trial is a thinly veiled attempt by Dr Wadeed, in cahoots with his friends in the judiciary, to prevent President Nasheed from contesting in the upcoming presidential elections. The regime is fearful of President Nasheed’s popularity, so they are pulling out all the stops to prevent his name appearing on the ballot paper. These forceful measures by the Court are contrary to their usual practice,” said MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

2:43pm: Indian media ‘Times Now Live’ asks: “Will India protect Nasheed?”

3:30pm: Nasheed has tweeted confirming that he is seeking refuge in the Indian High Commission: “Mindful of my own security and stability in the Indian Ocean, I have taken refuge at the Indian High Commission in Maldives.”

Minivan News observed around 200 people gathered near the police barricades. The crowd appeared non-violent but the atmosphere was tense.

3:54pm: Indian media is reporting the Indian government as denying that Nasheed has sought refuge.

4:05pm: Minivan News has observed a police officer armed with a rubber bullet gun deployed outside the High Commission.

4:10pm: MDP MP Ghafoor has said Nasheed is discussing “a transition arrangement, where we can have a free and fair election in September.”

“We have a scenario now we can’t move ahead without a mediator. We prefer India because it is our neighbour and a democratic nation,” he said.

4:23pm: Minivan News understands that no formal request for refuge or asylum has been made at this stage.

4:26pm: An appeal hearing was cancelled after a summoning chit was not able to be delivered to Nasheed.

4:27pm: Riot police appear to have pulled a man out of the crowd and arrested him.

4:49pm: MDP MP and spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has said he was not aware how long the former president planned to remain in the Indian High Commission building.

“This is the safest place for him to be until a solution is found,” he claimed. “I would speculate that a transitional arrangement for fresh elections is being sought.”

Without providing specific examples of how Nasheed’s life was in danger, MP Ghafoor contended there had been threats against the former president going back to when he was first elected in 2008.

“Right now we have militarised Special Operations (SO) police officers running the show. I do not believe [Nasheed] is safe,” he claimed. “50,000 MDP members do not trust the police either.”

After Nasheed was previously taken into police custody ahead of a court hearing back in October 2012, the former president was not reported to have been physically mistreated by authorities during his transfer to Dhoonidhoo detention facility.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said at the time that despite allegations raised by the MDP concerning the alleged use of excessive force by police to seize the former president, authorities had insisted officers had acted with restraint.

“I’m told [Nasheed] asked for a box of cigarettes [in custody], a request that [officers] granted.  He was given Benson and Hedges as I understand,” Masood previously told Minivan News.

Ghafoor also alleged that SO officers also this week entered the home of Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid in what he claimed was an attempt to intimidate the Majlis representative.

Speaker Shahid was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

The Maldives Police Service has vehemently denied allegations it had threatened Shahid in a statement published Saturday (February 9).

5:16pm: Nasheed’s trial hearing scheduled for 4:00pm today has been cancelled after he failed to attend at the specified time.  The Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) confirmed the cancellation. It has yet to be rescheduled.

5:37pm: Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel has tweeted accusing India of meddling in Maldives’ internal affairs:

5:43pm: RaajjeTV reports that the government is to begin negotiating with the Indian High Commission.

5:53pm: President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad has said there has been no contact between the government and the Indian High Commission in Male’ today.

“All I know right know is that Mr Nasheed is in a meeting with Indian High Commissioner Dnyaneshwar M Mulay,” he said. Masood added that a message had been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirming a meeting between former President Nasheed and the high commissioner was taking place.

6:16pm: Local media has reported that the Indian naval vessel ‘Kalpei’ has arrived in the country as part of a joint operation being conducted with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

The ship is said to be taking part in a five day maritime security program that will see it help patrol the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), according to the Sun Online news service.

6:58pm: Mohamed Aslam, former Minister of Housing and Environment in Nasheed’s government, has confirmed that the opposition MDP’s National Council has today approved taking “direct action” against the government.

Aslam said the term ‘direct action’ related to a wide programme of civil disobedience, rather than one specific strategy. “The whole situation is very fluid right now. Nothing will be ruled out,” he said.

“What we are demanding is a transitional government, as well as free and fair elections that would include [former President] Nasheed.”

Aslam claimed that following a march in the capital conducted by MDP supporters on Friday (February 8), there remained widespread public support for Nasheed to contest elections scheduled for September this year.

However, he stopped short of declaring the day’s developments a “turning point” in the party’s calls for early elections. “We always hope that we have reached a turning point, whether it is today or tomorrow,” Aslam said.

7:19: WikiLeaks tweets that Nasheed has done a ‘Julian Assange’ – a reference to the whistleblowing website’s founder who sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden.

7:30pm: Official Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Muaz Ali has told Minivan News that it will not be seeking discussions with the Indian High Commission in Male’ over Nasheed’s presence on its property today.

“We have contacted the commission today. [Indian] Officials confirmed [Nasheed’s] presence and that he had come for a meeting with the high commissioner,” the spokesperson added.

Muaz said that although Nasheed had appeared to have deliberately sought to avoid his trial hearing today, the Foreign Ministry “did not think” there was a need to hold talks on the matter with Indian officials.

7:40pm: Reports on social media suggest that Nasheed’s luggage has been transferred to the Indian High Commission building in Male’. Photo by Ranreendhoo Maldives.

10:10pm: Minivan News has observed more people beginning to gather at the barricades. Crowd is chanting “money money, yes sir” and “baaghee Waheed, hang him”.

One glass bottle has been thrown over the barricade by protesters. Police look like they are preparing to charge.

10:15pm: Bottle was allegedly thrown from Majeediyya School. Police have now entered the crowd.

10:23: Minivan News observed around 700 to 800 hundred people currently at the barricades.

10:25: Former President Nasheed has called for President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik to step down from office and an interim arrangement to be established that would oversee a free and fair presidential election in the Maldives.

“The events of the past year – the mass arrests, the police brutality, the politically motivated trials – demonstrate that Dr Waheed cannot be trusted to hold a free and fair election. Waheed should do the right thing and resign from office. An interim, caretaker government should be established that can lead the Maldives to genuinely free and fair elections, in which all candidates are freely able to compete,” President Nasheed said.

President Nasheed labelled his ongoing trial “a politically motivated sham” and said the Hulhumale’ Magistrates Court – established to hear his case – was illegal and created “with the sole purpose of disqualifying me from standing in the presidential elections.”

President Nasheed said he could not hope to be afforded a fair trial and accused Waheed of “ruling down the barrel of a gun.”

President Nasheed added that “the fate of Maldivian democracy hangs in the balance” and said that “the Maldivian people must not be robbed of their democratic right to elect a leader of their choosing.”

10:42pm: Minivan News has observed around 1,500 now gathered on Sosun Magu.  MDP representatives have vowed to be there “every night” while Nasheed remains in the high commission building.

11:15pm: Several MDP MPs have pledged a first-round victory for Nasheed. Speakers addressing the crowd can be heard from the other end of Sosun Magu, however there is near silence outside the Indian High Commission on Ameer Ahmed Magu, Minivan News has witnessed.

Only the shards from two smashed bottles thrown at police earlier in evening indicate any sign of conflict, while further up Ameer Ahmed Magu, a handful of officers are stationed across the road from the high commission.

11:55pm: Minivan News has observed protesters throwing bottles at police.  Temporary barricades were also hurled at officers as protesters tried to make their way up to the People’s Majlis from Sosun Magu.

11:57pm: Protesters trying to make their way to parliament are met by police charges.

February 14, 00:01am: Protest is officially announced at an end for the night.


Court asks police to present Nasheed at rescheduled trial

Former President Mohamed Nasheed today began touring the country’s Southern Atolls less than 24 hours after boycotting a trial against him in protest at what he and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) allege is a lack of independence within the nation’s judiciary.

However the Department of Judicial Administration today confirmed that police were “to produce” Nasheed at a rescheduled hearing at 4:00pm on Sunday, October 7.

Department Director Ahmed Maajid told Minivan News that despite the order, the former president was “not to be detained”.

With the campaigning beginning today in Gaafu Alif Atoll, the MDP has claimed that uncertainty remains over whether Nasheed would be able to complete the tour without being taken into custody by authorities.

Despite the Department of Judicial Administration’s order, no official communication from authorities has so far been received by the MDP following Nasheed’s decision to boycott his trial, contravening a court order requiring him to remain in the capital.

The court hearing was to be the first in the case concerning Nasheed’s detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, while in office.

The government meanwhile has told the Agence France Presse (AFP) news service that the former president could be taken into custody should he fail to comply with a second summons for his trial over the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

“The court will issue him another summons,” President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told the AFP.  “After the second summons, if he does not comply, the standard procedure is they (the court) will instruct the police to bring him in.”

Both Masood and President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza were not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed told Minivan News that the existing protocols relating to a defendant failing to attend their trial were a matter of judicial process that were applied to any defendant, regardless of their position.

“Nasheed or anyone else is subjected to the same set of rules governing trials when they face criminal charges,” he claimed. “The state would not commit any act which would amount to contempt of court whenever it is asked to assist in bringing a suspect to court who wilfully avoids an appearance or absconds a trial.”

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz was also not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.

MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, who is travelling with Nasheed as part of the party’s 14 day tour, said that no official correspondence had been received from authorities at present concerning Nasheed’s decision not to attend yesterday’s trial.

“[The authorities] have done everything they can to try and stop this tour, though we have just arrived and the party is in good spirits,” he said.

When questioned if the MDP was confident Nasheed would be able to complete the tour following his decision to defy court rulings against him, Ghafoor said it remained too early to tell at present.

“Obviously we hope he will be able to complete the tour, but they might come and get him at some point. We will have to wait and see,” he said. “We have just arrived at our first destination on Kolamaafushi, the island is very yellow (the official colour of the MDP), it is quite a thing to see.”

Another source travelling with Nasheed as part of the tour, who asked not to be identified, told Minivan News that there had been no communications so far between the former president’s representatives, the government or the courts.

The source claimed that from their own understanding, Nasheed was being treated under standard protocols employed against any Maldivian national failing to attend a criminal trial, with a second summons expected to be issued by the courts at a later date.  A failure to comply with this second order would likely see police ordered to bring the former president to court, they added.

Boycott decision

Nasheed’s departure to participate in his party’s ‘Vaudhuge Dhathuru’ (Journey of Pledges) campaign in the country’s southern atolls reflected a wider MDP decision to no longer follow any orders given by the courts of the Maldives until changes proposed by international entities were brought to the Maldivian judicial system.

Nasheed’s controversial decision to detain Judge Abdulla in January 2012 followed the judge’s repeated release of former Justice Minister – and current Home Minister – Dr Mohamed Jameel, in December 2011, whom the government had accused of inciting religious hatred over the publication of his party’s pamphlet, ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’.

The former government government further accused the judge of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, having links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” so as to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases, among other allegations.

Nasheed justified the judge’s arrest based on his constitutional mandate to protect the constitution. Judge Abdulla had in September 2011 received an injunction from the Civil Court preventing his investigation by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the watchdog tasked with overseeing the judiciary, which complied with the ruling.

Former President’s Member on the JSC, Aishath Velezinee, has written a book extensively documenting the watchdog body’s undermining of judicial independence, and complicity in sabotaging the separation of powers.

Over 80 pages, backed up with documents, evidence and letters, The Failed Silent Coup: in Defeat They Reached for the Gun recounts the experience of the outspoken whistleblower as she attempted to stop the commission from re-appointing unqualified and ethically-suspect judges loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, after it dismissed the professional and ethical standards demanded by Article 285 of the constitution as “symbolic”.


Criminal Court orders police to summon former Atolls Minister Abdulla Hameed

The Criminal Court has asked police to summon former Atolls Minister Abdulla Hameed to the Maldives under police custody to face corruption charges.

A court order issued last night requested police to summon 19 defendants whose cases have been stalled because they were out of the country.

Abdulla Hameed, brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and long-serving Speaker of Parliament, reportedly resides in Sri Lanka. In 2009, the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) pressed charges against Hameed for abuse of authority for financial gain to a third party.

A press statement by the Criminal Court noted that the order was made for the second time while a meeting was held with police on June 1, 2011 to discuss defendants at large.

The Criminal Court asked police to find Hameed in April 2011 and present him before the court after several hearings of the corruption case had to be cancelled.

Police said at the time that the Immigration Department had been instructed to hold Hameed’s passport should he ever return to the Maldives.

Police spokesperson Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam explained that when the court first requested police to summon Hameed in late 2009 he was not in the Maldives.

“But the court have not yet issued an arrest warrant or requested his arrest via Interpol,” Shiyam said in April. “His whereabouts remain unknown.”

In August 2009, police concluded an investigation into alleged corruption at the Atolls Ministry flagged in an audit report released earlier that year.

At a press conference on August 8, 2009, Chief Inspector Ismail Atheef exhibited numerous quotations, agreements, tender documents, receipts, forged bank statements and cheques implicating Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim, Eydhafushi MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem and Hameed  in a scam to defraud the ministry through fraudulent transactions.

Police investigations focused on three main points in the ministry’s audit report for 2007 and 2008: the purchase of mosque sound systems for over US$138,000; the purchase of 15,000 national flags for over US$110,000; and the purchase of 220 harbour lights at a cost of over US$151,000 from businesses with close ties to Nazim.

According to Atheef, Eydhafushi MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem, who was director of finance at the ministry, actively assisted the scam.

Atheef added that Mohamed Ali, an employee of Namira Engineering, and Abdulla Nashid, Nazim’s brother, further produced and signed bid documents.

Police said Hameed played a key role in the fraud by handing out bids without public announcements, making advance payments using cheques against the state asset and finance regulations, approving bid documents for unregistered companies and discriminatory treatment of bid applicants.

“In these cases, money laundering was involved,” Atheef said at the time. “I wouldn’t say money from these transactions was directly deposited to the accounts of Abdulla Hameed or Ahmed Saleem.

“Transactions take a long period. For example, I deposited five rufiyaa to an account, and from that account withdrew four rufiyaa as cash. Then deposit four rufiyaa to another account, by single denominations. A person who is looking at it from a distance would find it hard to trace.”

Conspiracy to defraud

Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim appeared in court last month to answer multiple counts of conspiracy to defraud the former Atolls Ministry. However the Criminal Court barred journalists from observing the trial.

Local daily Haveeru reported today that summons to the next trial date on September 29 was delivered to Nazim last night. The court had reportedly failed to hand over the chit to the People’s Alliance (PA) MP on eight occasions.

In November 2010, following the PGO’s decision to press charges, Hameed’s son and lawyer, Shaheen Hameed, issued a press statement arguing that the case was “politically motivated”.

Shaheen accused the PGO of double standards claiming that “people who confessed to the crime and gave statements to police regarding this case have not been prosecuted to date.”

In an earlier statement put out in October, Shaheen Hameed said his father was “ready to fully answer the charges made against him at trial.”

The prominent lawyer argued in the statement that there was no impediment from carrying out the trial in Hameed’s absence as his legal team was “ready to defend him.”

He added that both the police and PGO denied “repeated requests” for government documents related to the case, which were needed to prepare a defence.