Third meeting of talks cancelled

The government has cancelled a third meeting in ongoing talks with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) as some ministers are out of the country, the president’s office has said.

The government was due to propose mechanisms to release jailed opposition politicians and withdraw charges against more than 1,400 opposition supporters.

The long-awaited talks has raised hope of an end to a six month long political crisis that was triggered by the arrest and imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The MDP had proposed that talks conclude within a two-week timeline.

Minivan News is awaiting comments from the MDP and the president’s office on whether the cancellation could be considered a setback. A date has not been set for the next meeting.

MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih is representing the party, while the home minister, the fisheries minister and the presidential affairs minister are representing the government.

President Abdulla Yameen’s proposed agenda for talks comprised of three aspects: political reconciliation, constitutional and judicial reform, and political party participation in development.

The government has conceded to an MDP demand to commence all-party talks at a second stage of talks when constitutional and judicial reform is discussed. Three separate teams of ministers were assigned to the MDP, the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

Nasheed was transferred to house arrest in late June. The opposition subsequently backed a constitutional amendment that will allow the president to replace his deputy Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

“I believe this is the time for major reconciliation by finding a consensus through talks. The government, to show its sincerity, will make all the concessions we can,” home minister Umar Naseer had said at a first meeting of the talks.

Ex defence ministers Mohamed Nazim and Ibrahim Tholhath, and former ruling part MP Ahmed Nazim were also sentenced to jail within weeks of Nasheed’s sentence. Meanwhile, Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla is in police custody awaiting a trial on terrorism charges over a historic anti-government protest on May 1.

Ex-MP Nazim was hospitalized today over back-pains.

Two senior JP leaders and the MDP chairperson Ali Waheed have fled the country. The three were also arrested on May 1. JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed were charged with terrorism, but formal charges have not been brought against Waheed yet.

The government last week removed a freeze on JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa group accounts. Gasim has announced he will retire from politics when his term as MP expires in 2019.

The tourism tycoon left the Maldives in late April and has not yet returned. The newly passed constitutional amendment, which set new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency, will bar Gasim from the 2018 presidential elections.

MDP has said the opposition and government must come to an agreement on “politically motivated charges and sentences” before discussing constitutional and judicial reform.

The MDP has also asked for an independent inquiry into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan and the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali.

The party has also proposed a change from the Maldives’ current presidential system to a parliamentary system.

Representatives of the government and the opposition have said they are committed to a resolution and political stability.

Talks with the JP are ongoing, but meetings between the government and the Adhaalath Party are yet to begin.


20 inmates released under pilot tagging project

The home ministry has transferred 20 inmates to house arrest and island arrest under a pilot tagging project.

The inmates were released with an electronic tagging device attached to their ankle, which will send out a signal if he or she steps out of a restricted area.

Home ministry media coordinator Thazmeel Abdul Samad told Minivan News today that a local company called Telvert Maldives won the bidding process for the project and will be handling technical issues with the device, while the police, military, the Maldives Correctional Services will be monitoring the inmates.

Thazmeel said tagging would prove effective in preventing convicts released on parole from engaging in criminal behaviour.

“This device is a reminder not to commit crimes again. Inmates will be more hesitant [with the tag],” he said.

The tagging device will sound an alarm if the inmate steps out of the designated area while a receiver in his home will immediately alert the company.

Thazmeel said an official agreement will be signed with the company in the near future to carry out the tagging project.

Home minister Umar Naseer announced last year that inmates will be categorised into four groups based on security risks. The inmates in the least dangerous category will be tagged and released for work and study programmes with the electronic tags.

In addition to undergoing a security screening, Naseer said they will also have to be nearing the end of their sentence.

“They will have to do one or the other [work or study]. If they are working, we have to know where they are going. We also have to know the exact route they are taking. Through the tag, we can track which streets they are walking on,” he said.

The home minister previously said the tags have been tested during his trip to Singapore.

In May last year, Naseer said older inmates or inmates nearing the end of the sentence will be housed in an open jail on a separate island.

Inmates in category two will be allowed to work on the industrial Thilafushi island, and the most dangerous criminals or category one criminals will continue to serve their sentences behind bars in Maafushi prison.

The open jail is to be established on an uninhabited island. The government will provide modest shelter, run a mosque, and establish an administrative office and a security post. The inmates will cook for themselves and be self- sufficient, but will not be allowed to leave the island, Naseer said.

Updates on the open jail project were not available from the ministry at the time of going to press.

The reforms will reduce the prison population from 1,000 inmates to 300 or 400 inmates, the home minister said.


Thulhaadhoo council defies order to withhold pay for suspended councillor

The Thulhaadhoo island council has defied orders from the Local Government Authority (LGA) to withhold the monthly salary of a councillor suspended for attending a mass anti-government protest on May 1.

The council informed the LGA last week that the authority’s order was contrary to relevant laws and regulations. Unless a court of law rules otherwise, the Thulhaadhoo council said it would be following an “unconstitutional order” if it enforced the decision.

Thulhaadhoo council member Ziyau Rasheed Ibrahim was among several councillors suspended for two months without pay following their arrest from the May Day protest.

The council noted that Ziyau was no longer under arrest and that the constitution guarantees “fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value”.

The LGA’s chair, home minister Umar Naseer, had ordered the council secretariat not to pay Ziyau as he had been arrested from an “unlawful assembly.” Naseer had also asked the anti-corruption watchdog to penalise any councillors who had traveled to the capital on state funds.

According to the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), some 300 of its 450 island and atoll councillors had taken part in the protest.

Ziyau told Minivan News today that he had taken a leave of absence and traveled to Malé with his own money.

“I support the decision made by the council as the LGA has no reason to suspend me,” he said.

Vice president of the Thulhaadhoo council, Ahmed Rasheed, said the council believed the provision the LGA referred to in its letter was irrelevant to Ziyau’s case.

The decision not to enforce the LGA order was approved unanimously.

LGA media officer Mohamed Azmeen said the Thulhaadhoo council’s decision will be addressed at the next board meeting due to take place on June 24 and suggested contacting the home minister for further details.

Naseer was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

However, Rasheed said the LGA has replied to the council’s letter, advising the council to challenge the legality of the order at court.

Ziyau meanwhile revealed that he is facing charges of obstruction of police duty.

“They have sent me a summons today asking me to attend court for a hearing on some charge against me. A second chit said I would be given further details at a meeting,” he said.

Earlier this month, MDP island and atoll councillors in Noonu atoll decided to chip in to pay the salary of suspended Holhudhoo councillor Hussain Habeeb.


Lawyers ‘entertaining’ Nasheed during daily visits, complains home minister

Home minister Umar Naseer has advised former president Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyers not to use their visits to “entertain” the imprisoned opposition leader.

In a letter to Nasheed’s attorney, Hassan Latheef, the home minister said that the legal team was “having fun, laughing and joking, and entertaining him” during daily visits to the Maafushi jail.

“I advise you to make proper use of the opportunity to meet lawyers,” Naseer stated.

The letter was dated May 3, but the legal team said it was only delivered yesterday.

Nasheed is serving a 13-year jail sentence following his conviction on terrorism charges on March 13 over the detention of a judge during his tenure. The 19-day trial was widely criticised by foreign governments, the UN, and international human rights organisations over its apparent lack of due process.

In a tweet last night, Latheef called Naseer’s letter “insane.”

“Stupidity to the max!” the former labour minister tweeted.

Latheef told Minivan News that Naseer did not have the authority to “determine whether we can laugh or not.”

The consultations with Nasheed were “none of Naseer’s business,” he continued and expressed concern with the home minister’s knowledge of confidential meetings between lawyers and a client.

“We fear that the meeting areas may be bugged,” he said.

Latheef said the legal team was only allowed to meet Nasheed once a week for two hours, which poses difficulties as the lawyers were also communicating with the former president’s international legal team and providing documentation.

The lawyers were able to meet other clients on any day at their convenience, he continued, but visits to Nasheed were authorised under strict supervision of the home minister.

In his reply to the home minister – shared on social media today – Latheef said the legal team’s efforts are intended to “save” the former president from the jail sentence and prove his innocence.

“As such, a case has been filed at the UN working group of arbitrary detention,” Latheef noted.

Former first lady Laila Ali lodged the petition last month requesting a judgment declaring Nasheed’s detention arbitrary and illegal.

Latheef said the conduct of the criminal court judges and proceedings at the court were amusing.

“Therefore, laughing at times while talking about the case is only natural,” Latheef wrote.

Latheef urged the home minister not to use his complaints “as an excuse” to narrow or deny the former president his constitutional right to legal representation.



UN rights office urges action to rectify Nasheed’s ‘vastly unfair’ trial

The trial and conviction of former president Mohamed Nasheed was “vastly unfair, arbitrary, and disproportionate,” a senior official at the UN human rights office said yesterday, urging action to resolve a deepening political crisis.

The government, however, remains defiant in the face of growing international and domestic pressure for the release of the opposition leader.

At a UN press briefing in Geneva on Friday, Mona Rishmawi, head of the rule of law, equality and non-discrimination branch, said Nasheed’s 19-day trial was politically motivated and his conviction was reached by judges wielding “incredible discretionary powers.”

“We kind of started to get signals that even the government recognises that something went wrong with the process of the trial,” she was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“We would like to see this translate into concrete political action and see something happening in this case…What is very clear is that the president still has clemency powers.”

Rishmawi visited the Maldives from April 20 to 23 as head of a delegation from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to “examine the broader issues” related to Nasheed’s case.

However, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon told the state broadcaster yesterday that the government will not comply with demands from foreign governments to “meddle” with the judiciary and release a convict.

The European parliament adopted a resolution last week calling on the government to release Nasheed and urged member states to issue warnings on the Maldives’ human rights record on their travel advice websites.

Nasheed’s international lawyers are also seeking a judgment from the UN working group on arbitrary detention declaring his incarceration illegal.

Dunya reportedly said the Maldives would become “enslaved” and lose its independence if the government accepted the demands.

The foreign governments do not wish well for the Maldives, Dunya said, and called on the public to protect the country’s institutions, independence, and sovereignty.

After meetings with officials from the government and the judiciary as well as members of civil society organisations, the UN delegation found that the prosecutor general and judges have “excessive discretionary powers” in the absence of criminal justice procedures and evidence laws, according to a press briefing note from the UN rights office.

Rishmawi noted that lesser charges against Nasheed over the January 2012 military detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed had been withdrawn shortly before his arrest in February.

Nasheed “learnt about the new charge under the Terrorism Act only upon his arrest.”

He was found guilty on March 13 and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

The criminal court denied Nasheed “the possibility to prepare and present adequate defence, including calling defence witnesses, and examining the evidence against him.”

“What we saw is that the rules have been really changed to lead to a certain result,” she said.

The discretionary powers do not work for the benefit of a fair trial, which she said was the main issue at stake and suggested that “international pressure could help fix flaws” in the judiciary.

The briefing note added that the Maldivian judiciary is “is perceived as politicised, inadequate and subject to external influence” and referred to the convictions of former defence ministers Mohamed Nazim and Tholhath Ibrahim, who also “received disproportionate sentences in a flawed trials.”

The UN human rights office urged the government to ensure an environment conducive for political dialogue, allow the exercise of the rights of free expression and assembly, and ensure Nasheed’s safety in custody.

Rishmawi met the former president in a “temporary location” before he was transferred to the high-security Maafushi jail, and described Nasheed as thoughtful and humorous.

“But I wouldn’t say he was relaxed. He knew he was facing 13 years in prison and he knew that his situation is really really difficult and he worried a lot about his safety,” she said.


Sniffer dog locates 300 grams of heroin in first raid

A sniffer dog has located 300 grams of heroin in the Maldives’ first drug raid involving dogs.

The police, with the dog’s help, managed to recover two packets of what they say was a major stash of drugs at a private residence in Malé on Saturday night, after suspects flushed an unknown quantity of illegal drugs down the toilet.

Superintendent of police Ahmed Shifan said the drug bust was “a major green light that sniffer dogs can help resolve the Maldives’ drug problem.”

Police estimate the street value of confiscated heroin at MVR600,000 (US$39,063). A 26-year-old from Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo was arrested from Carnation Lodge.

Dogs are illegal in the Maldives for religious reasons, but home minister Umar Naseer last month brought in 16 puppies from the Netherlands to tackle the Maldives’ entrenched drug abuse and trafficking problem.

Local media reported a woman at the scene fainted on seeing the dog, but police say they believe the woman had fainted after seeing the narcotics at her home.

“These are false reports, we believe she fainted after the drugs were discovered, not because she saw the dogs,” Shifan said.

He said the police will not use the dogs to incite fear among the public.

The dog squad reportedly cost the government US$40,000. Custom-made kennels have been established at the airport, and the government has brought in British and Dutch trainers to train police officers on working with the dogs.

Naseer has meanwhile tasked the language academy with naming the 16 puppies. The academy last month invented a new Dhivehi word for the dog squad, ‘faaregema.’

Police were only authorised to use sniffer dogs in operations on Thursday. Shifan said the dogs will also be used to detect counterfeit money.

Last year, the police confiscated 44 kilograms of drugs in 31 nation-wide operations.


MDP carries out nationwide “Maldivians for justice” protests

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party carried out protests across the country on Friday under the banner “Maldivians for Justice,” calling for the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Demonstrations took place from Haa Dhaalu Kulhudhufushi and Raa Meedhoo in the north to the Addu City in the south. Hundreds of supporters in capital Malé offered a special prayer at the Islamic Center after Friday prayers, and thousands participated in a protest march at 9:30pm.

Speaking at an opposition march for the first time, MP Ahmed Mahloof said: “Former President Nasheed is loved by thousands of Maldivians and his jailing will not bring any gain to President Yameen.”

The MP for Galolhu South was expelled from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives for allegedly defaming President Abdulla Yameen.

Mahloof accused the government of prosecuting the opposition leader as well as former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim in a conspiracy to eliminate political opponents.

He also praised MDP MP Ismail Fayyaz, who was arrested from a protest and is being held in remand detention after he refused to accept the Criminal Court’s condition of not participating in protests for 60 days.

A motorcycle rally took place in Kulhudhufushi in the afternoon, whilst hundreds wearing black gathered for a rally at the Feydhoo harbor in the southernmost Addu City.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of MDP supporters participated in a special prayer outside the Islamic Centre after Friday prayers.

“Brutality reigns in our country. Justice abolished. O Allah! May our country be saved from the brutality of our rulers, and may we be taken to safer shores,” the prayer stated.

“Our beloved leader, a man loved by a majority of us, Mohamed Nasheed, has been unjustly sentenced and imprisoned. He has suffered and continues to suffer. O Allah! Save Mohamed Nasheed from this brutality.”

The prayer gathering prompted Home Minister Umar Naseer to call for police action against usng mosques and surrounding areas to “make political statements.”

The MDP condemned Naseer’s “warning” in a statement today, describing the tweet as “shocking.”

“Mosques are used for worship and prayer. The acts of brutality in the Maldives are prohibited and praying to be saved from such acts is encouraged in Islam. We see interfering with citizens of a Muslim country’s praying and threatening them as this government’s brutality getting to a whole new level,” read the statement.


Home minister assures Nasheed’s safety and welfare in custody

Former President Mohamed Nasheed will be incarcerated in a 264-square foot furnished “prison apartment” in Maafushi jail with air-conditioning, a sitting room, a television and VCD player, Home Minister Umar Naseer has said.

Naseer revealed in a tweet this morning that the opposition leader would also have a 1,087-square foot garden and would be able to “live with other inmate-friends.”

“The government guarantees the safety, welfare, and protection of former [President] Nasheed while in custody,” Naseer tweeted last night.

“He’ll be treated with respect and dignity.”

Following the Criminal Court sentencing Nasheed to 13 years in jail on Friday night, Naseer said he had asked police to hold the former president in Dhoonidhoo detention centre “until a special unit is constructed in Maafushi prison.”

Nasheed was found guilty on terrorism charges over the January 2012 military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

However, the office of former President Nasheed released a statement today claiming the cell being prepared to house the opposition leader was in an area of the jail deemed unfit for human habitation.

“The use of the cell being prepared in Maafushi jail was discontinued after the Human Rights Commission of Maldives and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent determined in 2009 that it was unfit to hold people,” the statement read.

“The toilet of the cell currently being prepared is inside the cell. It was built such that unclean odours and bacteria fans out to the whole cell. It is adjacent to the jail’s garbage dump. Germs, bacteria and unclean air constantly circulate inside the cell.”

The Maldives Correctional Services – which manages jails and detention centres – functions under the home ministry.

Home Ministry Media Coordinator Thazmeel Abdul Samad told Minivan News today that he was not aware of the location of the cell within the jail.

“It is being built in the most appropriate way to hold a former president of Maldives,” he insisted, adding that Nasheed would “not feel any discomfort.”

Thazmeel said construction of the cell would be complete within a week or ten days.

The office of the former president meanwhile contended that the the home ministry’s arrangements were in violation of the Constitution as well as the Maldives’ obligations under the the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

“This government is making arrangements to unjustly cause serious harm to President Nasheed,” the statement alleged, adding that preventing inmates from interacting with others or from being seen by anyone was also against the domestic anti-torture law.

“We have received information of the Ministry of Home Affairs preparing a good place to hold President Nasheed and making arrangements to keep other inmates with him,” it continued.

“However, the cell is being prepared in an area in Maafushi jail that has been deemed unfit for human habitation. And as the other inmates to be kept with President Nasheed so as not to keep him in isolation would be determined by this government, we are extremely concerned over the threat to President Nasheed’s safety and security.”

Related to this story

Former President Nasheed found guilty of terrorism, sentenced to 13 years in prison

Government will ensure Nasheed’s right to appeal conviction, says spokesperson

Respect Criminal Court verdict, says President Yameen

“This is not a court of law. This is injustice,” Nasheed tells the Criminal Court

MDP to launch national civil disobedience campaign to free Nasheed


Ex-defence minister “plotted to attack” president, police chief, tourism minister

Former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim plotted to attack President Abdulla Yameen, state prosecutors have claimed.

Revealing confidential plans in a pen drive allegedly confiscated along with a pistol and three bullets from Nazim’s home on January 18, state prosecutors said the retired colonel had also planned to attack Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office had previously submitted the plans as confidential documents in a weapons smuggling charge against Nazim.

The plans demonstrated Nazim had the “motive and character” to use the pistol and bullets, state prosecutor Adam Arif told the Criminal Court today.

Nazim’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed maintains rogue police officers planted the weapons at the former defence minister’s apartment in a conspiracy engineered by Tourism Minister Adeeb.

Defence lawyers today named President Yameen, Commissioner Waheed, Chief of Defence Forces Major General Ahmed Shiyam, Home Minister Umar Naseer and several senior ranking police and military officers as witnesses.

The Criminal Court adjourned today’s hearing stating the court would decide whether to summon defence witnesses only if they appear to negate the prosecution’s evidence.

Pen drive


Following the January 18 weapons find, Nazim was dismissed from his ministerial post. Two weeks later, on February 10, he was arrested on additional charges of terrorism and treason. At the time, the police accused Nazim of plotting a coup and planning to harm senior government officials.

On February 24, at the first hearing of the trial on weapons possession, Arif revealed Nazim’s alleged plot to harm officials was to be financed by Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group.

The documents were to be kept confidential, but Arif today revealed further details, alleging a man named Riyaz was also involved in financing Nazim’s alleged plans.

Another individual identified as FA was to secure international assistance from Singapore, Malaysia and Bangkok, while another identified as “Bodu Boalha” [Big Ball] was to import weapons into the country, Arif said.

The documents also contained an escape plan, and listed the state wholesaler State Trading Organisation (STO) as an additional resource.

Nazim’s brother Adam Azim had been STO’s Managing Director up until his dismissal on Tuesday.

The state prosecutor also said the documents revealed that Nazim had engineered December’s water crisis in Malé when a fire at the water plant had left over 150,000 people in the capital without water for two weeks.

Nazim had also attempted to influence three Majlis votes, the prosecution said, which included the no-confidence vote against former Health Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela, the vote to appoint a new Prosecutor General, and the vote to reduce the Supreme Court bench.

Defence witnesses


Nazim has named President Yameen as a witness in order to prove Home Minister Naseer had notified the president of Adeeb’s alleged threat to “destroy” Nazim, defence lawyers said.

On March 7, Hameed claimed Adeeb framed Nazim after the former defence minister alerted Yameen of the tourism minister using SO SWAT officers to commit criminal acts, including the chopping down of all of Malé City’s Areca palms in October last year.

Defence lawyers have also called Superintendent of Police Ahmed Nafiz and former head of police’s intelligence directorate Mohamed ‘MC’ Hameed to prove a complaint was lodged over SO officer’s alleged criminal activities, and that SO officers had engaged in criminal activity.

The defence has also called senior ranking police and military officers to prove:

  • a Special Protection Group Corporal had lost a 9mm Browning pistol at Shangri-La resort in 2014
  • weapons are routinely imported into the Maldives illegally and used illegally
  • police officers did not follow due process in raiding and searching Nazim’s residence
  • police intelligence had not received any information that illegal weapons were smuggled into Malé prior to the raid

The tourism minister has previously said he was “shocked” by the allegations, and dismissed them as lies.

Related to this story

Adeeb framed Nazim after fallout over Malé City’s Areca palms, lawyers claim

Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials

Ex defense minister’s wife charged with illegal weapons possession

Nazim remains in custody as High Court rejects appeal

Former Defence Minister Nazim remanded for 15 days

Police deny framing Nazim as former Commissioner alleges politicisation

No forensic evidence against Nazim, says legal team

Police raid Defence Minister Nazim’s home in early hours