Maldivian charged with murder of undocumented Bangladeshi worker

The Prosecutor General (PG) office has filed murder charges against a Maldivian man of accused of killing a Bangladeshi expatriate on the island of Gan in Laamu atoll last month.

The PG office filed the case at the criminal court yesterday, but has not revealed the identity of the accused.

The undocumented worker, known locally as Bassan, was discovered dead with severe head injuries at an uninhabited house on June 11.

The caretaker of the house who discovered the body said Bassan had told him that the owner of the house had given him permission to sleep on the veranda. But the owner, Thoha Waheed, denied that Bassan had asked for permission.

The right side of Bassan’s face was smashed in and blood was splattered over the wall. Bassan’s murder is the third killing of a migrant worker this year.

The police had arrested a Maldivian man and a woman in connection to the murder. But the PG office has not pressed charges against the female suspect.

Speaking to Minivan News, Jasim Uddin from the welfare department of the Bangladeshi High Commission condemned the brutal killing and called on the Maldivian government to provide justice for the family of Bassan.

Jasim also raised concern over the burial of Bassam’s body in Laamu Gan even after repeated pleas to bring the body to the capital.

“The police said the body was decaying and they need to bury it. We told them to bring the body to Malé City as a decision has to be made whether the body was will be sent to Bangladesh or not. But they buried him anyway,” he said.

Some 124,000 expatriates reside in the Maldives, according to the immigration department, of which more than 30,000 are undocumented migrant workers.

The former Bangladeshi High Commissioner for Maldives Selina Mohsin has described the situation of Bangladeshi workers in the country as “bizarre and horrifying.”

In 2014, the police rescued a Bangladeshi held captive in an accommodation block for migrant workers.

In April this year, two migrant workers were kidnapped, robbed and beaten in a recruitment and employment agency in Malé.

A Bangladeshi worker was discovered in chains in 2009.


Trial begins for eight suspects accused of assaulting police officer

The trial of eight suspects accused of assaulting a police officer during a mass anti-government protest on May 1 began today.

Scores of protesters and some police officers were injured during violent clashes on the night of May 1. Video footage shows protesters tripping and kicking a Specialist Operations (SO) officer and one man hitting the policeman over the head with his baton.

The seven male suspects and one female suspect were charged with assault. At the first hearing of the trial at the criminal court today, the presiding judge reportedly gave the defendants three days to appoint lawyers.

Sergeant Abdul Rahman Hussain had been flown to Sri Lanka for medical treatment after the assault while the police publicised video footage of the incident and appealed for public assistance in locating suspects.

The police forwarded cases against 15 suspects for prosecution in late May.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had meanwhile accused police of torturing and threatening to kill three suspects arrested for assaulting the police officer.


Family requests Nazim’s transfer from jail to house arrest

The family of former defense minister Mohamed Nazim has requested his transfer from prison to house arrest with an appeal filed over the 11-year-jail term on weapons smuggling charges stalled indefinitely at the High Court.

Nazim’s brother, Adam Azim, said the family has written to home minister requesting the transfer. The appeal was stalled after the Supreme Court suddenly transferred two judges on the five-judge-panel to a newly created appellate branch in the south.

Nazim maintains he was framed by rogue police officers who planted the pistol and three bullets in his apartment during a midnight raid.

The trial was criticized for apparent lack of due process. Appeal hearings were set to conclude within a week in late-June. The transfer of judges was made in the middle of the appeal on June 23.

Nazim’s trial coincided with the terrorism trial of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The opposition leader was sentenced to 13 years in jail over the military detention of a judge during his tenure. The pair’s imprisonment sparked a political crisis with daily protests.

With mounting diplomatic pressure, Nasheed was transferred to house arrest. Talks have now commenced between the government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The MDP has requested Nazim be transferred to house arrest to allow political reconciliation. The largest opposition party has also requested the government withdraw terrorism charges against the Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla.

Imran was charged with inciting violence at a historic anti-government protest on May 1. The Adhaalath Party allied with the MDP in March after President Abdulla Yameen told Imran he had no power to release Nazim.

Home minister Umar Naseer told the press on Sunday that the government is open to exploring avenues to release jailed politicians and withdrawing charges. The government will present a paper at a third meeting on Wednesday night.

While there has been progress on government’s talks with the MDP and the Jumhooree Party, talks with the Adhaalath Party has been stalled, with the party insisting Imran should represent it at talks.

Ibrahim Muaz, the president’s office spokesperson, said the Adhaalath Party cannot present demands before sitting for talks. “There cannot be demands to start the discussions. Decisions can only made after discussing at the table.”


Ex defence minister’s appeal underway

The High Court today began hearings into an appeal filed by ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim over a 11-year-jail term on weapons smuggling charges.

Nazim, who maintains he was framed by rogue police officers, highlighted several lapses in due process, including the criminal court’s refusal to call defence witnesses, discrepancies in testimony by anonymous police officers, and the police’s alleged failure to follow the law and standard procedures in the midnight raid on Nazim’s apartment.

The retired colonel was charged with smuggling weapons after masked police officers said they had discovered a pistol, three bullets, and a pen drive with documents detailing a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen, inside a bedside drawer in Nazim’s apartment on January 18.

The rushed trial has been widely criticised for apparent lack of due process.

Five high court judges are presiding over Nazim’s appeal.

Presiding Judge Abdul Ganee Mohamed said hearings will be held daily, as agreed by Nazim’s lawyers and the Prosecutor General’s Office. Hearings are expected to conclude within the week and a verdict is expected soon.

Nazim was sentenced to jail on March 27.

He claims a team of Specialist Operations (SO) police officers had planted the weapons at his apartment on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Adeeb and Nazim had fallen out over the tourism minister’s alleged use of police officers to commit criminal activities including the cutting down of all of Malé City’s Areca palms in October last year, Nazim has alleged.

Adeeb has denied Nazim’s claims.

At today’s hearing, Nazim’s lawyers said the criminal court issued search warrant was invalid as police officers had provided false information to obtain it.

The court warrant was issued based on information provided by a senior officer and  not based on intelligence reports, lawyers said.

While some police officers had said they did not know which floor they were to search for the weapons, another officer had testified in court that they were only instructed to search the eight floor of the apartment building, lawyers said.

The court warrant had authorized a search of the entire building. The discrepancies in police testimony on the floor to be searched showed they had lied to obtain the warrant and also demonstrated that the police were aware they would be searching the ex-defence minister’s apartment, lawyers said.


Nazim’s lawyers also said that criminal court judges prevented them from questioning the validity of the court warrant.

Police officers did not follow standard procedures during the raid on the apartment, lawyers said. A copy of the warrant was not provided to Nazim, and officers spent time unsupervised in Nazim’s bedroom before the search, they said.

Charges against Afaaf Abdul Majeed were dropped at the first hearing, claiming evidence from the pen drive indicated she had no connection to the weapons.

Lawyers argued charges should have been dropped against Nazim, too, claiming a police officer, who had conducted the analysis of the documents found in the pen drive, had said there was no evidence to suggest the weapons belonged to Nazim. The media was barred from the hearing in which the data analysis expert had testified.

Lawyers said they were blocked from mounting a defence because judges refused to call defence witnesses and because several key police witnesses were anonymous.

Noting discrepancies in testimony provided by police officers, Nazim’s lawyers accused them of lying under oath. Lawyers also accused public prosecutors of coaching witnesses, as they had admitted to meeting with witnesses before they appeared in court.

The criminal court prevented the ex-defence minister from making an independent analysis of the weapons and from collecting defence statements.

Public prosecutors will respond to Nazim’s appeal tomorrow.

Judges Abdul Ganee, Abdulla Hameed, Shuaib Hussain Zakariyya, Abbas Shareef and Abdul Rauf Ibrahim are overseeing Nazim’s appeal.

Two judges who oversaw Nazim’s trial, Abdulla Didi and Sujau Usman, were promoted to the High Court on June 8.

Nazim’s trial also coincided with a terrorism trial against ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The opposition leader was sentenced to 13 years in jail on March 13.

He was tried by the three judges who oversaw Nazim’s trial.

The pair’s imprisonment has triggered a political crisis with daily protests from February through May, two mass demonstrations and hundreds of arrests.

Foreign governments, international organizations including the UN, and civil society groups have criticised the trials for apparent lack of due process. President Yameen, however, insists he has no constitutional authority to release the pair and says they must exhaust all appeal processes.

Nasheed’s lawyers were blocked from filing an appeal when the criminal court failed to issue the required case documents within a shortened 10-day appeal period.

The former president was temporarily transferred to house arrest today.


Major criminal cases stalled over failure to summon witnesses

Prosecution in a major drug bust and a murder case was stalled this month because of the state’s failure to summon witnesses.

The criminal court on Monday cancelled a hearing in the trial of two Maldivians arrested in a 24kg heroin bust after witnesses could not be summoned.

On May 26, the court cancelled hearings into the murder of 25-year-old Ahmed Mirza. Chief judge Abdulla Mohamed said the court had issued three warrants to summon a key witness, but police were unable to do so. The judge said the trial could not proceed without the testimony.

Mirza was assaulted with iron rods in April 2011 and died of severe head injuries. The four suspects arrested in the case have been held in police custody since 2011.

Over 30 people have died in the Maldives in the past seven years from violent crimes and gang-related assaults.

The witness in Mirza’s case was brought to court earlier this month.

Some 18 suspects were meanwhile arrested in the drug haul in February 2014, including 11 Pakistanis, and three Bangladeshis, but the prosecutor general’s (PG) office decided to press charges against only two suspects.

The foreigners were all released by the criminal court or deported.

The police said at the time that the 24kg of heroin was “the largest amount of drugs seized in a police operation conducted in the Maldives so far.” The estimated street value of the drugs was US$6.5 million.

Witness protection

The PG office has blamed the witnesses’ reluctance to testify on the state’s failure to protect witnesses.

“In most cases the witnesses are reluctant to give statements because they are so easily identified. And the state is incapable to provide witness protection,” public prosecutor Hisham Wajeeh said.

Hisham said witnesses could also be identified from their testimony.

“It is especially difficult to hide the witnesses because they can be so easily identified from how they give statements in court. For example, a witness may be identified from the angle he saw the murder,” he said.

But the most troubling issue is when the names of witnesses are leaked, he added.

“We guarantee that witnesses will not be identified from us. But it happens. There has to be people responsible for that and it is a big setback for the system,” Hisham said.

The police meanwhile said witnesses are brought to court in accordance with procedure.

“We cannot comment on any specific issues because it involves witnesses,” a police spokesperson said.

In 2011, the criminal court questioned then-public prosecutor Mahaz Ali, now a drug court judge, over the leak of a confidential testimony statement.

Mahaz told the court he saw the statement in the defence lawyer’s possession, and that the document bore the criminal court’s seal.

The case related to four men accused of possessing dangerous weapons.

Flaws in the criminal justice system have been blamed for the lack of convictions for murder. In most cases, suspects were convicted of murder based on confessions.

In some cases, judges are also changed halfway through the trial.

On June 4, the murder case of 16-year-old Mohamed Arham was transferred from judge Muhthaz Fahmy to judge Abdulla Didi.

Arham was stabbed to death in May 2012. The case had nearly reached completion when the judge was changed.

Judge Didi subsequently released one of the four defendants from police custody.

Arham, a grade nine student at the Dharumavantha School, was found dead in the Lorenzo park in Malé on May 30, 2012. He died of multiple stab wounds to the neck, back, and chest.

The trial began in November 2012.

Judge Didi was among the three-judge panel that sentenced former President Mohamed Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim to 13 years and 11 years in jail, respectively, following rushed trials widely criticised over apparent lack of due process.

Earlier this month, the criminal court threatened to throw out the case of a man accused of stabbing an individual after the state failed to appoint a lawyer. He was arrested in November 2013.

Meanwhile, the chief suspect in the murder of Mariyam Sheereen in January 2010 was found not guilty in May.

Almost five years after the murder trial began, chief judge Abdulla Mohamed said in the verdict that the state had failed to submit conclusive evidence.


Two judges in ex-president’s terrorism trial appointed to high court

Two criminal court judges who sentenced ex-president Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in jail in a widely criticised trial have been appointed to the High Court today.

Judges Abdulla Didi and Sujau Usman took the oath of office at a surprise ceremony at the Supreme Court this morning.

Two seats on the nine-member bench have been vacant since the high court’s chief judge was demoted to the juvenile court in August, and another judge retired in February this year.

The appointment of new judges was stalled when the high court in October last year said the evaluation criteria was flawed.

But the Supreme Court on May 28 overturned the ruling, paving the way for Didi and Usman’s appointment.

The third judge in Nasheed’s terrorism trial was Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf. He was awarded a discounted flat in a newly built luxury apartment complex in Malé.

The former chief judge Ahmed Shareef was suspended in 2013, shortly after the high court suspended court proceedings against Nasheed on charges of arbitrarily detaining a judge during his tenure. The high court was reviewing the composition of the bench overseeing the trial.

The Prosecutor General’s Office in February withdrew the lesser charges of arbitrary detention and filed new terrorism charges against Nasheed at the criminal court.

Evaluation criteria

The high court, in an October 2014 ruling, ruled that the criteria on evaluating a candidate’s educational qualification and experience was flawed and ordered the Judicial Services Commission to amend the criteria.

The 100-point mark sheet awarded 35 points for education, 30 points for experience, 10 points for ethical conduct and 25 points for an interview.

All candidates were to be put to a secret vote in the order of the candidates who received the highest points. The first candidates who received a majority in the vote would be appointed.

In evaluating the educational qualifications, a candidate with a degree in Islamic Shariah or a degree in common law would receive 20 points. But a candidate with a combined degree in Islamic Shariah and common law would receive 25 points.

Candidates with a masters or a doctoral degree would receive an additional five points each.

The criteria appeared to grade candidates on the title of their degrees, the high court said. For example, an individual who had a degree in common law may have done the same number of modules on Islamic Shariah as a candidate who had a combined degree in Islamic Shariah and common law.

The high court noted an individual who had done a degree in common law or Islamic Shariah, and held a masters, would receive 25 points, the same as an individual who had just done a degree in Islamic Shariah and common law.

The evaluation criteria for qualification awarded 30 points for ten years of experience as a judge, meaning it did not differentiate between candidates who had served as a judge for ten years or 20 years.

The appellate court said judges must be awarded points proportionate to the number of years they had served as judges.

The high court also ruled that the JSC cannot hold a secret vote to select candidates arguing the procedure was not transparent.

The Supreme Court, however, dismissed the high court’s ruling

Flawed trial

Foreign governments and international bodies have expressed concern over Nasheed’s 19-day trial, noting he was not given adequate time to prepare defense, barred from calling defense witnesses, and at times, denied legal representation.

The UN special rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul said: “The speed of the proceedings combined with the lack of fairness in the procedures lead me to believe the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”

Amnesty International said Nasheed’s sentencing “after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.”

The three judges who oversaw Nasheed’s trial also sentenced ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim to 11 years in jail in a weapons smuggling charge.

The retired colonel said the weapons were planted at his home by rogue police officers on the orders of Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Adeeb has denied the allegations.

Despite growing calls for Nasheed and Nazim’s release, President Abdulla Yameen said he has no constitutional authority to release the pair.

Nazim’s appeal at the high court is scheduled to begin on June 21.

Nasheed was unable to file an appeal after the criminal court delayed releasing required case documents within the shortened ten-day appeal period.

The government insists Nasheed can still file an appeal, but his lawyers say the law is silent on late appeals.

They argue that the Supreme Court in January has removed the high court’s discretionary powers to accept late appeals in the ruling that had shortened the 90-day appeal period to ten days.

Photo by Raajje TV


Criminal court releases murder suspect

The criminal court has released a defendant on trial for the murder of 16-year-old Mohamed Arham in May 2012 from police custody.

According to local media, the case was transferred from judge Muhthaz Fahmy to judge Abdulla Didi last week.

Judge Didi reportedly ordered the release of Athif Rasheed, from Maafanu Scenery View in Malé, after a hearing of the murder trial today.

Arham, a grade nine student at the Dharumavantha School, was found dead in the Lorenzo park in Malé on May 30, 2012. He died of multiple stab wounds to the neck, back, and chest.

Rasheed was charged with murder along with three other suspects and had been kept in pre-trial detention since his arrest. The trial began in November 2012.


Terrorism trials for Adhaalath, Jumhooree Party leaders set to begin

The terrorism trials of opposition Adhaalath Party and Jumhoory Party (JP) leaders are set to begin at the Criminal Court tonight.

Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla’s trial is set for 8:00pm, while trials for JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed have been set for 8:30 pm and 9:00pm, respectively.

The three are charged with inciting violence at a mass antigovernment protest on May 1. If convicted, they face between 10 and 15 years in jail.

At tonight’s hearings, state prosecutors will read out charges against the three and judges are expected to give them a three-day period to appoint lawyers.

Imran is in police custody at present. He was arrested from his home at 11:00pm last night on a criminal court warrant.

“The warrant stated Imran should be brought to court tonight under police guard,” a police spokesperson said.

A warrant is usually issued only if the accused repeatedly fails to attend court, or if the accused may abscond or flee from trial. The Adhaalath Party said Imran only found out about the hearing at the time of his arrest.

It is not yet clear if a warrant has been issued for Ameen and Sobah’s arrest. The police declined to comment on the issue. The criminal court was not responding to calls at the time of going to press.

Minivan News understands Imran, Ameen and Sobah are charged under Article 2 (f) of the 1990 Anti –Terrorism Act that states inciting fear and issuing threats to harm individuals or damage property is an act of terrorism.

Imran and Ameen were arrested after the May Day protest and accused of encouraging violence in their speeches, which police contends led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

Sobah Rasheed was arrested from an opposition street protest on May 3.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed was also arrested on May 1, but the PG office has reportedly not made a decision on prosecuting the former MP.

The police had also accused the opposition leaders of threatening President Abdulla Yameen and other senior government officials.

The terrorism charges follow the president’s invitation for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties. Imran, Ameen, and Ali Waheed are among the representatives of their respective parties.

Following his release last week after 26 days under police custody, Imran denied the allegations.

More than 20,000 people took to the street on May 1 calling for the release of imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, whose arrests sparked the ongoing political crisis.

The May Day demonstration was the largest anti-government protest in Maldivian history. Some 193 were arrested and scores were injured.

Nasheed was charged with terrorism over the detention of a judge during his tenure and sentenced to 13 years in prison in March.

Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail on weapons smuggling charges. The retired colonel maintains the weapons were planted at his home by rogue police officers.

Foreign governments and international bodies including the UN criticized Nasheed and Nazim’s rushed trials for apparent lack of due process. The parliament of the European Union has called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

The opposition alliance has meanwhile called for a mass protest on June 12.

The terrorism charges against Sheikh Imran also comes after President Yameen threatened to prosecute the religious conservative party’s leader over allegations linking the president to the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.


Man caught with 13 bullets of drugs in anal cavity

A 19-year-old man was arrested at the airport with 13 bullets of drugs concealed in his anal cavity.

The police stopped him at the Ibrahim Nasir International Aiprort (INIA) on an intelligence tip-off. The bullets were noticed after doing an x-ray. The man has been remanded for 15 days.

Meanwhile, the criminal court has today sentenced a 27-year-old man to ten years in prison for drug trafficking. Hussein Nahulaan Abdul Gayoom was caught with 0.5grams of illegal drugs in June 2014.

He was also handed a MVR50,000 (US$3,225) fine.