Criminal Court releases former police intelligence chief

The Criminal Court has ordered the release of former head of police intelligence Chief Superintendent Mohamed Hameed from custody, just a few hours after the High Court upheld its decision to keep him detained.

The five-day detention warrant granted by the Criminal Court expired on Tuesday at 2:00pm, and Hameed was brought before the court by the police with a request for further extension.

However contrary to its first decision, the court sanctioned Hameed’s release by concluding that it “does not believe the detention should be extended any further.”

Police have accused the former intelligence chief for “threatening the internal security” or jeopardizing domestic harmony of the country following his contribution to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s report (Dhivehi) into the controversial transfer of power on February 7.

As Hameed walked out of the court, he was greeted by former President Mohamed Nasheed who welcomed him and shook hands, while eager MDP supporters circling the area hailed Chief Superintendent Hameed as a “national hero”.

High Court’s “ridiculous” ruling

Following the Criminal Court’s previous decision to keep Hameed detained for five days, his family appealed the case in High court, contesting the legitimacy of Criminal Court’s decision to extend his detention.

On Tuesday morning the three judge panel presiding over the case – Judge Abdu Rauf, Judge Shuaib Hussain Zakariyya and Judge Abdul Ghanee – unanimously ruled that they “found no legal grounds” to declare the criminal court’s decision unlawful.

Hameed’s lawyer Ismail Visham argued in court that his client had been subjected to discrimination.

Visham told the court that there were police officers accused of more serious crimes who had not been detained, alleging that in one instance a senior police officer stood accused of attempting to rape a woman and in another incident, influence a judge in a case involving the police officer’s interest.

He further contended that the Criminal Court judge had extended Hameed’s detention period not based on what the police told the judge, but based on the judge’s own view, and that Hameed had therefore lost the right to respond to the accusations.

In response, the state attorney said that Hameed was accused not of a disciplinary matter but a criminal offence, and argued that the Criminal Court judge had declared Hameed a threat to society because police told the judge he might seek to “intimidate witnesses” and “destroy evidence”.

The High Court judges concluded that the defense had not provided enough evidence to substantiate discrimination claims.

The ruling also stated that the constitution does not prohibit the presiding judge from considering reasons in addition to what is provided by the police, in cases concerning the extension of a suspect’s detention.

Following the High Court decision, Hameed’s family today called the ruling “ridiculous” as his detention period was due to expire at 2:00pm today.

“The five day extension will come to an end at 2:00pm today and he will be brought to court again to either have his custody extended or be released. The timing of the High Court verdict on his appeal is ridiculous since his five days are up today anyway,” a family member said.

Witch-hunt against police whistleblowers

In a statement released today, police have said the investigation against Hameed is continuing.

Police allege the Chief Superintendent “distributed information obtained pertinent to his tenure as Head of the Intelligence Department, police matters and internal security, along with [providing] misleading information to certain individuals for reaping benefit out of it to cause divisions between police officers and the community.”

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) meanwhile held protests last weekend calling for Hameed’s immediate release, claiming that is arrest is “further evidence of the Maldives’ rapid descent into a police state” and that it is a “witch-hunt” against honest officers revealing the criminal offenses committed by rogue police officers on February 7.

“Brave men and women who wish to stand up for the rule of law, for democracy and for human rights are today subjected to constant threats and intimidation. This purge of police officers who the Government considers possible opponents demonstrates President Waheed’s growing paranoia and the fact that his coalition Government are determined to rule by fear,” MDP’s Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said in a statement released last week.

“MDP calls on the EU, the US, the UN Human Rights Council and others to urgently enquire into the well-being of these police officers and to hold this illegal government accountable for their growing use of violence and intimidation for political means,” he added.

President’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News today that government has no plans of intervening in the case as it is a “police matter”.

“But if police find a case against him” Riza said, “the government will support the any decision to uphold the laws and constitution.”

He further added: “The Police Act governs conducts of police officers and treatment of information individual receive as officers. It is the policy of the government that no civil secret be released.”