The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called for “politically motivated” court cases against 117 protesters charged with terrorism and obstructing police duty on February 8 2012 be immediately discontinued.
Nine MDP members from Milandhoo Island in Shaviyani Atoll, 28 members from Kulhudhuffushi Island in Haa Dhaal Atoll and 80 members from Addu City are currently facing prosecution. The accused include mid-Hithadhoo Constituency MP Mohamed ‘Matrix Mode’ Rasheed as well as a number of councilors and branch heads from these islands.
“A lot of the accused [currently standing trial] were charged with terrorism offences and obstructing police duty,” said MDP Spokesperson and MP Imthiyaz ‘Inthi’ Fahmy.
The MDP “condemned, in strong terms, these cases of unlawful and blatant granting of selective impunity from justice and calls on all concerned authorities to immediately cease this selective litigation,” during a press conference held May 20, led by Imthiyaz and MDP pro-bono lawyers Abdullah Haseen and Mohamed Fareed.
The party said it regarded the “discriminatory” prosecutions as being politically motivated, biased judicial actions against hundreds of MDP members, and “outside the requisite edicts of the Constitution for judicial fairness and equability.”
The political party also voiced their “great concern” that despite the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) findings that “unlawful brutal acts” were committed by security services in February 2012, the report’s recommendations that actions be taken against the offenders have been “disregarded with impunity”.
“Why doesn’t the government take action against those police officers when there is clear evidence of police brutality? None of the police officers have been investigated or prosecuted in line with the CoNI,” said Imthiyaz.
The MDP alleged that “despite public irrefutable and credibly substantiated video and audio evidence showing security services personnel committing brutal assaults and inflicting inhuman bashings”, no credible investigations or judicial actions have been taken.
Current court cases against MDP members had meanwhile been “unduly hastened”.
“The police were seen to participate in a mutiny and they have openly and publicly viewed their opposition and hatred towards the MDP,” MDP Spokesperson Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News at the press conference.
“As police investigation reports make up a substantive part of the legal cases being brought against MDP activists, how can these investigations be fair when police have been publicly on the record as biased and downright malicious [toward MDP supporters],” he continued.
“The MDP came out in a peaceful protest on the 8th, on the roads of Male’, and they were bashed up,” Zuhair said. “Our activists on the islands heard this and that escalated tensions on many islands where there are police stations. And then it became a kind of public uprising.”
“Within that public uprising, our activists’ primary objective was to rally and to somehow show strength, but among those came in other elements, [who] set fire to places, and then escalated the whole thing,” he added.
Zuhair said given the state of the judiciary justice for the accused was not possible, “but we’ll have better recourse to due process through the high court and supreme court and through international redress.”
No grounds to prosecute
The trials were being conducted to “intimidate the people” because elections are “very near” and the entire process was politicised, MDP lawyer Haseen told Minivan News.
“They demanded the suspects be kept in remand claiming they had forensic evidence. And then when they’re produced in court, there is no forensic evidence or video footage submitted, only witness statements,” Haseen explained.
“They are telling the press they have the evidence and highlighting a lot of photographs with fire, but they are not submitting these – just witness statements given by rival political parties,” he said.
Haseen claimed senior Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) officials pointed out to the police who to arrest and were now providing the witness statements against the MDP protesters in court.
“The problem is that even the island judges are not competent judges. They don’t even know criminal procedure. That’s a larger fight that we are building our campaign with that on top – journey for justice,” Haseen added.
MDP lawyer Fareed concurred with Haseen that it is a “politically motivated conflict of interest” to have police and former-opposition political parties provide the only evidence – witness statements – against the MDP members on trial.
“There are not any grounds for prosecution,” Fareed told Minivan News.
He attended three hearings in Kulhudhuffushi, which took place May 19, against 11 MDP members, including two island councilors, and was also dismayed by how witness statements were taken.
“The court they did not have a recording system, so the judge he himself was writing the witness statements in favor of the state. It was very terrible,” Fareed recounted.
“When the first witness was presented, I asked him directly ‘were you there when these things happened?’ and he replied ‘this is after one year so I don’t remember these things’.”
“That’s all that’s enough – whatever the witness says after that is not applicable, not acceptable,” he declared.
“When the prosecutor asked him [the same question], the witness said ‘That man may be there but I don’t know,’ however the judge himself had already written the witness statement in favor of the prosecution,” he added.
“If they continue this hearing, they should have a recording system otherwise we’ll have to stop it,” Fareed concluded.
“All courts have recorders”
Kulhudhuffushi Court Magistrate Ali Adam explained to Minivan News today (May 23) that “all courts have recorders”.
“When dealing with criminal cases we try to write witness statements, it is the best way,” said Adam. “Recordings can be changed or edited. There might be court staff who hold certain political ideologies who might tamper with the statements.”
“When listening to a witness statement a judge will only write relevant remarks and things related to the accused’s rights. The witness then signs the hand-written statement,” explained Adam.
“We do not consider anyone standing trial as a criminal. How can we face a person thinking he’s an enemy? We do not consider the individual’s personality or which political party he is in,” he added.
The Prosecutor General, PG spokesperson, and PPM MPs Ahmed Nihan and Ahmed Mahlouf were not responding at time of press.