PG threatens legal action against Nazim’s lawyers

The Prosecutor General’s Office has threatened legal action against former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s lawyers over alleged attempts to unduly influence the retired colonel’s ongoing trial.

In a press statement issued Thursday night following a press conference by Nazim’s legal team, the PG office contended that making “indirect allegations” and public statements that undercuts evidence before it is presented at trial was tantamount to obstruction of justice.

“Therefore, we notify that we will be taking necessary action through the relevant institutions concerning statements by representatives of [the defendant] outside of court that directly influences an ongoing case in a court of law,” the PG office warned.

The statement added that the PG office could not respond to “every accusation repeatedly made through the media in a way that brings this institution into disrepute.”

Nazim is currently on trial on charges of illegal weapons possession after police raided his apartment on January 18 and discovered a pistol and three bullets in a bedside drawer. He was subsequently dismissed from the cabinet and arrested on additional charges of treason and terrorism.

At a press briefing yesterday, Nazim’s lawyer, Maumoon Hameed, revealed that a police forensic report shared with defence lawyers stated that fingerprints lifted from the weapon did not match either Nazim or any of his family members.

Moreover, at last week’s hearing of Nazim’s trial, lawyers objected to witness statements from 13 anonymised police officers submitted by the prosecution.

Noting that the PG office has redacted the names of the witnesses as well as other details, Hameed told the press yesterday that defence lawyers could neither rebut nor impeach anonymous witnesses as it would be impossible to determine if the officers had been present during the midnight raid.

The state prosectors’ claim that anonymising the police witnesses to ensure their safety was not a reasonable justification without establishing that either Nazim, his family, or supporters have threatened or intimidated witnesses, Hameed argued.

The justification was “laughable” as police have said the SWAT team officers involved in the raid were the most highly-trained in the force, he added.

However, the PG office statement insisted that anonymising witnesses out of fear they might face physical harm was an established legal norm in the Maldives.

Nazim’s legal team maintains that the former defence minister was “framed” and that the pistol was planted, allegations denied by police who insist that “nothing was done in violation of procedures, regulations and laws in the investigation of the case.”

Maumoon Hameed and Muhthaz MuhsinAt Thursday’s press briefing, Hameed also accused PG Muhthaz Muhsin of dereliction of duty and failing to protect Nazim’s fundamental constitutional rights.

In July 2014, parliament approved Muhsin as PG after MPs of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) decided to endorse the former Criminal Court judge despite the party’s leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, urging ruling party MPs to vote for his nephew Maumoon Hameed.

Hameed subsequently criticised the PPM MPs’ decision on his Facebook page.

“The reasoning behind the decision of the PPM parliamentary group this afternoon apparently went something like this: ’He won’t do as he’s told!’” he wrote.

“Given this reasoning, and the evident desire to install a puppet instead of someone who will uphold the law without fear or favour, I applaud the decision to endorse someone (anyone!) other than me.”

Related to this story:

Fingerprint on confiscated pistol did not match Nazim’s, lawyers reveal

Evidence against Nazim consists only of 13 anonymised police statements

Ex-Defence Minister calls for an open, public trial

No hope for fair trial, says former defense minister’s family

Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials


Elections Commission fines Jumhooree Party for ninth time

The Elections Commission (EC) has fined the Jumhooree Party (JP) for a ninth time over fraudulent membership forms.

The EC explained in a press release that the JP was fined MVR10,000 (US$649) after the commission discovered repeated fingerprints of 36 persons on 258 party membership forms.

The fine was levied under Article 48(a) of the Political Parties Act.

In March, the EC also fined the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives after it emerged that a membership form was submitted on behalf of a deceased individual.

In June 2013, the Anti-Corruption Commission discovered that two membership forms submitted by former President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s now-defunct Gaumee Ihthihaad Party “were signed by persons who had passed away prior to the forms being sent to the EC.”


Elections Commission decides to verify all re-registration forms

The Elections Commission (EC) has decided to verify fingerprints on all re-registration forms submitted by citizens wishing to vote outside their home island after the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) disputed the accuracy of the re-registration process.

EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek told newspaper Haveeru this morning that 41,000 forms were sent to the Department of National Registration last night (November 5) and more would be sent once they were processed. The DNR forwards the forms to the police for fingerprint verification.

More than 71,000 people re-registered to vote elsewhere in the presidential election scheduled for Saturday, November 9.

While the PPM and JP threatened not to sign the lists yesterday, the candidates from both parties agreed to approve the registry following a meeting with President Dr Mohamed Waheed this morning.

The JP had asked the commission last night to verify all 71,000 voter re-registration forms, while the PPM asked for the verification of 6,000 forms in which the party had identified issues.

The Supreme Court, in its verdict annulling the September 7 vote, asked the EC to obtain fingerprints of all voters who wished to register to vote in a location other than their permanent address.

The JP claimed yesterday that they had received information from the DNR that the department had not been able to verify 12,000 fingerprints because the prints were unclear. An additional 3,000 forms had fingerprints that did not belong to the voter, JP alleged.

Thowfeek however told Minivan News yesterday that the DNR had noted problems with only 294 forms.

“But the DNR has not said even these forms are fraudulent. They told us the mismatch might be because the quality of database of fingerprints in their database is low. It may also be possible that the voter had given prints of two different fingers to the DNR and on the reregistration form,” he said.

The EC had called all 294 voters, and all voters have testified to the accuracy of the forms, Fuwad noted. There have been no complaints on reregistered location, he added.

“So I do not understand why the PPM wants us to verify another 6,000 forms. Two of the forms they have asked us to verify are that of two senior EC staff. And these staff have said they have no problems with their forms. So why should the PPM ask for verification? Even if they could point out a problem with 100 forms, they have grounds to complain. But there are no complaints,” Fuwad said.


Parliament orders Elections Commission to drop fingerprint verification for party membership forms

Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee has requested the Elections Commission (EC) cease requiring fingerprints on applications for political party membership.

According to local media, the parliamentary committee today decided that no law or regulation existed that required the EC to request fingerprints to verify the authenticity of new party members.

The committee members questioned the efficiency of fingerprinting technology, arguing that no mechanism or database presently existed in the Maldives that could store the required amounts of information.

However, local NGO the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) told Minivan News that while it was unsure of the efficiency of the previous fingerprint system, fraudulent membership registration for Maldivian political parties remained a significant problem that needed to be addressed.

“The problem that exists right now is that there is a lot of fraudulent membership within political parties. Often, people are not aware they have been signed up,” MDN stated. “It is imperative that it is down to an individual to decide which party they want to belong to and no one else.”

MDN Executive Director Humaida Abdul Gafoor said it was vital that some form of verification mechanism was in place to ensure party memberships were genuine, adding that a bigger issue facing the committee should be finding an alternatives to the fingerprint technology, rather than simply halting it.

“We don’t know if the EC’s adoption of fingerprinting was a move in the right direction in first place,” she added.

Verification systems

Explaining the decision to discontinue the EC’s request for fingerprints, Deputy Chairman of the Independent Institutions Committee, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Sameer, said that the Maldives did not presently have a mechanism or system to collect and store such information.

“In regards to issues with the fingerprinting system, the EC, Department of National Registration and the Maldives Police Service all agreed they didn’t have enough records or verification systems available,” he told Minivan News.

The Department of National Registration, which had also been summoned before the committee, was reported to have confirmed that no fingerprint database presently existed in the Maldives.

Elections Commission President Fuad Thaufeeq was not responding to calls at time of press.

System critics

One critic of the EC’s fingerprint system is MP Ahmed Mahloof of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Back in September, Mahloof alleged via local media that close to 8000 membership forms from his party have been rejected by the Elections Commission (EC) – mainly due to the quality of fingerprints appearing on the forms.

The MP claimed that the fingerprint issue had arisen because the EC did not have sufficiently modern machinery to look at the fingerprints, relying instead on the perception of its staff – drastically limiting memberships numbers for the party.

A spokesperson for the EC told Minivan News at the time that similar complaints had been received from other political parties including the Jumhoree Party (JP), Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“Party membership forms go through a 50 step verification process. We are doing this to minimise chances of fraud. After we introduced this procedure, we are no longer receiving any complaints from individuals who have been placed in parties without their knowledge,” the spokesperson said.

The EC accepted that did not have machinery to verify fingerprints, but claimed that it had been able to forward complaints to the Maldives Police Service, which was able to use its resources to look into the matter.