Statement accusing Mulay of interference was forged, says JSC

The High Commission of India in the Maldives has expressed disappointment with the Agence France-Presse (AFP) newswire after it published a story on what the high commission claimed was a “forged” media statement from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The statement, with JSC header and dubbed an ‘official translation’, said the JSC “regrets the interference of the High Commissioner of India in Maldives in his personal capacity with the judicial process of the Maldives, by keeping former President Mohamed Nasheed within the diplomatic confines  of the High Commission thereby impeding the due process of the Law.

“We appreciate the official stand of the Indian Government to refrain from interfering with the internal affairs of Maldives and respect independence of the judiciary,” read the statement.

It was emailed from an anonymous gmail account, [email protected]

The High Commission of India issued a press release on Sunday (February 17) admonishing the AFP for circulating the report based on the false JSC statement.

“The High Commission expresses its disappointment that a respected news agency like AFP has chosen to give undue publicity to such a cheap gimmick against the High Commissioner in the current sensitive atmosphere, without even bothering to check the veracity of the said letter with the JSC or High Commission of India in Male’,” the statement read.

The high commission statement was accompanied with an email from the JSC Secretariat denying having issued the release.

JSC Secretary General Aboobakuru Mohamed said the letterhead was “forged” and the statement was “false”.

“Regarding the issue of sheltering by the Maldivian ex-president, Mr Mohamed Nasheed within the compound of the High Commision of India, Male’, Maldives, we, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) of Maldives, categorically deny issuing any statement on this regard,” the statement said.

The Indian High Commission called on AFP “to immediately retract its report and issue an apology prominently for the damage caused to the reputation and good will of the High Commissioner and the Indian Mission.”

Various new outlets have reported senior Maldivian government officials echoing the sentiment of the “forged” JSC statement: “The fact of the matter is that some individual Indian diplomats are interfering in our internal affairs. This must stop,” a senior government official told AFP, asking not to be named.

Maldives-India relations

Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay was meanwhile summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday (February 17) – the first time a high commissioner has been summoned by the ministry according to local media.

Mulay reportedly delivered a brief diplomatic note discussing the Indian government’s accommodation of Nasheed.

“We have not interfered with Maldivian politics and have no intention of even doing so. India also wants the Maldives’ judicial process to go on. We also want stability and peace in the Maldives. We want political reconciliation through peaceful dialogue,” Mulay told local media afterwards.

Following India’s initial warning that a failure to allow all political leaders to contest the elections would call into question the integrity of the electoral process and perpetuate instability, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry declared it was “unfortunate that the government of India has decided to comment on the types of candidates that could contest the upcoming Presidential Elections in the Maldives scheduled for September 2013.”

Local newspaper Haveeru quoted an unnamed government official as stating that the “political atmosphere in the Maldives would reach a boiling point” if India allowed it.

Meanwhile, President Waheed Hassan Manik  promised to promote democracy and maintain law and order in a statement issued Saturday (February 16).

He emphasised his “dismay” that Nasheed had sought refuge in the High Commission, instead of heeding his court summons, which expired on February 13.

“There is no reason for him to remain in the High Commission and to instigate street violence. The court order has nothing to do with my government. Upholding the rule of law means nobody is above the law,” Waheed said.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad implied that India was trying to fuel political turmoil in the Maldives.

“Mulay should take direct responsibility for the fresh unrest and violence in the capital,” he told local media.

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has also expressed his disappointment over the Indian government’s decision to provide refuge to Nasheed in the Indian High Commission.

Nasheed’s trial

Former President Mohamed Nasheed failed to attend the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court hearing on February 10, resulting in a court order for police to produce Nasheed for trial regarding his controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

In response to rumours of Nasheed’s imminent arrest, he entered the Indian High Commission on February 13 seeking India’s assistance.

His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintain that the charges – based on his detaining Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed during his final days in office – are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent him contesting the 2013 elections.

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“Not the right time” to reveal the details of MP Afrasheem’s murder, says Police Commissioner

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has stated that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) believes it is “not the right time” to reveal the details behind the brutal murder of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Afrasheem Ali.

In an interview given to local newspaper Haveeru this Sunday, the commissioner said that police would disclose the information only when it gained full “confidence” in the case and said investigations were still being carried out.

Riyaz claimed that the case was “high profile” and therefore a lot of things needed to be confirmed and validated before details were disclosed to the public.

“The investigation is going very well, and so far very successfully indeed. I will reveal the details of the case to the public. But I am not going to say it will happen on a specific date,” he said.

High profile murder

MP Afrasheem was brutally stabbed to death on the night of October 1 , outside his home.

The MP who was a renowned religious scholar in the country, known for moderate views towards Islam – was found murdered after returning from an appearance on the “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Life) programme broadcast on state television. He had appeared on the show alongside Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Qubad Aboobakuru.

The local media reports suggested that the MP was stabbed four times in the back of the head and a chunk of his skull was missing, and that he had also suffered stab wounds to the chest and neck. The MP was rushed to ADK hospital where he was pronounced dead.

He was was buried shortly before 5:00pm the following day at Asahara cemetery in Male’.

Thousands gathered for the funeral prayers which took place at the Islamic Center. The prayers were led by former President and leader of Afrasheem’s party, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Initially, four suspects were arrested by police in connection to the murder and the Criminal Court extended the detention period of the arrestees for an additional 15 days.

However, a female suspect arrested – Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activist Mariyam Naifa – was given a conditional release on October 21 while the detention of the remaining two suspects were extended for another 15 days.

Another suspect was also arrested later in November, after police claimed he was wearing the same colored shirt as someone caught on CCTV footage near the area where Afrasheem was murdered.

Police at the time stated that two US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials were providing “technical consultancy” in investigating the murder of the MP.

The MDP has since alleged that the arrests were politically motivated, expressing concerns that the “brutal murder of a respected and elected member of the Parliament” was potentially being used to frame political opponents.

In a press conference held on October 3, Assistant Commissioner of Police Hassan Habeeb dismissed the claims stating that they were “not arresting people based on their political affiliations.”

“Anybody who has compassion and magnanimity will not compete for Afrasheem’s seat” – Home Minister

Following the murder, Elections Commission (EC) announced that the by-election for MP Afrasheem’s seat would be held on December 1. Following the announcement, three candidates announced their candidacy to contest the elections.

The candidates included Afrasheem’s brother Ibrahim Ameem from PPM, Dr Ahmed Ashraf from the MDP, who lost to Dr Afrasheem in the previous parliamentary election in 2008, and an independent candidate.

Both the PPM and MDP have been vigorously campaigning for the seat while President Mohamed Waheed Hassan and Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed were also seen frequently visiting the island and making speeches in favor of the government-aligned PPM candidate.

During an official visit to the island, President Waheed claimed that his administration had achieved a lot of development on the murder case of Afrasheem while in a more recent trip, Home Minister Jameel expressed concerns relating the death of the MP to MDP.

Speaking at a function held on Meedhoo in Raa Atoll island on Sunday, Jameel stated that he was “highly concerned” over the remarks made by the senior figures of MDP, including former President Mohamed Nasheed,which he claimed undermined the credibility of the forensic evidence that the police already had.

“I am deeply concerned over what we have found out from the investigation so far. [I believe] in this country, everybody should be responsible for their actions,” he said.

The minister further added that it was the MDP that criticised the statements made by the government-aligned parties in the defense of MP Afrasheem Ali while he was alive, and said it surprised him when the MDP all of a sudden became so concerned about the murder.

He called on the people of the Ungoofaaru Constituency that they should hand over the parliamentary seat of the constituency to the family of deceased MP Afrasheem Ali, as he was the PPM candidate for the seat.

“We’ve got to take back the seat where it was. There are a lot of reasons for us to act in that manner,” he said.

“Anybody who has compassion and magnanimity will not compete for that seat,” the Home Minister added.

“Politicising MP Afrasheem’s murder” – former President Mohamed Nasheed

The remarks made by President Waheed and Home Minister Jameel were met by severe criticism by the opposition MDP.

In a tweet, former President Mohamed Nasheed claimed that the senior officials of the current government including President Waheed were making political statements over the death and claiming that their remarks lack the backing of sufficient evidence.

Nasheed vowed that if elected, he would find the real murderers of MP Afrasheem Ali, and said he had repeatedly called on the police to reveal the truth about the case instead of utilising it for political gain.

In a statement released by his office, Nasheed expressed concern over the government’s actions to politicise the “tragic murder”. He claimed that politicisation of the case “may leave the real murderers free to re-commit such crimes”.

The statement also expressed concerns over the remarks made by the police commissioner over the case.

“The office is deeply concerned over the fact that just six days before the b-yelections are to take place for the seat vacated following Dr Afrasheems murder, the government and the Maldives Police Service claim they have found Dr Afrasheem’s murderer,” read the statement.

However the Police Commissioner denied the claims stating that under his watch, he would make sure all the details presented to the courts as well as the public were free from political influence.

So far, police have yet to reveal any substantial details of the case. Police have previously arranged a press conference but canceled it at the last minute.

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Canadian Foreign Minister “glad that Maldives remains on CMAG agenda”

“Canada with others fought to keep Maldives on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group agenda, and we are glad it remains there,” said Canadian Foreign Minister and member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), John Baird.

“We will continue to focus on anti-democratic activities in the Maldives, especially in terms of police brutality, and intimidation of opposition parliamentarians,” said Baird in a statement released by the Canadian government.

“Canada is deeply troubled by the reported September 25 travel ban of former President Nasheed in Malé,” he added.

Baird’s statement evinces a level of confusion following CMAG’s decision yesterday to revoke the Maldives’ suspension from participation in the group’s affairs, whilst retaining it under the ‘matters of interest’ on its agenda.

Local media immediately ran with the headline “CMAG removes Maldives from official agenda” whilst the Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed tweeted, “Congratulating Maldives, CMAG has removed Maldives from its Agenda, it proves that the current government is for Rule of Law.”

Baird, present at yesterday’s meeting alongside President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, expressed his concern at Waheed’s response when he was asked “about the persecution of 19 Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) politicians and party officials.”

“President Waheed offered no substantial defence of these questions, which is a telling response in itself,” said Baird. “Canada finds the declining state of democratic values in the Maldives alarming and deeply troubling.”

“The recently adopted Commission of National Inquiry report has raised substantial concerns about the independence of the judiciary. That too causes Canada grave concern as we strive to assure independent open elections in the Maldives,” he added.

The MDP last week documented such instances of perceived harassment in a press release titled “Immunity Watch Maldives”.

The CMAG meeting coincided with a nationwide demonstration by Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in protest against Nasheed’s travel ban which the courts have defended as standard practice.

MDP spokesman Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News that the 7,000 people marched around the island yesterday afternoon what he described as “one of the biggest [protests]  in recent times.”

He stated that there had been no confrontations with police, a fact confirmed by Police Spokesman Sub–Inspector Hassan Haneef who confirmed that there had been no arrests.

At the MDP’s National Executive Council, local media reported former Minister of Housing Mohamed Aslam as saying that Nasheed would not comply with the court-issued travel ban following the party’s decision to reject the authority of the courts.

“We are prepared to do the necessary to get him onboard. We are willing to sacrifice, to ensure that Nasheed does not lose his presidential candidacy. We will not give in. We are prepared follow Nasheed to prison,” Aslam is reported as saying.

Nasheed’s legal team expressed its deep concerns over the legality of the court’s procedures regarding Nasheed’s multiple trials regarding defamation of cabinet ministers and the detention of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Nasheed was scheduled to travel to the Southern atolls as part of his campaign for the constitutionally mandated elections in 12 months time.

Imthiyaz confirmed that Nasheed would be travelling with the party on Monday although he was unsure as to whether the former president would be in court tomorrow for the first of his two defamation cases.

Nasheed had previously requested that the criminal case regarding Abdulla Mohamed be expedited and was reported as being keen to have his day in court.

Baird’s statement pledged Canada’s intention to “forcefully” raise its concerns at subsequent CMAG meetings in order to ensure the Commonwealth’s values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law are not violated.

CMAG’s power to protect these values was strengthened during a meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) in Perth in 2009.

During a speech made during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) earlier this week, President Waheed made aimed a thinly veiled attack at the Commonwealth, questioning the 54-member organisation’s commitment to equity and the rule of law.

Previous expressions of concern regarding politicisation of the legal process made by Baird at the beginning of August were condemned by the Maldivian government as “one-sided” and “misleading”.

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