Court releases Sheikh Imran with travel ban

The criminal court has released Adhaalath Party (AP) president Sheikh Imran Abdulla from police custody with a ban on traveling overseas for one-month.

Imran was arrested from the mass anti-government protest on May 1 and accused of encouraging violence.

The criminal court had extended Imran’s remand detention twice, but ordered his release today with the last 10-day period due to expire tonight.

Speaking to the press upon his release from police custody, Imran said the May Day protest was a success because it had “forced” President Abdulla Yameen to initiate talks with the opposition.

“It was really because of the people who went to jail with us that we have achieved one of our main demands. The government was forced to come to the discussion table with political parties because of the large number of people who were there for the May 1 protest,” Imran said.

If the government is sincere, the allied opposition parties are ready to engage in dialogue to resolve the political crisis, he said.

Imran denied allegations inciting violence during his speeches on May 1, which police contend led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

“I have never encouraged anyone to create unrest, fear, harm anyone, at any time,” he said.

The police have forwarded cases against Imran, along with main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party chairperson Ali Waheed and Jumhooree Party deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim, for prosecution on charges of threatening and inciting violence.

Prior to Imran’s release, the president’s office reportedly rejected Imran as a representative of the AP for official talks with the government saying he was under police custody.

The president’s office’s spokesperson, Ibrahim Muaz, told Minivan News that the government will accept all representatives proposed by the allied opposition parties if there were no “legal, medical, physical, or administrative obstacles.”

Muaz declined to comment on whether the government would accept Imran as a representative for the talks following his release.

Remand appeal

Hours before Imran’s release, the high court overturned the criminal court’s May 17 ruling to keep Imran in police custody for 10 days.

The appellate court transferred Imran to house-arrest.

In a ruling this afternoon, judges noted that Imran has diabetes and that tests conducted following his arrest showed high levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, and urine acidity.

A doctor had also recommended that Imran should not sleep on hard surfaces due to a spinal injury.

Imran’s lawyer, Ali Zahir, told local media that criminal court judge Ali Sameer had considered the high court ruling before releasing the AP leader.

The police had submitted a letter from the prosecutor general’s office to the court stating that Imran should be held in pre-trial detention, Zahir said.

Zahir said the PG office’s letter stated that the investigation had identified reasons for prosecution.

The police had already concluded its investigation and forwarded charges to the PG office.

Opposition alliance

After forming an alliance in March with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, senior members of the Jumhooree Party, and members of imprisoned ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s family, Imran had been at the forefront of ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ campaign.

The May Day rally – the largest protest in over a decade – was the second mass protest staged by the opposition calling for the release of former President Nasheed and Nazim.

Nearly 200 people were arrested from the May Day demonstration following a police crackdown after protesters attempted to enter the restricted Republic Square at dusk.

Two weeks after the historic protest, President Abdulla Yameen extended official invitations for separate talks with the allied opposition parties.

While the JP promptly accepted the invitation, the AP proposed Imran among its representatives and the MDP proposed imprisoned ex-President Nasheed.

The government has also rejected Nasheed as the MDP’s representative for the talks as the opposition leader is serving a 13-year jail term and ruled out negotiations for the release of Nasheed and Nazim.

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


Mother charged with murder over death of toddler

A mother has been charged with killing her three-year-old son on the island of Rakeedhoo in Vaavu atoll in January.

The prosecutor general’s office told local media that the case against Fathmath Afiya was filed at the criminal court today.

The body of three-year-old Mohamed Ibthihaal was found with signs of severe abuse on January 28 in the worst case of child abuse in recent years. The murder shocked the nation while reports that officials had been aware of Ibthihaal’s abuse sparked public outrage.

Afiya was arrested two days later and has since been held in pre-trial detention. Her stepfather, Ismail Raoof, was arrested on April 1 on suspicion of physically and sexually abusing Ibthihaal.

The PG office also pressed disobedience to order charges against Afiya over child neglect.


High Court upholds detention of MDP chairperson, Adhaalath Party leader

The High Court has upheld the criminal court’s order to hold Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party chairperson Ali Waheed in remand detention for 15 days.

However, the appellate court has released Jumhooree Party deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim from police custody, overturning the criminal court’s 15-day remand order.

The three leaders of the allied opposition parties were arrested from their homes with court warrants on the night of May 1. All three subsequently filed appeals at the high court challenging the legality of the criminal court’s remand detention orders.

The arrests followed a crackdown on the May Day anti-government demonstration. Nearly 200 people were arrested after protesters clashed with riot police.

The opposition leaders were accused of inciting violence against the government and threatening police in their speeches on May 1, which police contend led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

The High Court noted in the verdict in Ameen’s case that according to police an intelligence report and an audio recording of Ameen’s speech as evidence to the criminal court.

The criminal court judge accepted the report but did not accept the CD with the recording. Police had said at the appeal hearing that the report did not have a verbatim transcript of Ameen’s speech.

The criminal court judge had not determined whether Ameen had incited violence and encourage criminal offences before deciding that he posed a danger to society, the three-judge panel of the High Court ruled unanimously.

In Ali Waheed and Imran’s cases, the High Court ruled that the criminal court order was lawful. The judges dismissed procedural issues raised in the appeal and noted that police do not have to submit enough evidence to prove guilt to be granted a request for extension of detention.

However, in Ali Waheed’s case, judge Ezmirelda Zahir issued a dissenting opinion, while judges Ali Sameer and Abdulla Hameed issued the majority opinion to uphold the lower court order.

Waheed saying that protesters must go home after freeing imprisoned ex-president Mohamed Nasheed was not sufficient to determine that he threatened police or posed a danger to society, Zahir noted in her dissenting ruling.

All three were members of the opposition ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ alliance’s steering committee, which organised the protest.

Journalists were not allowed to observe the appeal hearings under a new rule that bars media from appeals of detention orders.

The criminal court has meanwhile issued an arrest warrant for JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, who is currently out of the country. The business tycoon is accused of funding the May Day demonstration.


Suspect accused of stuffing murdered girlfriend into suitcase acquitted

The criminal court has acquitted the chief suspect in the murder of Mariyam Sheereen in January 2010, citing insufficient evidence.

Mohamed Najah was accused of killing his girlfriend, stuffing her body into a suitcase, and dumping it at a construction site in Malé.

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

The three doctors who examined Sheereen’s body had not been able to determine the cause of death, he noted, and said there was no written evidence of the doctors’ suggestion to conduct a postmortem.

None of the prosecution’s witnesses had testified to Najah committing any act to murder Sheereen, the verdict stated.

The 30-year-old woman’s body was found hidden under a pile of sandbags in a construction site on January 3, 2010 by a Bangladeshi worker.

Police said the body was found 36 hours after her death. Najah was accused of taking the suitcase to the vacant building in a taxi.

The driver of the taxi that Najah took also testified at the trial.

Police showed CCTV footage from January 2 of Najah dragging the suitcase and testified that DNA samples from the bag matched Sheereen’s.

The couple were living together in an apartment in Maafanu Kurahaage.

Witnesses also testified to hearing Najah threatening to kill Sheereen and told the court that she was last seen entering the apartment on the night she went missing.

Prosecutors told the court that Najah had come out several times, locking the door each time, and was later seen leaving with a suitcase.

Judge Abdulla said that the taxi driver had only said that he transported Najah with a heavy suitcase and that he smelled a foul scent only after Najah had left the cab.

The chief judge has been accused by the opposition of corruption and bribery. Former president Mohamed Nasheed – who was found guilty of terrorism charges over the military’s detention of judge Abdulla in January 2012 – had said the judge was suspected of involvement in a “contract killing.”

If he had been found guilty, Najah would have faced the death penalty.

Sheereen’s heirs had told the court that they no objection to Najah’s execution if he was found guilty.

Najah has been previously sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on drug abuse charges in January 2009.


116 May Day detainees released, 129 facing charges

Some 116 people out of a 193 arrested from an antigovernment protest on May 1 have now been released, but the police is seeking charges against some 129 individuals.

The Prosecutor General (PG) office says it is researching the police’s claims, and will decide on prosecution shortly. Protesters face charges of disobedience to order and obstruction of police duty, offences that carry a MVR 3000 fine or six-month jail term.

Approximately 20,000 protesters took to the streets on May 1, demanding the release of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim. But violent clashes erupted when protesters attempted to enter Malé’s main Republic square at dusk.

Police used tear gas, pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse protesters. Two police officers were also beaten by protesters resulting in indiscriminate arrests.

Meanwhile, police arrested two men, including Jumhooree Party council member Ali Hameed, from a street protest last night. The two were released within a few hours.

Police say the opposition’s protests must not disrupt public order, and have said the opposition must seek prior permission before organizing demonstrations, despite the constitution saying no prior notice is needed.

May Day arrests

Opposition leaders – Adhaalath party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed and Jumhooree Party deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim – were also arrested on May Day.

The arrests are the largest from a single protest in a decade. MDP lawyers say detainees were kept in packed cells and were denied medical treatment. Lawyers also said three men arrested on suspicion of beating a police officer were brutalized.

The criminal court granted a blanket 15-day remand for 173 of the 193 arrested. Some 20 women were released after police failed to present them at court within the required 24 hours. Opposition leaders were also remanded for 15 days.

Lawyers have lodged complaints with the high court over the criminal court’s decision to remand all 173 protesters. Appeal hearings over the remand of Imran, Waheed and Ameen have concluded. But the high court has not specified when a verdict will be issued.

Meanwhile, a ninth suspect in the beating of the police officer handed himself in last night. All nine have been remanded for 15 days.


Cameraman ‘forced’ to erase footage of PG meeting judge

A cameraman of the opposition aligned Raajje TV was forced to erase footage of a meeting between prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin and criminal court judge Abdul Bari Yousuf at a café, the broadcasting commission has found.

The PG allegedly met Bari at the Café Layaali in Malé on March 8 while the latter was presiding over former president Mohamed Nasheed’s terrorism trial.

The pair have denied the meeting took place, and Muhsin has previously said he would resign immediately if the allegations are proven to be true.

Following an inquiry, the commission determined on Monday that the Raajje TV journalists “faced reasons forcing them to delete the footage.”

“As the commission saw that this was a situation that obstructed press freedom, the members who participated in the meeting to conclude this case decided unanimously to appeal to all parties to ensure that broadcasters and the media as a whole do not face such compulsion in order to maintain an environment where journalists can fully exercise the right guaranteed by the constitution and laws without fear,” reads the summary statement of the report prepared the commission.

The commission also investigated a complaint alleging that Raajje TV disseminated false information as PG Muhsin denied meeting the judge. The commission decided that the station did not violate the broadcasting code of content as it had sought comment from both Muhsin and Bari.

The meeting took place days before a three-judge panel sentenced ex-president Nasheed to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges. Judge Bari also presided over ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s trial on weapons smuggling charges.

After Raajje TV reported the alleged meeting, the criminal court barred the station’s reporters from attending hearings. The court accused Raajje TV of “spreading lies about judges, meddling in judges personal affairs and engaging in actions that may harm judges.”

Muhsin meanwhile told Minivan News at the time that the judge was already at the café when he went there for a meal with family members.

However, Raajje TV insisted the pair were sitting at the same table and that Muhsin had walked away when the journalist started asking questions.

At the time, a Raajje TV staff told Minivan News that a group of young men led by Progressive Party of the Maldives MP Ahmed Assad forced the cameramen to delete the footage.

In 2013, the watchdog Judicial Service Commission suspended Judge Bari for over a year pending the outcome of a complaint lodged against him for alleged misconduct.

Although the commission did not reveal any details of the complaint, local media reported that a female attorney from the Prosecutor General’s Office had alleged that Bari had sexually assaulted her.

Bari was cleared of the allegations and resumed duty at Criminal Court on July 24, 2014.


Suspect acquitted in murder of 75-year-old woman

The criminal court on Wednesday acquitted a suspect charged in connection with the murder of a 75-year-old woman on the island of Neykurendhoo in Haa Dhaal atoll.

Ali Shaheem from Kaafu Guraidhoo was accused of suffocating Fathmath Zakariyya to death with a towel on April 15, 2012.

The court said the prosecution was unable to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

However, Shaheem had confessed to the murder during the police interrogation. While state prosecutors submitted a video of the confession, the court said a forensic reports relating to the videos were not submitted.

The judge also said the prosecution did not submit a doctor’s report that ruled out natural causes.

However, Shameem was found guilty of stealing the deceased’s phone. He was also accused of stealing her jewellery.

While an expatriate state witness had testified that Shaheem sold him the jewellery, the court said the sate was unable to prove that the jewellery was stolen from Fathmath.

The phone was meanwhile in Shaheem’s possession when he was taken to the Kulhudhufushi police station and its serial number matched the phone used by the deceased.

The court said Shaheem was unable to prove his assertion that he had bought the phone.

The trial on the charges of murder and theft were conducted without a lawyer as Shaheem had declined legal representation.


Two men sentenced to life imprisonment for murder

Two men have been sentenced to life imprisonment over the murder of a 65-year-old man in May 2012.

Ahmed Naushad, 30, and Mohamed Faisal, 29, were found guilty on Thursday (April 23) of causing the death of Hassan Abubakuru during a robbery on the island of Maafaru in Noonu atoll.

The pair along with a minor were accused of breaking into Abubakuru’s residence after midnight on May 29 and tying up the elderly man in his bed.

The criminal court said the pair’s statements during the police interrogation, witness testimony at trial, and the prosecution’s evidence were sufficient to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

However, the juvenile court had acquitted the 17-year-old charged in relation to the murder, citing lack of evidence.

maafaru77Police said Abubakuru died after Faisal gagged the victim with a t-shirt and covered his face with a pillow while Naushad and the minor tied his hands and feet with insulation tape.

Abubakuru’s death was among ten murders that occurred in 2012. The authorities have faced criticism for the lack of convictions for murder, which has been blamed on failings in the criminal justice system.



PG awaiting court report to decide on appealing Jaleel acquittal

The prosecutor general’s (PG) office is awaiting a case report from the criminal court to decide on appealing the acquittal of defence minister Moosa Ali Jaleel on terrorism charges.

The 10-day appeal period expired yesterday, but the PG media officer Hisham Wajeeh told Minivan News today that the High Court could accept appeals after the deadline if there is a valid reason.

“We only got the verdict. We couldn’t make a decision on the appeal without studying the points noted in the trial, which will be in the summary report,” he said.

The PG office will appeal if it believed there are valid grounds after studying the report, he said.

Five senior state officials were charged with terrorism and tried separately over the detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

The court said there was insufficient evidence to prove the involvement of Jaleel, who was then-chief of defence forces.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed was meanwhile found guilty of terrorism last month and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Then-defence minister Tholhath Ibrahim was also sentenced to 10 years in jail over the judge’s arrest.