Court releases judge’s brother arrested for arson

The prosecutor general’s office has appealed the Maalhos magistrate court’s release of a man arrested on suspicion of torching two boats and a speedboat in Baa Kendhoo on April 24.

According to local media, the suspect, Abdul Salam Yousuf, 42, from the Morning House in Kendhoo, is the brother of criminal court judge Abdul Bari Yousuf.

Judge Bari was part of a three-judge panel that sentenced former President Mohamed Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim in March.

The magistrate court in Baa Maalhos had extended Salam’s remand detention twice, but reportedly refused to grant a third extension. He had been held in police custody for 20 days.

The owner of the vessels said at the time that the fire caused damages worth MVR3 million (US$194,931). The boats and speedboat were made of fibreglass and were completely destroyed.

The owner also said the perpetrator had broken into his petrol shed and stolen gasoline.

The owner is a member of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

A few days after the incident, a car owned by an MDP activist was set on fire in the Feydhoo ward of Addu City.

Both incidents occurred ahead of a mass anti-government rally planned for May 1.

Local media reported at the time that according to eyewitnesses two masked men carrying knives set the car on fire around 6:45am on April 28.

The car’s owner, Mohmed Thoriq told Minivan News at the time that some windows of his house also caught on fire as the car was parked in front.

“My mother saw the flames and woke me up crying,” he said.

“In total with cost of the windows of the house and the car, this is about MVR 230, 000 worth of damages for me,” he said.


Cameraman ‘forced’ to erase footage of PG meeting judge

A cameraman of the opposition aligned Raajje TV was forced to erase footage of a meeting between prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin and criminal court judge Abdul Bari Yousuf at a café, the broadcasting commission has found.

The PG allegedly met Bari at the Café Layaali in Malé on March 8 while the latter was presiding over former president Mohamed Nasheed’s terrorism trial.

The pair have denied the meeting took place, and Muhsin has previously said he would resign immediately if the allegations are proven to be true.

Following an inquiry, the commission determined on Monday that the Raajje TV journalists “faced reasons forcing them to delete the footage.”

“As the commission saw that this was a situation that obstructed press freedom, the members who participated in the meeting to conclude this case decided unanimously to appeal to all parties to ensure that broadcasters and the media as a whole do not face such compulsion in order to maintain an environment where journalists can fully exercise the right guaranteed by the constitution and laws without fear,” reads the summary statement of the report prepared the commission.

The commission also investigated a complaint alleging that Raajje TV disseminated false information as PG Muhsin denied meeting the judge. The commission decided that the station did not violate the broadcasting code of content as it had sought comment from both Muhsin and Bari.

The meeting took place days before a three-judge panel sentenced ex-president Nasheed to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges. Judge Bari also presided over ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s trial on weapons smuggling charges.

After Raajje TV reported the alleged meeting, the criminal court barred the station’s reporters from attending hearings. The court accused Raajje TV of “spreading lies about judges, meddling in judges personal affairs and engaging in actions that may harm judges.”

Muhsin meanwhile told Minivan News at the time that the judge was already at the café when he went there for a meal with family members.

However, Raajje TV insisted the pair were sitting at the same table and that Muhsin had walked away when the journalist started asking questions.

At the time, a Raajje TV staff told Minivan News that a group of young men led by Progressive Party of the Maldives MP Ahmed Assad forced the cameramen to delete the footage.

In 2013, the watchdog Judicial Service Commission suspended Judge Bari for over a year pending the outcome of a complaint lodged against him for alleged misconduct.

Although the commission did not reveal any details of the complaint, local media reported that a female attorney from the Prosecutor General’s Office had alleged that Bari had sexually assaulted her.

Bari was cleared of the allegations and resumed duty at Criminal Court on July 24, 2014.


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

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb threatened to “destroy” former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim two months before police raided the retired colonel’s apartment and discovered a pistol and bullets, Nazim’s lawyer has alleged.

Presenting the defence’s opening statement at today’s hearing of Nazim’s trial on charges of weapons possession, Maumoon Hameed claimed Nazim had found out in October last year that Specialist Operations (SO) police officers chopped down the city council’s areca palm trees on Majeedhee Magu on orders from Adeeb.

Upon learning that the defence minister had complained to President Abdulla Yameen of the incident, Hameed claimed Adeeb called and threatened Nazim in a conference call with Home Minister Umar Naseer.

Hameed said Naseer had expressed his displeasure regarding the threats in a text message to President Yameen.

The police professional standards command subsequently discovered that money was deposited to the bank accounts of the SO SWAT team officers, Hameed claimed.

Hameed said the SO officers learned of Nazim’s objections to the president and bore animosity towards the then-defence minister, alleging that the same officers involved in chopping down the areca palm trees comprised the SWAT team that raided Nazim’s apartment in the early hours of January 18.


During the opening statement, Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf repeatedly interrupted Hameed, advised the lawyer not to mention persons not involved in the case, and asked what the allegations had to do with the charges.

Hameed said the basis of the defence was that the evidence against Nazim was “fabricated” in order to “frame” him, alleging that Adeeb – also deputy leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – had planned and orchestrated the setup.

Hameed told the press last week that a police forensic report shared with defence lawyers stated that fingerprints lifted from the weapon did not match either Nazim or any of his family members.

Adeeb had also called Nazim two days before the raid and asked where he lived and how many rooms were in his apartment, Hameed continued, noting that Adeeb had previously been to the apartment for tea.

Judge Bari suggested that Adeeb could have forgotten the address.


Speaking to Minivan News today, Adeeb said he was “very shocked” to hear of the serious allegations, which he dismissed as “all lies” and “very weak”.

Adeeb said he regretted that the trial was becoming “politicised” and suggested that the ex-colonel’s lawyer and not Nazim himself was responsible for the allegations.

Nazim was a close friend, he added, and the pair had discussed official matters up until the former Defence Minister’s arrest.

Adeeb noted that Nazim did not mention any of the allegations at a press conference after his dismissal from the cabinet.

Hameed did not have any experience in criminal defence, Adeeb continued, suggesting that he might bear a grudge for not being appointed Prosecutor General last year.

In July 2014, parliament approved Muhthaz Muhsin as PG after PPM MPs decided to endorse the former Criminal Court judge despite the party’s leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, urging ruling party MPs to vote for his nephew Maumoon Hameed.

Hurried trial

State prosecutors will present anonymous testimony by three officers involved in the raid, a crime scene report by police officer Mohamed Areef, a report on the weapons authenticity by MNDF’s Mohamed Nazeem and a confidential letter from the army stating the pistol and bullets did not belong to the state.

Confidential documents from a pen drive confiscated from Nazim’s apartment will also be presented to show the former Defence Minister harbored the intent to use and was capable of using the pistol, state prosecutor Adam Arif said.

Further evidence includes a statement by Nazim in which he “admitted” the police had discovered the weapons in his presence, Arif continued.

The Prosecutor General’s Office is also awaiting analysis of DNA samples lifted from the weapons, he added.

Hameed, then contended the state had filed charges without completing a full investigation, and appealed to judges’ to dismiss the state’s case.

Noting the Constitution declares any evidence obtained unlawfully as inadmissible, Hameed once again pointed to what he called several irregularities during the police raid.

Judge Yoosuf, however, told Hameed to focus on the content of the evidence, stating the bench had taken note of the defence’s concerns.

The Criminal Court gave Nazim three days to submit evidence in his defense, and denied a request to review its decision to keep the former Defence Minister in police custody until the end of the trial.


JSC clears Criminal Court Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf of ethical misconduct

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has cleared Criminal Court Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf of allegations of ethical misconduct and lifted his suspension after more than one year and five months.

The judicial watchdog revealed in a statement on Thursday (July 24) that the commission decided there was “insufficient concrete evidence” to prove wrongdoing following consideration of a report prepared by an investigating committee.

The JSC had suspended Bari in February 2013 pending the outcome of an investigation after a complaint was submitted the previous month.

Bari has reportedly been receiving full pay and allowances since his suspension.

Although the commission did not reveal any details regarding the complaint, local media reported that a female attorney from the Prosecutor General’s Office had alleged that Bari sexually assaulted her.

While the JSC refused to confirm the allegations at the time, JSC Spokesperson Hassan Zaheen told Minivan News last week that the commission only provides information to the media after concluding a case.

The JSC is tasked by the Constitution with investigating complaints and taking disciplinary action against judges.

Judge Bari has presided over a number of high-profile cases at the Criminal Court in recent years.

In February 2010, he acquitted Adam Naseer Aboobakuru, whom the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed had labelled one of the country’s “top six” drug kingpins.

Naseer was arrested in June 2009 with over MVR6 million (US$461,500) in cash while police also found a tin containing drugs outside his house.

Judge Bari, however, ruled that the prosecution was unable to establish that the money was earned from dealing drugs and that the narcotics could have been placed outside Naseer’s house.

In 2011, Bari also ordered the release of Abdul Latheef, who was suspected of involvement with a high-profile drug cartel.

Despite initially ordering Latheef be kept in detention, the Criminal Court changed its first decision in a letter sent to the police asking for the suspect to be transferred to house arrest.

Latheef had been taken into custody with over 1,000 grams of cannabis in the trunk of his car.

Judicial oversight

Last week, the JSC denied media reports alleging that an investigating committee had found former Criminal Court Judge Muhthaz Muhsin – who was appointed as the new prosecutor general on Tuesday – guilty of ethical misconduct.

Muhsin had allegedly attempted to save a suspect arrested for theft from being held in remand detention.

According to the JSC’s annual report for 2013, the commission has yet to conclude investigations or make a decision regarding 106 cases, which were pending at the end of last year, including one complaint dating back to 2008 and four complaints from 2009.

Other pending cases included 13 complaints from 2010, 16 complaints from 2011, 17 complaints from 2012, and 55 complaints from 2013.

The complaints against judges involved allegations of bias, lack of integrity, behavioural misconduct, discrimination, incompetence, procedural violations, inordinate delays in concluding cases, and breach of law and the constitution.

In a comprehensive report on the Maldivian judiciary released in May 2013, UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, noted that there was consensus on the view that the current composition of the JSC was “inadequate and politicised”.

“Because of this politicisation, the commission has allegedly been subjected to all sorts of external influence and has consequently been unable to function properly,” she wrote.

Moreover, a lack of transparency regarding proceedings over complaints, the criteria used to initiate proceedings, and JSC decisions “nourishes serious allegations of selectivity in the management of complaints.”