Criminal Court suspends two senior police from appearing “on ethical grounds”

The Criminal Court has suspended two officers who spoke in court on behalf of the police during hearings concerning two opposition leaders.

Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim and People’s Alliance (PA) leader Abdulla Yameen, both also high-profile businessmen, were detained last week on charges of treason and bribery.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam identified the two officers as Inspector Mohamed Riyaz of Special Investigations and Superintendent Mohamed Jinah, Head of Drug Enforcement. Both officers have been suspended from appearing in court on behalf of police until December 2010.

When Minivan News contacted Jinah seeking to clarify the matter, he requested Minivan News contact Shiyam for information.

Shiyam claimed that police have been unable to determine the specific reason for the suspension of the two officers.

”The Criminal Court sent a letter signed by the Chief Judge of the court to Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh,” said Shiyam. ”The letter did not mention any specific reason [for the suspensions], only ‘ethical grounds’.”

Spokesperson of the Criminal Court Ahmed Riffath said that as police was not revealing details of the matter, the Criminal Court also did not wish to do so.

”There is a code of conduct that people representing in court should follow,” said Riffath. ”They were suspended due to a case relating to this code of ethics. It is for more than one reason.”

”This is the only information we can provide and I believe that it would be enough for co-operating with the media,” he added.


Criminal Court suspends police lawyers in Majlis corruption cases

The Criminal Court has suspended the two police lawyers who prosecuted the cases of Majlis members Gasim Ibrahim, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and Ahmed Nazim.

Inspectors of Police Mohamed Riyaz and Mohamed Jina were suspended for contempt of court.

The Criminal Court informed police of the decision in a letter sent to Police Commissioner on Sunday, according to a police media official, but the official refused to comment further.


Adam Naseer sues police to reclaim frozen assets

Adam Naseer has sued the Maldives Police Service (MPS) for withholding his assets after the High Court froze the money earlier this month, as part of an ongoing investigation against him.

Naseer, labelled as one of the top six drug dealers of the country by the government, was arrested in July 2008 by police on drug charges.

He was acquitted by Judge Abdul Baary Yousuf in the Criminal Court in late February 2010. The judge cited lack of evidence to convict Naseer.

The Prosecutor General’s office then appealed the case to the High Court and requested the freezing of Naseer’s assets which were being held by police, and amounted to over Rf5 million (US$460,000) in cash.

On 8 March the High Court ruled that Naseer’s assets be frozen and held by police until the investigation and subsequent case are finalised.

Naseer filed a law suit against the MPS, claiming he is experiencing financial difficulties, as reported by Miadhu. His claim was heard at the High Court yesterday.

The PG and Attorney General’s office are defending the MPS in this case in a “joint effort” with Deputy Solicitor General Ibrahim Rifath, who is acting as the main primary litigator in the case.

Deputy AG Abdulla Muizzu said Naseer is claiming assets which are not related to the alleged drug offence.

Deputy PG Hussain Shameem also said some of the documents Naseer is seeking are not covered under the High Court’s ruling.


Discrepancies in rape statistics highlighted in NGOs report

A coalition of NGOs have condemned the performance of the judiciary and the State for its treatment of criminal cases, especially those concerning rape.

Maldivian Detainee Network, Trasparency Maldives, Rights for All, Maldives Aid, Madulu, Democracy House, Maldives NGO Federation and Strength of Society issued a statement “condemning the increase in serious crime and the failure of the state and responsible authorities to convict those responsible for these crimes.”

The statement referred to statistics on crimes such as murder, child abuse, assault with sharp weapons, and threats to journalists and others in the media, comparing these with the number of crimes investigated by police, the number sent to the Prosecutor General’s office and the number tried in the Criminal Court.

The NGOs said the blame for the “failure to deliver justice” should not be placed on the new democratic system or human rights safeguards, “but rather [on] the unsatisfactory implementation of these systems and safeguards.”

They “note with great concern that there is not a single case of ‘rape’ in the statistics maintained by either the PG or the Criminal Court.”

Technical misunderstanding

Information provided by the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to Transparency Maldives states that in 2009 ten cases of rape were reported to police, eight of which were investigated and five sent to the Prosecutor General (PG)’s office.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said in the instance of these rape cases, the three that had been labelled as ‘finished’ by police but were not sent to the PG were still “being checked” by police before being sent to the PG’s office.

“Sometimes we check and update information,” Shiyam said, “and there could be other documents being collected.”

Information gathered by the coalition of NGOs from the Criminal Court show zero cases under ‘rape’ were prosecuted in 2008 and 2009.

But Senior Judge at the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed said the Criminal Court had processed six cases of rape during the year.

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem said the discrepancy was “a misunderstanding of technical terms.”

“If consent is lacking, regardless of whether or not there was intercourse, the case would fall under sexual misconduct,” he said.

Shameem said when the PG’s office received cases from the police, they decided whether or not to prosecute it depending on the evidence.

He added that the statistics from the police might “not give a clear idea” of the number of cases, as the PG’s office might prosecute for a different offence.

“For example, if police investigate a case for rape, and within the document we find evidence for battery and assault, we would prosecute both charges.”

In the document provided by the Criminal Court, 37 cases falling under the category of “sexual misconduct” are shown as being received by the court.

Of those, nine were dismissed due to lack of evidence while fourteen were tried.

Aishath Velazinee from the Judicial Service Commission said the remaining fourteen cases did not appear asdismissed or tried because they were still being processed by the court.

She said that “because rape is not a crime under the current Penal Code” cases of rape would fall under the category of “sexual misconduct”.

“The existing Penal Code is not adequate,” she noted, adding that under the new Penal Code (which is still tabled in the Parliament) rape, including spousal rape, would be considered a crime under its own category.

Rising concerns, rising crime

The coalition of NGOs said “lack of communication between the [State] authorities” was one of the “main reasons behind the recent failure to convict criminals.”

They called upon the State to “comprehensively study and identify the causes for the recent rise in crime, in particular, identify why convicted criminals are able to offend repeatedly.”

The Human Rights Commission Maldives (HRCM) has also recently condemned the rise in crime.

In their 2009 annual report released on 9 March 2010, they claimed the crime rates in the country had risen, and communities in the Maldives have reached a state of fear, mainly because of “failure to enforce sentences for convicts.”

The United States 2009 annual country reports on human rights, published on 11 March 2010, also expressed concern for increased violence against women in the Maldives and lack of convictions by the judiciary.

The report cited that “In 2008 the Ministry of Gender and Family released data showing an increase in the reported cases of violence against women, although NGOs believed that most cases remained unreported.”


Murder of newborn baby sends mother and daughter to life in prison

The Criminal Court has sentenced a woman and her mother to life in prison for killing an illegitimate new born baby.

Aminath Hussain, 31, and her 64 year old mother Sakeena Ali, both of Omadhu, Thaa Atoll confessed to the crime in court.

According to the court, the baby was delivered in a toilet, after which the grandmother submerged the baby in a pool of water.

They then put the baby into a polythene bag and buried it near the beach.

The Criminal Court has acquitted the 21 year old father of the crime.

Omadhu Case

Police Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said there were “some clues that [the father] had some involvement,” but added that the court had made its decision and the police respected it.

Shiyam said although these types of cases are “not [reported on] a lot” there is another similar case currently being processed where a new born baby was “thrown into the sea” in Laamu Atoll.

Island Councillor for Omadhu Ahmed Abdulla said the incident occurred last year.

He said an islander knocked on his door early one morning when he was preparing to attend the first school assembly of the year.

“He knocked and told me to come out quick,” Abdulla said, “and when I came out, he told me that a baby had been killed on the beach.”

Abdulla said he immediately went to the beach and saw the baby’s legs protruding from the polythene bag.

He said there was blood around the baby’s neck, which appeared to be broken.

Abdulla then informed the police, who told him to monitor the crime scene until they arrived.

Shiyam confirmed the police had received a call from the island office reporting the crime.

Illegitimate children under Sharia law

Because abortion is illegal in the Maldives (the exception being if an unborn child is diagnosed with Thalassaemia), some women travel overseas to perform the operation..

But many cannot afford to so.

Deputy Minister of Health and Family Mariya Ali said “we don’t know a lot about it but there have been other [similar] cases.”

“It’s something that should be considered under child mortality,” she said, adding that there had been no comprehensive studies on the subject.

“We don’t hear about it a lot,” Ali said, “and we don’t know the exact prevalence of these cases.”

She added that many cases are probably not reported.

Mariya said there could be many reasons behind a family choosing to kill a baby, the main reason probably being that “children born out of wedlock still face discrimination” in society.

She noted that other factors, like the mother’s mental state, should be considered when looking at the reasons why people resort to these crimes.

Because under Sharia law premarital sex is forbidden, young couples can find themselves looking for a solution to get rid of an unwanted, and illegitimate, child.

Mariya said the Ministry of Health and Family would “talk to the Islamic Ministry and see how we can deal with these issues and reduce the number of cases.”

She added that “under Maldivian law, this is considered murder.”

Mohamed Shihaab of Child Abuse Watch Maldives did not hesitate in saying a crime such as this one “is not child abuse, it is murder.”

He said “some people think children born out of wedlock do not have a right to life,” adding that it was a major concern for the country.

“We need to look at how justice is served,” Shihaab said. “In how many cases has it not been served?”

“People need to accept we live in a more complex society. The police, the Prosecutor General and the judiciary also need to be more advanced.”

Sheikh Abdulla Jameel said people were not afraid of committing these kind of crimes because the courts did not punish according to Sharia law.

He explained that the Qur’an says a person must be killed if the court finds them guilty of a murder.

“The judge decides how [the person] will be killed,” explained Sheikh Abdulla, adding that “people would be afraid to commit such crimes if the courts start punishing according to Islamic Sharia.”


High Court freezes accounts belonging to Adam Naseer

The High Court today ruled that Adam Naseer’s bank accounts would remain frozen until the appeal process launched by the Prosecutor General’s Office is complete.

Naseer was arrested on charges of drug trafficking in July 2009, and was acquitted by Judge Abdul Baary Yousuf on 28 February, who noted there was a lack of evidence against Naseer.

The government has previously identified Naseer as one the country’s top six drug dealers, and his acquittal has raised concern among many about the integrity of the judicial system.

The High Court’s decision to freeze Naseer’s accounts follows a decision yesterday by the Criminal Court ruling that police were to return the Rf6 million (US$467,000) in cash found in Naseer’s house when he was arrested.

Police Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that the police had requested the High Court suspend the order to return the money to Naseer, and to freeze his bank accounts, until the appeal process from the PG’s office was complete.

Shiyam called the court’s speedy ruling “a success” and said the police “hope future cases will be treated in the same manner.”

President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said “I don’t think [Naseer] is under arrest” but noted that he was unable to leave the country.

“Immigration has a black list of all individuals with pending judicial matters,” he said.

Shiyam confirmed Naseer was “at home” but not under house arrest.

High Court decision

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem confirmed the PG’s office submitted an appeal to the High Court yesterday for Naseer’s bank accounts to remain frozen while the appeal to his drug charges is in process.

Shameem explained that it was very important for Naseer’s money to remain frozen through the appeal process because “if he gets a hold of it, he could send it abroad or launder it.”

Under the Narcotics Law, any money obtained through illegal activities “shall be confiscated by the state.”

“We have asked the court to confiscate the money in case he is later convicted,” Shameem added.

Shameem said he thought the High Court’s ruling to freeze Naseer’s assets was “a good decision” but the noted that the case would not yet be heard in the High Court.

“They will send a summon in time. We still have to wait,” he said.

Shameem noted that the case cannot be heard at the High Court until the Criminal Court sends a formal report on the original ruling, which includes the documents that were submitted and the witness statement.

“We are still waiting on the full report from the Criminal Court, hopefully [we will get it] by the end of this week” he said. “We still need to get things started.”

Shiyam suggested “there are more charges to come” in the Naseer case,  although he would not comment on whether there will be new evidence submitted in the High Court’s hearing.

Judicial reform

There has been much public outcry about the performance of the judicial system, sparked by Adam Naseer’s acquittal.

Even President Mohamed Nasheed said at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally on Sunday 28 February, “When there’s Rf5 million in a bag underneath the bed and the judge doesn’t think it raises any kind of doubt, I wonder how they perform their duties as a judge.”

A source familiar with the judicial reform process said the judge’s conduct needed to be “looked into”.

The source noted that 75 per cent of the country’s judges had not finished primary-level education, and had simply acquired a ‘judge’s certificate’ or been appointed by the previous regime. Historically, “a few people” instructed the judges on the law “and verdicts”.

Secretary General at the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC), Muna Mohamed, meanwhile confirmed that only 35 out of 202 judges have a degree in law, and only one has a diploma in Shari’a law. The remaining 166 have local trainee certificates.


One of ‘top six’ drug dealers found innocent by criminal court

The Criminal Court has ruled that Adam Naseer of H. Reendhooge is innocent of dealing drugs, despite being labelled by the government as one of the country’s ‘top six’ drug dealers and a police investigation lasting nearly a year.

Police searched Naseer’s home in Addu Atoll on 30 June 2009, where they found over Rf6 million (US$461,500) in cash and a tin containing drugs outside his house.

He was later arrested in early July in Addu Atoll, but “he wasn’t in prison the whole time,” explained President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair. “On several occasions the court has delayed his imprisonment until the hearing.”

Naseer’s arrest last year was a big break for the Prosecutor General’s office and the police, who had been leading an investigation and following Naseer for months.

Naseer had also been arrested in 2007 on drug dealing counts and later on counts of bribery and giving false information to the police, but he was released due to lack of evidence.

In his verdict, Judge Abdul Baary Yousuf said there was not enough evidence to prove the money had come from dealing drugs. He added that the drugs could have been placed outside Naseer’s house by anyone and did not necessarily belong to him.

Zuhair said Naseer “is still considered to be a top drug dealer. He was caught red-handed.”

He added that although the executive and legislative branches have been reformed with the change in government, “the justice system is still going the way it was in Gayoom’s time” and “many of the judges are sympathisers of Gayoom.”

Ahmed Adam, program coordinator for Journey, an NGO with a mission to help addicts maintain their recovery and to raise public awareness on drug issues, said “these people shouldn’t be on the streets. If they’re not behind bars, what will happen?”

“The judge should ask where all this money came from,” added Adam.

Only one witness claimed the drugs belonged to Naseer. Under Shari’ah law, there needs to be at least two witnesses to prove a person guilty, annulling the witness’s testimony.

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameen said “he should not released, but… the court has acquitted him.”

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizzu said he had no comment on Naseer’s release, but added that his office would “appeal [the case] to the High Court.”

Two of the ‘top six’ have now fled the country. police are still investigating the remaining three suspects.

President Nasheed has previously said that while the government knows the identities of the top six drug dealers, their arrests would appear politically motivated as they included political opponents.


Lawyer suspended from court by Judge Abdulla Mohamed

Lawyer Imthiyaz Fahmy, also an MP for the Maldivian Democratic Party, has been found in contempt of court and suspended for six months by Senior Judge at the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed.

Fahmy was defending a man who had been accused of throwing an egg at a DRP supporter in their campaign office next to the former president’s wife’s house Enderimaagu.

Fahmy says before he began with the case, he noticed the defendant’s name was misspelled and his address was not on the charge document.

“The charge document should say who it’s against,” he said.

Fahmy said that due to procedural methods, he felt he needed to correct the matter before beginning the case, and asked the judge if this mistake could be rectified.

“The judge was taken by surprise,” said Fahmy, “and asked the prosecutor to correct the document in court. This is not how a criminal case is conducted.”

Judge Mohamed said Fahmy “did not cooperate with the court” and “just wanted to play.” He added that Fahmy “was not being serious” and was “arguing” with him and the attorney.

Maafanu North MP Imthiyaz Fahmy
Maafanu North MP Imthiyaz Fahmy

Fahmy said he was then asked to leave the courtroom by Judge Mohamed, while his client was told to remain there. Fahmy claims his client later told him that he had been asked to give his statement before another judge in his absence.

The next day, Fahmy found out through the media that he had been suspended.

“I wasn’t even informed,” he said. “I went to the court for the document on my suspension, but was denied [the document].”

Judge Mohamed says Fahmy cannot attend the court on the same case again.

Fahmy said he was “not surprised by the judge’s misconduct in court,” and he intends to make an appeal against Judge Mohamed’s decision to the High Court and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The commission confirmed that Judge Mohamed is currently under investigation for issues relating to conduct.

The case Fahmy would have been defending has been dismissed.