Police unable to summon MP from refuge in Majlis

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

The Criminal Court cancelled this morning’s hearing into the case of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor who is being charged with refusal to provide a urine sample.

The Police told the Criminal Court they are unable to summon Ghafoor as per the arrest warrant because the MP is  currently residing within the inviolable premises of the People’s Majlis.

In reply to a police request to detain Ghafoor, the Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid, in reference to Article 11 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act, told the police an MP cannot be summoned to court when Majlis sittings or parliamentary committee hearings are scheduled.

The speaker warned such an act is punishable by law, stating: “Any act that violates the People’s Majlis immunity, honor and functioning and committed in contravention to the [Parliamentary Powers and Privileges] Act will breach the Majlis privileges.”

He also stressed that the time at which today’s trial was scheduled is the normal time parliament sittings have started every day since May this year.

Last Thursday, the Criminal Court issued a warrant to arrest and summon Ghafoor to the court, but the MP took refuge in the parliament building on the same day. Ghafoor is also being charged with possession of alcohol. He was arrested along with MDP MP Abdulla Jabir and eight others on Hondaidhoo Island in November last year

Speaking to Minivan News on Sunday inside the Majlis courtyard, Ghafoor said the courts were on “a personalized hunt” for him, and were not following due process.

Investigations into the case had been concluded a year ago. But the trial was suddenly being fast tracked to influence the MDP’s current majority in parliament, he alleged.

The Supreme Court on Thursday stripped MDP MP Ali Azim and MDP aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Mohamed Nashiz of their seats, though the Parliamentary Privileges Committee said they do not accept the “politically motivated” ruling.

When Azim attempted to attend Saturday’s parliamentary sitting, the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) – in absence of instruction from the Speaker – stormed the building, removing Azim from the Majlis premises and turning him over to the police. Azim is currently being detained for allegedly assaulting an MNDF officer.

The police had previously arrested Ghafoor on October 7 to produce him at court.

“I’m being hunted by a corrupt judiciary”

“I’m not dealing with a court. I’m dealing with thugs. They have got armed people to produce me in court. There are no procedures. No norms,” said Ghafoor.

Recounting his treatment on Hondaidhoo Island on November 16 2012, he said that black clad police had stormed a private island, swimming onto the island’s beaches from the ocean at 4:00 am.

“They had lights on their foreheads so we could not see their faces. They came up from behind us, handcuffed us and threw us to the ground. They pushed our faces in the sand and kicked us with their boots,” Ghafoor said.

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) launched an investigation into police conduct on Hondaidhoo Island and found the police guilty of assault of MPs Jabir and Ghafoor.

In August this year the PG filed charges against Jabir, Ghafoor and a person identified as Jadhulla Jameel, with smuggling alcohol into the country, consuming alcohol, objecting to urine testing and possession of cannabis. Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair and his wife Mariyam Faiza were also charged for objecting to take a urine test.

According to the Drug Act, Sections 123(a), 161(a) and 161(b), any person arrested on suspicion of having abused alcohol or narcotics has an obligation to comply with police requests for routine urine examination by promptly providing urine samples, and failure to comply is a criminal offence punishable with a one-year jail sentence.

If found guilty, Ghafoor and Jabir will be disqualified from their parliamentary seats.

Ghafoor said there was no other place but the parliament building for refuge, though he said he did not feel safe even at the Majlis. The MNDF storming of the Majlis to arrest MP Azim suggests they may do the same to him, he claimed.

“I am willing to stay here until the judiciary is destroyed. Now I know how helpless ordinary citizens are. I feel like I’m being hunted by a corrupt judiciary. You don’t feel good when you are being singled out. You feel like prey. You can never relax,” he said.

He spends his days reading and doing parliamentary work. His family and supporters visit him often and bring him evening tea and dinner.

“My party has been very good to me. I am always accompanied by my party’s MPs. Since I came here, I’ve been left alone only for an hour during Friday prayers. My family and supporters bring me food. I get food enough for ten people. I know they are with me,” Ghafoor said.