Dr Musthafa Luthfy resigns as chancellor of National University

Dr Musthafa Luthfy has resigned from his post as chancellor of the Maldives National University (MNU) in protest of the change of government on February 7 after a police mutiny forced President Mohamed Nasheed to resign under what he later claimed was duress.

According to local media, Dr Luthfy in his resignation letter expressed displeasure with the transition and contested the legality of Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s ascension to the presidency.

Luthfy, a founder member of Dr Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP), spoke at the first night of the ongoing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest condemning “the coup d’etat” and calling on Dr Waheed to resign to make way for an early presidential election.


Villa International High School threatens disciplinary action against student

Villa International High School – owned by business tycoon and leader of the Jumhooree Party (JP) Gasim Ibrahim – has threatened disciplinary action against a student who spoke at the ongoing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest.

According to Haveeru, the high school has decided to take action against Mikael Ahmed Naseem, a grade 12 student and school captain, for speaking at a rally organised by a political party.

Mikael had strongly criticised MP Gasim and claimed that students of Villa International High School were “against the coup.”

A school official told Haveeru that a committee would decide the form of disciplinary action, explaining that participation in partisan political activities were forbidden to students under general regulations for school children.


Two MNDF, two police officers resign to join MDP protest

Two officers each from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and Maldives Police Service joined the ongoing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) demonstration last night after resigning in protest of the security forces’ role in the change of government on February 7.

The four ex-officers – Staff Sergeant Shafraz Naeem and Fire and Rescue Lance Corporal Mohamed Imram from MNDF, along with Staff Sergeants Imran Abdulla and Mohamed Niyaz from the police – were introduced to the cheering crowd shortly after midnight by former Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam as “honourable and patriotic sons of the Maldives.”

The four officers were “not alone” in their decision, said Aslam, insisting that a number of officers in the police and army were “of independent thought.”

Speaking after Aslam, former Defence Minister Ameen Faisal urged protesters to stop harassing and taunting security personnel with chants of’ “Money, money, yes sir!” as “only a few officers” participated in the police mutiny demanding President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation in the early hours of February 7.

Former Youth Minister Hassan Latheef meanwhile suggested changing the slogan to “Money, money, no sir!” in recognition of the officers who resigned.

President Nasheed and members of his cabinet took to the stage to shake the ex-officers’ hands while the crowd saluted them.

The army has since issued a statement contending the two officers had not resigned and were absent without leave (AWOL). According to MNDF, the pair also had a history of disciplinary problems and administrative action had been taken against them.

Day three

Meanwhile the MDP’s mass protest demanding a date for an early presidential election entered its third consecutive day today, with more boatloads of supporters continuing to arrive in Male’.

Protesters from Thaa Madifushi swam ashore after 4:00pm today claiming they were not allowed to dock at the harbour while a large vessel from Haa Dhaal Kulhudufushi arrived this morning.

Addressing the gathering after midnight on the first day, President Nasheed urged supporters to “not do anything apart from expressing merriment.”

A number of protesters spent the night at the tsunami memorial area while the protest resumed the next day with a carnival atmosphere. Volunteers cooked rice with sausages while a children’s evening was arranged in the late afternoon.

On the second night, bodu beru (traditional Maldivian music) groups and local musicians entertained the crowd with improvised songs taunting the police. Among the performers were Sameeu, Fasy, Shiuz and musicians associated with the Dinba family.

Police have meanwhile told local media that the institution would not attempt to obstruct the gathering as long as it remained peaceful.

Speaking for a few minutes after 5pm today, President Nasheed said what was at stake was the freedom of future generations.

“One of the main reasons we can’t stay home indifferent is because we are very much assured in our hearts that there would be nothing more important for us to do than this after giving up our future,” he said.


Beatings and arrests of more than 100 MDP supporters in Addu: Mayor Abdulla Sodig

Amid the apparent stalemate in Male’ on Thursday as foreign diplomats and journalists flood the capital, hundreds of MDP supporters in the country’s second most populated area are reported to have been beaten and arrested in a police crackdown today.

Addu City makes up the southern-most tip of the Maldives and is the second most populated area in the Maldives after the capital Male’, with approximately 35,000 people. Like Male’, 100 percent of its councillors were elected on MDP tickets in the most recent local council elections. It was also the scene of the recent SAARC Summit.

Minivan News was informed just after 2:00am on Friday morning that arrest warrants had been issued by Meedhoo Court for the arrest of all Addu City Councilors. Two councilors are already in police custody, a source claimed.

Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig was attacked by approximately 10 individuals while taking a phone call outside the City Council on Wednesday night. He claimed his assailants were associated with opposition parties Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), and several other groups.

The attack on Sodig came as members of the public, allegedly supporting ousted president Mohamed Nasheed, burned and closed police stations and courts in islands across the Maldives’ south.

Sodig, who sustained injuries to his wrist, back and head, has said he is currently “hiding in a safe place” and has not seen his family, who are also “hiding in separate places.”

Sodig described the attack as an ambush. “They jumped over the wall and surrounded me before I could run, and began beating me to the ground, then jumping on me. If they had had knives, they would have killed me.”

“Two members of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were in the state house next to our office, and were notified. When they came the attackers began pulling me by one leg towards the road, but then they ran away,” he explained.

Sodig said his family has since received threats “that they would come for us, and torch our house.”

In what appears to be a retaliation for last night’s activities, members of opposition parties are now said to be assisting police to beat and arrest MDP members and activists in Addu.

Sodig reported that 100 people, including minors, had been arrested as of 7:00pm while an arrest warrant had been issued for council members.

Sodiq said he became aware of the situation when Deputy Mayor Hassan Shahid informed him that he was under police custody.

“Before the arrest, these people – no, thugs- lead the police to the homes of [MDP] members, beat them up while the police watch, and then the police arrest them,” Sodig explained. “One person has told me he was first pepper sprayed, then beaten, then arrested.”

Addu police had not responded to phone calls at time of press, however Police Media Official in Male’ Ahmed Shiyam said police operations are being carried out on all islands affected by last night’s violence.

Earlier today, police reported damage to public property on islands in Gaafu Dhaalu, Shaviyani, Gnaviyani, Haa Alifu and Raa atolls.

“The police are now investigating the violence of last night and arresting those responsible,” Shiyam said, adding that those assisting the police are “not the opposition.”

“These are only members of the public from those islands who are helping the police, they are just local civilians,” he emphasised.

Shiyam said he had not received any reports of violence being used during the investigation.

An expatriate teacher working in Addu told Minivan News that while unrest continued until 12:00pm today, shops and offices had opened this afternoon and that the streets are currently quiet. “There was a lot of uproar yesterday but things seem all right now,” he observed.

However, speaking on the condition of anonymity an individual familiar with last night’s uprising reported that members of opposition PPM, DRP and the 23rd December coalition began assisting the police early this morning.

“Around 9:00am the police began going around with these opposition members and arresting people. They even walked into people’s homes when most people were sleeping, they beat them in their beds,” he said, adding that “most people they’ve arrested weren’t even involved in last night’s protest.”

The source said police, whose vehicles were destroyed last night, had patrolled Addu in MNDF vehicles until 6:00pm tonight. He said he had heard they would return to the streets around 10:00pm.

At the moment, streets appear dull. “MDP is afraid, they’re staying in. The police have gone rogue,” he said.

Following his attack and threats made to his house and family last night, Sodig said he requested police “to give protection to the public and the government buildings, hospital and power station. But the commander said he couldn’t do anything.” Sodig added that to his understanding there are enough police forces to protect the people of Addu and maintain law and order.

“But they have failed, I don’t know their motives,” he said, adding that MDP members “are very frightened, they are hiding.”

Sodig was unclear if tonight’s attacks are being carried out on the order of the current government, the newly appointed Police Commissioner Riyaz Rasheed, the local commander or no official commander at all.

“Security services should not allow people to come and beat other people. If there are problems in the city police should address those problems, but they should not involve other members of the public. This is against the law,” Sodig elaborated.


Protests erupt after Nasheed claims resignation was ‘under duress’, and calls for Dr Waheed to step down

“I call upon Dr Waheed to immediately step down from the seat he is sitting in and call for immediate elections,” said former President Mohamed Nasheed during a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) National Council meeting at Dharubaruge this afternoon.

The council further rejected the now-forming national unity government’s invitation to join forces, and declaring Nasheed’s former government the only “legitimate” government said it would not negotiate with the opposing ruling body.

Nasheed spoke to hundreds of party supporters packed into the entire top floor of Dharubaruge, along with the sitting members of the national council. MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik chaired the meeting.

Declaring that “I will never back down until a lawful legitimate government is sworn in,” Nasheed called upon the chief justice to investigate the yesterday’s coup “and bring those responsible to justice.”

“We will never allow the national defense forces and the police to be hijacked by the opposition,” he said. “We will assure our key pledges of affordable housing, transport networks, closure of the doors opened towards narcotics, and bringing down the commodity prices.”

According to MDP, Nasheed was yesterday forced to resign by the military, which forced the state broadcasting station MNBC to revert to its identity Television Maldives (TVM) and threatened “a bloodbath in the capital” if Nasheed did not step down from the presidency.

The alleged coup arose out of three weeks of opposition-led protests calling for the release of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed who was arrested on January 16 after attempting to block his own police summons. Protesters declared the arrest a violation of human rights while members of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) accused Nasheed of acting unlawfully.

Following an all-night protest on February 6, under 100 police officers defected from their position as state security and assisted protesters in an attack on the then-ruling MDP camp, triggering a larger clash between police and Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) last morning which left many injured.

Following Nasheed’s resignation at 1:00 pm, former Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan was sworn into office yesterday at 3:00pm with the support of several opposition parties. He said he intends to fulfill Nasheed’s term until the scheduled presidential elections in 2013.

Meanwhile, members of Nasheed’s government have said they did not attend work today and are awaiting political appointment.

Gathering for the council meeting today at Dharubaruge, throngs of MDP supporters and members of the former government chanted for Nasheed upon his arrival, filling the building’s top floor and screaming in support as sitting council members declared resistance to Dr Waheed’s national unity government.

MP Alhan Fahmy, former Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem and several party MPs said MDP would not negotiate with Dr Waheed’s government and declared that Nasheed “is still the legitimate president.”

Party President Dr Ibrahim Didi, who last night said on television that he supported cooperation with the new government, told the council, “I was misinterpreted by the media stating that I was open to the idea of a unity government but I only stated that I would decide after consulting the party council.”

Speaking from atop her chair at the front of the council MP Mariya Ahmed Didi declared yesterday’s events a coup and called on the council to accept that Nasheed’s administration had been elected by popular vote, but was overturned by a minority of the nation’s security forces.

Former State Minister for Foreign Affairs Aslam Shakir next proposed a resolution that the MDP rally for judicial reform, which was earlier scheduled for February 17, would proceed as planned. Many party supporters are due to arrive from islands for the event.

The council unanimously voted in favor of both resolutions.

The council further asserted that it does not recognise yesterday’s change of government, and that Nasheed and his ministers are still the legitimate ruling body in the eyes of MDP.

As the meeting drew to a close Nasheed said, “I call upon all of us to march to ‘Haruge’ [MDP camp] after this meeting and open it for it was the place where freedom of speech and expression originated.” Supporters exited the building chanting “long live Nasheed!” and made their way to the party camp.

Shortly after, MDP members clashed with some opposition supporters near the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA). MNDF forces were on their way to the scene at time of press, after the crowd had been four times pepper sprayed.

Nasheed was reported to be on the protest’s front lines.


MP rejects authority of Criminal Court after judge releases armed “I was just cooking” civilian

Today’s Criminal Court hearing for a case involving ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for Thimmarafushi Mohamed Musthafa was cancelled after the MP refused to accept the court summons on the grounds that the court’s judges were unlawfully appointed.

Musthafa added that Thimarafushi island council had advised against his attending the hearing.

Musthafa’s comment came after the Criminal Court today ordered the release of a man arrested for carrying a knife as protesters spread throughout Male’ on Friday evening.

Hassan Areef, who has prior convictions for violence, was arrested in Henveiru ward by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) before being handed over to police.

Appearing in court today, Areef claimed he had been preparing a meal using a butter knife when he went outside to see the commotion, unintentionally carrying the knife with him, according to local media.

The criminal court accepted Areef’s version and ordered his release. Police have announced their intention to appeal the verdict.

Meanwhile, in a letter to the court, Musthafa justified his refusal by citing President Mohamed Nasheed’s position that lower court judges were not appointed in accordance with Article 149 of the constitution, therefore their rulings held no legal weight.

According to Article 149, “A person appointed as a Judge in accordance with law, must possess the educational qualifications,  experience  and  recognised competence necessary to discharge the duties and responsibilities of a Judge, and must be of high moral character.”

The article further requires judges to be a Sunni Muslim of at least 25 years of age, who has not been convicted of an offence and is of sound mind.

Musthafa has been charged for bounced cheques.

The MP faces multiple charges of cheque fraud, notably over transactions made by his company Seafood International Pvt Ltd.

Citing deception by food supplier General Meat Ltd, Musthafa threatened legal action against the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) in November if it did not pay the US$500,000 that the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) owed Seafood International.

Musthafa alleged that the sum was due to be paid to his company according to a 1991 London court ruling.

Citing MMA as the “live branch of BCCI in the Maldives,” Musthafa previously stated that “the debt of a dead person has to be paid by a living legal parent. If the MMA does not pay us within seven days we will sue the MMA in court and when we sue, we will ask the court to take the amount of money for the loss we have had for the past 20 years as a cause of not having this money.’’

Meanwhile, a case filed in 2009 by opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Vice President Umar Naseer claims Musthafa must be removed from Parliament due to a decreed debt which is in violation of Article 73(c)1.

The Supreme Court was due to rule on a case against Musthafa on October 20, however proceedings were interrupted when MDP called for a nation-wide protest against the judiciary during an emergency meeting.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, MDP MP and spokesperson for the party’s Parliamentary Group, Mohamed Shifaz, said judges had been blackmailed and that the party would protest the politicised judiciary indefinitely.

This month, the opposition took up the protest baton and demanded the release of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed from military detention. The Judge was arrested on January 16, 2012. Protestors have demonstrated against the government since that date.

Contending that the judge was lawfully arrested, the government has requested international legal assistance to resolve what has been labelled a “judicial crisis”.


Police exhibit video footage of falling plank injuring 17 year-old outside Endherimaage

Police have exhibited video footage of a wooden pole thrown from above injuring a 17 year-old during a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest outside former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s residence, Maafanu Endherimaage.

At a press briefing last night, Superintendent Mohamed Jinah said police wished to “reveal the truth” about the incident as “deliberately false allegations have been made against police using the media” to bring the institution into disrepute, and “relentless attempts” had been made to cast aspersions on police and its senior officers.

On Monday, police arrested Gassan Maumoon, son of the former President, on suspicion of hurling the 5-foot block of wood from the Endherimaage building. The Criminal Court however ruled that his arrest was unlawful and ordered his release.

The video footage shows the wooden pole strike the victim on the head and the crowd scattering after other objects were thrown down. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Minivan News journalists observed gravel, hot boiling water and sharp metal objects raining down on protesters.

Jinah said the victim, Hussein Hassan, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo Semy, had to undergo brain surgery to repair damage to his skull and “one side of his body is paralysed.”

Police did not want to reveal such video footage to the public lightly, said Jinah, but did so in this case because “many people have been using different media to claim that [the incident] never happened and make serious allegations against police contrary to the truth of the matter to bring the institution into disrepute.”

Police were also investigating damage caused to private property during the MDP protest and ascertaining the cost of the damages, Jinah said, adding however that police had not been provided security camera footage from residences in the area upon request.

Two MDP activists were arrested on suspicion of causing damage to the former President’s residence and adjoining houses. The pair have since been released after interrogation despite the Criminal Court extending their arrest for five days.

Of the two cases under investigation, said Jinah, “the most important and serious matter” was the “life-threatening” incident that left the 17-year-old hospitalised.

“We had reasons to implicate Gassan Maumoon in this matter,” Jinah said, adding that police had statements from eight witnesses who saw Gassan on the balcony as well as photos taken by a police forensic team of wooden poles inside the Endherimaage building Thursday night.

In addition to eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence, said Jinah, the “most important reason” for suspecting Gassan was his admission upon questioning that he did step out to the balcony.

When Gassan let slip that he was on the balcony, Jinah said “after a gesture from his lawyer he then exercised the right to remain silent.”

“When a police investigation team gets such information, there is no reason not to suspect a person of committing a crime,” he asserted.

The Criminal Court’s decision to order Gassan’s release was not based on the evidence submitted but “a procedural point” argued by the legal team of the accused.

Gassan’s lawyers filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus, or release from unlawful arrest, before police were due to take the former President’s son before the Criminal Court for an extension of detention.

The Criminal Court has since imposed a one-month travel ban upon request by police.

Meanwhile in a video message released before his arrest with footage from opposition-aligned private broadcaster DhiTV, Gassan denied the allegations and said he heard the protesters call for Gayoom to be “brought out, killed and dragged through the street.”

“At this dangerous moment, my priority was to take my father and mother to what I saw as the safest place in the house,” he said. “Afterwards, I called Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh and asked for help to save us. However we haven’t seen those who committed this atrocity taken for interrogation.”

After being summoned for questioning on Saturday, Gassan noted that police informed his lawyer by phone that a second summons chit was cancelled.

However, a third chit was issued the night before his arrest: “We believe that a third chit came to me after the government directly influenced police and ordered them,” he said.

Asked about the circumstances surrounding Gassan’s arrest, Jinah said Gassan was summoned a second time after receiving new information.

“We decided to take him into custody at the police headquarters,” he said. “If a person cannot be arrested at a police office, I don’t believe we can arrest a person on the street either.”


MDP appeals for international assistance over “intolerable situation” of judiciary

The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has appealed for assistance from the international community over the “increasingly blatant collusion between politicians loyal to the former autocratic President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and senior members of the judiciary – most of whom were appointed by Gayoom during his thirty years of power.”

In a statement by the MDP forwarded to diplomatic missions and United Nations offices by the Foreign Ministry concerning the events of October 20, the ruling party explained that a protest was launched against “an ongoing, highly-politicised Supreme Court case” contesting the eligibility of MP Mohamed Musthafa for the May 2009 parliamentary elections.

“The Supreme Court case is the latest installment of an ongoing attempt by Gayoom to secure a parliamentary seat for his son, Gassan Maumoon,” the statement alleged, noting that Gassan was defeated by the MDP MP for Thimarafushi constituency.

The High Court however ordered a re-vote after Gassan challenged the result, which was won again by Musthafa.

“Having lost two votes – both recognised as free and fair by the independent Elections Commission (EC) – the Gayoom family again turned to the courts for help,” the statement continues.

“Umar Naseer, a senior member of Gayoom’s political party [Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)], lodged a case at the Supreme Court claiming that Musthafa had not been eligible to run for parliament because of an outstanding debt owed to the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) – a bank which became insolvent and had its loans and debts taken over by the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA).”

Musthafa at Supreme Court

After the MMA clarified to Musthafa that he did not have an outstanding debt, the EC decided that he was eligible to stand for the Thimarafushi seat.

However, Umar Naseer told Minivan News in May 2010 that Musthafa “has to pay US$31,231.66 (Rf401,326.83)” to the MMA and that the Civil Court ruled on August 28, 1997 that the debt should be paid by MP Musthafa and his company Seafood International Private Limited.

“We raised the issue at the Elections Commission (EC) during the parliamentary elections and the former president of EC said that there was no debt which should be paid by Mustafa,” Umar said.”That’s why I took it to the Supreme Court.”

Before Musthafa was summoned to court last Thursday – which prompted the MDP national council to pass a resolution to launch a protest – the Supreme Court last conducted a hearing on the case on March 17 this year.

At last Thursday’s hearing, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz said the apex court wished to “clarify a few points after reviewing the case.”

The Supreme Court Justices asked Musthafa a number of questions regarding the case, including if he had issued a personal guarantee for the loan.

Musthafa said he had not given any personal guarantee and insisted that the loan was issued to Seafood International Pvt Ltd.


Following the MDP’s protest alleging that the judiciary and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) were subject to political manipulation by the opposition and members of the former government, opposition parties accused the ruling party of attempting to exert undue influence over the judiciary by “intimidating judges,” warning of “dangerous” consequences for the nation.

The MDP statement meanwhile contended that Musthafa’s case “fits a pattern whereby cases filed against MDP supporters and those who sympathise with the MDP are fast-tracked while more serious cases against family and friends of Gayoom never reach court.”

On August 29, Independent MP Ismail Abdul Hameed was abruptly summoned to the Criminal Court and sentenced to one year and six months banishment about 30 minutes before a crucial vote on the government’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) legislation. The Kaashidhoo MP had been voting with the ruling party on the economic reform bills.

The statement also referred to the corruption trial of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim, charged with multiple counts of defrauding the former Atolls Ministry, which remains “indefinitely delayed.”

In the statement, MDP Chairman ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik accused senior judges of being “intent on defending the political and economic interests of their erstwhile friends and former paymasters from the regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.”

In May this year, the JSC, the watchdog body charged with overseeing the judiciary, abolished its Complaints Committee citing “efficiency”, with complaints against judges subsequently forwarded for review by the legal section and Chair Adam Mohamed Abdulla, a Supreme Court Justice.

Last year the JSC received 143 complaints concerning the conduct of judges. By its own statistics none were tabled in the commission, and only five were ever replied to. Chair of the former complaints commission, Aishath Velezinee, was meanwhile stabbed in the street in January this year.

The JSC also failed to table or even acknowledge receipt of a report on the judiciary produced by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which questioned whether the JSC’s possessed the technical ability and knowledge to investigate complaints and hold the judiciary accountable, as well as its independence.

Moosa went on to accuse the judiciary of “using the sanctity of judicial independence to protect the status quo and to remain unreformed. Nearly every judge appointed by Gayoom has retained his place on the bench – despite the fact that many of them have no legal qualifications whatsover.”

“We therefore look to our friends in the international community to help us address this difficult situation, and to support efforts to secure that which we all want – a strong, independent, professional judiciary, responsible to the needs of the society it serves,” the statement concludes.

Meanwhile in a statement released yesterday, the party revealed that its Councillor AbuBakr Fulhu “was unexpectedly called to the High Court for sentencing in a case originally brought in 2009 under Article 88(a) which contended that he had encouraged his brother to argue with a magistrate.

“The Criminal Court originally acquitted him, however, the local MP (an ally of Gayoom) has been pressing for a review by the High Court. Today, two years after the last hearing on the case, the High Court has suddenly summoned Aboo Bakr Fulhu for sentencing.”

The ruling party contended that the move was “clearly part of a concerted campaign, and we thus call on the international community to be vigilant. For example, senior members of Gayoom’s party, such as Umar Naseer, are informing the public about the outcome of cases against MDP supporters – before the verdicts have even been handed down, and are publicly predicting that many more MDP MPs will be brought before the courts and will be stripped of their seats”.


Criminal Court rules Gassan arrest unlawful

Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed ruled tonight that police arrested Gassan Maumoon in violation of the constitution and a Supreme Court precedent establishing criminal justice procedures after his lawyers filed an application for a writ of ‘habeas corpus’, or release from unlawful detention.

After the case was filed this afternoon, the court issued an order to the police to bring Gassan to the court before 4:00pm today.

Gassan’s legal team, including former Attorney General Azima Shukoor and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s lawyer Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim ‘Wadde’, argued that Gassan’s arrest after being summoned to police headquarters at 10:00am was in violation of article 46 of the constitution.

Article 46 states, “No person shall be arrested or detained for an offence unless the arresting officer observes the offence being committed, or has reasonable and probable grounds or evidence to believe the person has committed an offence or is about to commit an offence, or under the authority of an arrest warrant issued by the court.”

Gassan’s legal team also claimed procedural violations in the arrest based on the precedent established by a Supreme Court ruling (page 11 point 11) in July 2010 overturning a High Court ruling extending the arrest of MPs Abdulla Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim.

Azima argued that the precedent established that the burden of proof falls on the state before arresting suspects.

Noting that police did not seek a court order for Gassan’s arrest, which was the “established norm,” Azima said the circumstances of his arrest did not fall under exceptions provided for in the constitution where police could arrest suspects without an arrest warrant.

Gassan’s lawyers noted that he was arrested four days after the incident took place.

In the absence of a Criminal Procedures Act, said Azima, the precedent should be followed in interpreting article 46 of the constitution.

Moreover, she added, Gassan was arrested through “deception” as “my client did not present himself to police to be arrested.”

Gassan was first summoned for questioning last Saturday concerning disturbances outside his residence Endherimaage on Thursday during a protest by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The protesters were calling for judicial reform, alleging that the judiciary and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) were subject to political manipulation by the opposition and members of the former government.

During the protest a 17-year-old boy was struck on the head with a wooden plank allegedly thrown from Endherimaage while protesters led by MDP MPs, councillors and senior members were outside the former President’s residence.

Responding to Azima’s arguments at court today, Police Superintendent Mohamed Jinah insisted that the arrest was lawful as police had reasonable grounds to suspect Gassan had committed a crime and were prepared to submit early evidence.

If Gassan’s arrest was unlawful, said Jinah, “everyone police have arrested and brought before the court [for extension of detention] was arrested in violation of the constitution.”

Jinah suggested that Gassan’s legal team was “concerned that we might present evidence” and that the legal argument bore “no weight.”

The top police attorney submitted documents containing early evidence for the judge’s considering, including a medical report of the injuries sustained by the 17-year-old, photos, witness statements and “evidence we collected from the scene.”

The evidence was submitted despite the hearing being held on the case filed by Gassan’s lawyers contesting the legality of his arrest. Police were due to bring the former President’s son before court at 7:00pm to determine if his detention could be extended.

Jinah said police had reason to believe the investigation could be compromised if Gassan was released from custody.

Although the early evidence was not shared with the defence counsels, Azima argued that witness statements were invalid as they would have come from “people participating in an unlawful assembly.”

When Azima contended that the police claims conflicted with media reports on Thursday’s incidents, Jinah noted that “different media reported the same incident in very different ways.”

Gassan’s lawyers meanwhile submitted as counter-evidence photographs and video footage showing an MDP protester carrying a wooden plank. The footage was first aired on private broadcaster DhiTV challenging the MDP’s contention that the wooden plank was hurled from a second floor balcony of Maafanu Endherigas.

Azima argued that the nature of the evidence submitted was not enough “to establish a causal link between the suspect and the crime.”

When Gassan’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed criticised police for not examining “publicly available video footage,” Jinah said police had requested video footage from media outlets as well as footage caught on private security cameras.

Supporters of the former President’s newly-formed Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) were camped outside the Justice building for the duration of the hearing carrying “Free Gassan” placards and celebrated with loud cheering when Gassan emerged from court.

Later in the day, activists of the ruling party gathered to protest outside the Supreme Court behind police lines. A heavy police presence kept the rival protesters at opposite ends of the court building.