First hearing held into alleged alcohol possession by MDP MPs

The Criminal Court today conducted the first hearing into the case of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Hamid Abdul Ghafoor and Abdulla Jabir allegedly being caught in possession of alcohol last November.

Jabir did not attend the hearing, and prior to concluding the session the judge warned that the court might have to keep him in detention if he did not comply with future summons.

The MDP last week released a statement describing the “politicised police summons and prosecutions” as attempts by the government to obstruct its election campaigning.

Local newspapers present at the Criminal Court reported that the prosecution lawyers told the judge police had received information that a group of people were in possession of and consuming alcohol on the uninhabited island of Hondaidhoo in Haa Dhaalu Atoll.

They subsequently raided the island, where Ghafoor was found in possession of alcohol.

Newspapers reported the prosecution lawyer as telling the court that while police were searching the island, MDP MPs Jabir and Ghafoor and a person identified as Jadhulla Jameel were sitting near a hut that looked like a bar, that Abdulla Jabir was holding a glass containing alcohol, and that Ghafoor was holding a mug which he threw away when he saw the police officers approaching them.

There were three bottles on a chair near the hut which tested positive for containing alcohol. The liquid inside the glasses the three were holding also tested positive for alcohol, media reported.

Ghafoor, given the opportunity to respond to the charges, he requested the opportunity to appoint a lawyer. The judge asked him to appoint one before the next hearing.

A total of 10 people were taken into police custody on November 16 after police raided and searched Hondaidhoo with a court warrant. Officers alleged they found large amounts of suspected drugs and alcohol upon searching the island.

Two Sri Lankan nationals named Raj Mohan and Anoor Bandaranayk, as well as a Bangladeshi named Suhail Rana, were taken into custody following the island raid. Their cases have not been filed at the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office.

On August 22, criminal court media official Ahmed Mohamed Manik told Minivan News confirmed that the PG had charged Jabir, Ghafoor, and Jadhulla Jameel with smuggling alcohol into the country and consuming it, as well as possession of cannabis and objecting to urine testing.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair and his wife Mariyam Faiza were also charged for objecting to take urine tests, said Manik.

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.

Additionally, the son of Nasheed’s former special envoy, Mohamed Hamdhoon Zaki,  has been charged for trafficking illegal drugs into the country – the penalty for which is 25 years and a fine of up to MVR10 million (US$650,000).