MDP alleges 117 cases filed against February 8 2012 protesters “politically motivated”

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.


MDP MP facing charges of terrorism over February 8 retaliatory protests

The Criminal Court has given Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Rasheed ‘Matrix Mode’ the opportunity to appoint an attorney to defend himself from charges of terrorism.

The MP for mid-Hithadhoo constituency, along with 43 other protesters including a city councillor from Addu City, are facing terrorism charges for their involvement in the events that took place on February 8, a day after controversial transfer of power in the Maldives.

Following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, thousands of MDP supporters, led by ousted president Mohamed Nasheed, took to the streets opposing the newly installed regime, claiming that it was an illegitimate government installed during a police and military mutiny.

The protesters were met with a violent police crackdown that saw numerous protesters injured and detained, including ousted President Nasheed himself.

Retaliatory protests spread across the country including the southern MDP stronghold of Addu, where Mayor Abdulla Sodig was beaten by protesters and taken to the Addu regional hospital. Several government buildings including police stations and courts were set ablaze during the chaos.

Out of the 43 people now facing criminal charges, hearings for 36 protesters have been previously carried out. None have yet been sentenced.

During Sunday’s hearing, Rasheed and another participant of the events of February 8 were given three days to appoint an attorney to represent them in court.

The state attorney did not read the charges in the hearing, but the Prosecutor General (PG) earlier told local media that Rasheed was charged for allegedly threatening police on the Seenu Gan course way.

He is also charged with inciting violence and calling upon protesters to attack Seenu Gan Police Station and the officers there, and calling for people to attack the Feydhoo Magistrate Court and Hithadhoo Police Station, the PG said.

The PG also said that the MDP MP was charged under article 2(f) and 2(g) of the Anti-terrorism Act, and also article 6 of the same act.

If Rasheed is found guilty of the charges, he will face a sentence of 10 to 15 years imprisonment or banishment, which will cost him his seat in the parliament.

After the hearing, in a brief statement given to media, Rasheed rebutted the charges stating that he “was not someone who would attack on public property”.

“I am one of those people who worked very hard to bring developments to Addu City during the tenure of [former] President Mohamed Nasheed. Why would I call upon the people to do something to destroy that? I do not believe this,” he said.

He further stated that the supporters of the current government and the media outlets that are politically aligned to government had continuously accused him of being a terrorist, but said the case itself revealed that he was not a terrorist.

“It is only today I have come to know of the charges. Government aligned newspapers, police and senior officials of this government including ministers and the Presidents’ office spokesperson are accusing me of setting ablaze public property and carrying out terrorist attacks,” he said.

“But according to the charges levied up against me, it is not true. The criminal charges do not mention that I did such things, instead the case is built on what I said,” he added.

Last August the PG pressed terrorism charges against more than 40 individuals accused of setting the Seenu Gan police station on fire on February 8, including many MDP activists and elected officials.

The former ruling MDP condemned the “false charges” pressed against “elected representatives of the people of Addu City” and a number of citizens as “politically motivated”.

In a statement, the party said that it believed the charges represented “a deliberate attempt by the regime to destabilise the country”.

“Aside from politically motivated legal action, senior members of Dr Waheed’s regime, including Home Minister Mohamed Jameel, have publicly stated that the regime will arrest President Nasheed and ensure he spends the rest of his life in jail. These statements have been made despite the fact that a trial has not taken place, and while the Minister himself has stated that the ‘judiciary seems to be operating wantonly… and needs to increase public confidence,’” the statement read.

The government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan has promised that action would be taken against the “terrorist acts” of the protesters and will be brought to justice.

No action has been taken against the police accused of brutality in the February 8 crackdown, however one officer indicted by the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has since received two promotions.