MP Azim’s arrest extended for 15 days

The Criminal Court has extended Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Azim’s detention by 15 days.

The Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) stormed the People’s Majlis yesterday and forcibly removed Azim, handing him over to Maldives Police Services on charges of assaulting an MNDF officer.

Azim’s lawyer Mohamed Fareed said the MP is currently in Dhoonidhoo Island Remand Center and is in good health.

The MNDF obstructed Azim from entering Majlis after the Supreme Court had stripped him and DRP MP Mohamed Nashiz of their parliamentary seats over decreed debt on October 22.

Dissenting judges said the two MPs cannot be disqualified as the two were guarantors on a loan in which mortgaged assets had been taken over by the creditor. The parliamentary privileges committee has said it does not accept the “politically motivated” ruling as it was issued against the Supreme Court’s procedures.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid has sent a letter to the Chief of Defense Forces Ahmed Shiyam condemning the army’s actions in obstructing and removing Azim from the Majlis.

Shahid called on Shiyam to act within the confines of the law in overseeing Majlis security.

Noting that the constitution and Parliamentary Privileges and Powers Act affords the Majlis speaker control over Majlis premises and that the MNDF is required to act on the Speaker’s orders within the parliament, the letter said, “We note, with great sadness, that the [MNDF] acted against the aforementioned procedures in obstructing and arresting Medhu Henveiru MP Ali Azim.”

“At the request of the Chief of Defense Forces, the Majlis had sent a letter outlining how the [MNDF] were to act on the matter. However, without any instructions from the Majlis Speaker, a large number of uniformed MNDF officers entered the People’s Majlis and forcibly removed Ali Azim,” the statement read.

The letter further stated that the MNDF had infringed upon the powers of the Majlis Speaker as detailed in the Constitution and Act no 5/2013 on the Parliament’s Privileges and powers.

No contact with speaker, say MNDF

Article 4 of parliamentary regulations read: “Unless otherwise explicitly stated in the Constitution or laws, the Majlis building, chambers, the pathways and corridors leading to the chambers within the Majlis premises and the Majlis courtyard is under the control and orders of the Majlis Speaker.”

However, the MNDF in a statement disputed receipt of a letter by the speaker, claiming that he had failed to respond to the MNDF’s request for instructions on how to proceed on the Azim and Nashiz case.

“The Maldives National Defense Forces will not prevent the two from entering the People’s Majlis if the Speaker orders the MNDF in writing to let them enter the Majlis,” the MNDF said.

The President’s Office has said the government accepts the disqualification of the two members, stating that the removal of Azim from the Majlis premises was the MNDF’s duty.

“The government believes that the two disqualified members no longer hold seats in the parliament. MNDF, as part of their duty, has prevented one of the disqualified members from entering the parliament building today. When this particular member assaulted the MNDF security officers, MNDF has now handed over custody of the member to Maldives Police Service,” a statement by the President’s Office said.

“Every Maldivian citizen must at all times obey the Constitution. In this regard, every citizen must respect the courts’ rulings. The government will not tolerate any individual who challenges the courts’ decisions,” the statement added.

The MDP has condemned the government and Supreme Court’s “purging” of its MPs, and has suggested that Azim and Nashiz’s removal was to obstruct a no confidence motion scheduled against Attorney General Azima Shakoor. The party has also submitted no-confidence motions against Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim and Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz.

Three MDP MPs are currently on trial, while police have asked the PG to prosecute four additional MDP MPs.

MP Ali Waheed is on trial for disobedience to order for crossing a police barricade, while Hamid Abdul Gafoor and Abdulla Jabir are on trial for alleged alcohol and drug abuse. Police are charging MPs Alhan Fahmy, Imthiyaz Fahmy and Mohamed Rasheed with contempt of court for criticizing the Supreme Court, and MP Ibrahim Rasheed with assaulting a police officer.

The MDP notes corruption charges against several government aligned MPs have been dropped since the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.