‘Drug trafficker’ acquitted on lapses highlighted in former president’s trial

Citing severe procedural irregularities, the Supreme Court on Thursday acquitted a man sentenced to life in prison over drug trafficking charges.

The unprecedented ruling deals with similar lapses noted by former president Mohamed Nasheed and former defense minister Mohamed Nazim, who were sentenced to jail on terrorism and weapons smuggling charges, respectively.

In acquitting Abdulla Unais, the Supreme Court said he was not given access to a lawyer or the opportunity to call defense witnesses.

Unais was arrested in Addu City in May 2012. Police officers found more than 46 grams of heroin in envelopes on the ground at the time of his arrest and in his trouser pockets.

Unais had denied charges and claims he was framed by police officers.

The Supreme Court said the lower courts should have investigated Unais’ claims of a police set-up by verifying if the accused police officer had left any fingerprints on the envelope. The ruling went onto question the validity of the police officer’s testimony.

The criminal court’s sentencing of Unais without providing access to legal counsel contravenes the constitution, which states that the government must set lawyers for individuals accused in serious crimes, the ruling said.

Unais, who had remained in police custody throughout the duration of his trial, had repeatedly told the criminal court he was unable to hire a lawyer, the Supreme Court said.

Nasheed, in a petition to the UN working group on arbitrary detention, noted that he was denied legal counsel at a first hearing. Then, when his lawyers recused themselves in protest over the criminal court’s refusal to provide sufficient time to prepare defense, judges proceeded with hearings, despite Nasheed’s repeated request to hire new lawyers.

The government maintains due process was followed. A ruling is expected in September or October.

Nasheed’s 19-day trial was criticized by foreign governments and UN rights experts. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the EU parliament and high profile US senators have called for his immediate release.

Nazim, meanwhile, contends rogue police officers had framed him by planting weapons during a midnight raid. The criminal court, however, did not allow the former defense minister to call witnesses to prove his case.

Nazim’s lawyers also contend anonymized statements provided by the police officers involved in the raid are inadmissible in court.

Appeal hearings in Nazim’s case have been stalled after the Supreme Court transferred two of the five judges on the panel to a newly created branch in Addu City.

Nasheed and Nazim’s imprisonment triggered a political crisis with daily protests and historic antigovernment marches. The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party is now negotiating with the government for the pair’s release. Nasheed is currently under house arrest.

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Afrasheem murder suspect’s departure to Syria under investigation

President Abdulla Yameen has ordered an investigation into how a suspect in the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali was allowed to leave the Maldives in early January and travel to Syria.

“I have now ordered the police to investigate this. Azlif Rauf, who is said to have information on the murder, left the country while the case was ongoing,” Yameen said at a press conference at Muleeaage tonight.

“I want to raise the question as to why he was allowed to leave the country? Immigration officials and the defense minister who was in charge of immigration at the time must be accountable.”

Azlif is reported to have left the Maldives along with a suspect in the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan in the first week of January. His family claims he was killed in battle in May, and have publicised pictures of him in military fatigues carrying guns.

The police had forwarded accomplice to murder charges against Azlif to the Prosecutor General’s Office, but charges were never filed due to insufficient evidence.

At the time of Azlif’s departure, the criminal court told Minivan News it had not issued any order to withhold his passport, as there were no pending charges.

Azlif left the Maldives in the same week that the defense ministry was temporarily handed over to tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb. Defence minister Mohamed Nazim was on leave at the time.

Soon after Nazim returned, the police raided his apartment and found a pistol and three bullets in a bedside drawer. He was dismissed from the cabinet and jailed in March on weapons smuggling charges.

President Yameen’s announcement comes after local media reported today that the police had brought back a Maldivian man from Malaysia last week, after his family reported that he was attempting to travel to Syria to join the civil war.

The police in January brought back four Maldivians from Malaysia on the same charges. The government has recently submitted to parliament an anti-terrorism bill that hands out a jail sentence of up to 20 years for Maldivians who leave the country with the intent of fighting in a foreign war.

Meanwhile, several opposition politicians and Yameen’s own home minister have accused the president of involvement in Afrasheem’s murder. Home minister Umar Naseer made the allegations after he lost the ruling party’s presidential primaries to Yameen in 2013. He retracted the allegations after assuming the cabinet portfolio.

Yameen in May vowed to file criminal charges against Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla over statements linking him with the murder. Imran is currently in police custody facing terrorism charges over an anti-government protest.

Reiterating concern over “unfounded allegations” tonight, Yameen censured journalists for “biased reporting,” claiming the media had failed to seek comments from the president’s spokesperson over the murder allegations.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is negotiating with the government for Nazim, Imran and former president Mohamed Nasheed’s release.

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Family requests Nazim’s transfer from jail to house arrest

The family of former defense minister Mohamed Nazim has requested his transfer from prison to house arrest with an appeal filed over the 11-year-jail term on weapons smuggling charges stalled indefinitely at the High Court.

Nazim’s brother, Adam Azim, said the family has written to home minister requesting the transfer. The appeal was stalled after the Supreme Court suddenly transferred two judges on the five-judge-panel to a newly created appellate branch in the south.

Nazim maintains he was framed by rogue police officers who planted the pistol and three bullets in his apartment during a midnight raid.

The trial was criticized for apparent lack of due process. Appeal hearings were set to conclude within a week in late-June. The transfer of judges was made in the middle of the appeal on June 23.

Nazim’s trial coincided with the terrorism trial of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The opposition leader was sentenced to 13 years in jail over the military detention of a judge during his tenure. The pair’s imprisonment sparked a political crisis with daily protests.

With mounting diplomatic pressure, Nasheed was transferred to house arrest. Talks have now commenced between the government and Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The MDP has requested Nazim be transferred to house arrest to allow political reconciliation. The largest opposition party has also requested the government withdraw terrorism charges against the Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla.

Imran was charged with inciting violence at a historic anti-government protest on May 1. The Adhaalath Party allied with the MDP in March after President Abdulla Yameen told Imran he had no power to release Nazim.

Home minister Umar Naseer told the press on Sunday that the government is open to exploring avenues to release jailed politicians and withdrawing charges. The government will present a paper at a third meeting on Wednesday night.

While there has been progress on government’s talks with the MDP and the Jumhooree Party, talks with the Adhaalath Party has been stalled, with the party insisting Imran should represent it at talks.

Ibrahim Muaz, the president’s office spokesperson, said the Adhaalath Party cannot present demands before sitting for talks. “There cannot be demands to start the discussions. Decisions can only made after discussing at the table.”

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HRCM questions police conduct in raid of ex-defence minister’s apartment

The failure to videotape a midnight raid on the apartment of then-defence minister Mohamed Nazim on January 18 “raises questions about the actions of police officers,” the human rights watchdog has said.

The retired colonel was found guilty of weapons smuggling and sentenced to 11 years in prison in March after police discovered a pistol and bullets in his bedside drawer. Nazim maintains that he was framed by rogue Specialist Operations (SO) officers acting on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Following an inquiry to determine whether Nazim’s human rights were violated, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) found that the police acted in accordance with the law, but questioned the decision not to seek assistance from the military despite suspecting that Nazim possessed dangerous weapons and an improvised explosive device.

“The investigation noted matters that raise questions about the actions of police officers in searching G. Enif due to the carelessness of the police officers and because the search was not videotaped,” reads a 35-page confidential HRCM investigation report obtained by Minivan News.

However, the report concluded that police acted lawfully in arresting the former defence minister on February 10 and that his human rights were not violated under police custody.

In four recommendations to the Maldives Police Service, the commission advised making it mandatory to take video footage of police operations, involving officers of both genders in raids, and respecting human rights while searching private residences.

The police told the HRCM investigators that Nazim’s apartment was not raided based on intelligence information.

The decision was made by senior officers based on information from a credible source, according to statements from anonymised police officers.

Some police officers involved in the operation said they did not know who ordered the raid and some were unaware of the target when they prepared for the operation.

A SWAT team officer said he only knew it was Nazim’s apartment upon seeing the defence minister inside.

The police said they also found a pen drive with documents detailing a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen.

The raid

The police SWAT team raided Nazim’s eighth floor apartment around 3:30am and broke down the doors of the house, the apartment, and family rooms.

The family told HRCM investigators that SO officers used obscene language and forced Nazim and his wife to kneel down while they searched the master bedroom for about 15 minutes.

A second search team then went into the room and called Nazim and his wife over.

An investigation officer showed Nazim the search warrant about 25 minutes after the SO officers broke into the apartment, the family said.

The family alleged that SO officers also broke down the door of Nazim’s daughter’s room and that her finger was injured when she was dragged out to the living room.

The family said the raid was traumatising and that Nazim’s daughter still faced difficulty sleeping.

Family members also stressed that police had not searched the rest of the apartment after finding a black bag from Nazim’s room. The SO officers took out the bag’s contents and Nazim denied that it was his.

The police did not take forensic samples, the family noted.

Nazim has meanwhile appealed his conviction at the High Court, which began hearings late last month. The appeal has been stalled after the Supreme Court transferred two judges in the five-member panel to an appellate branch in the south.

The ex-defence minister’s lawyers have highlighted several lapses in due process, including the criminal court’s refusal to call defence witnesses, discrepancies in testimony by anonymous police officers, and the police’s alleged failure to follow the law and standard procedures in the midnight raid.

Nazim maintains that the weapons were planted on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb after the pair fell-out over Adeeb’s alleged use of SWAT officers to commit criminal activities. Adeeb has denied the claims.

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Ex-defence minister’s appeal stalled

The High Court today cancelled the third hearing into an appeal filed by former defence minister Mohamed Nazim following the Supreme Court’s transfer of two judges on the panel to a newly created appellate court in the south.

Nazim is serving an 11-year jail term on weapons smuggling charges. The retired colonel maintains he was framed by rogue police officers.

Appeal hearings began on Sunday and were to continue daily and conclude this week.

The Supreme Court yesterday transferred Judges Abbas Shareef and Shuaib Hassan Zakariyya to the southern branch of the High Court. The two are among the five-judge panel overseeing Nazim’s appeal.

A family member said they have not been informed when the next hearing is to take place.

There are now a number of issues that could stall Nazim’s appeal. A panel of at least three judges must preside over the case.

Two criminal court judges who had sentenced Nazim were recently appointed to vacant seats on the nine-member High Court bench. The High Court has previously said the pair – Judges Abdulla Didi and Sujau Usman – will not oversee the appeal.

Of the seven judges left, judge Azmiralda Zahir was also transferred along with Shareef and Zakariyya to the southern branch.

This leaves only four judges to oversee Nazim’s appeal.

The High Court could proceed with a three-member panel. But the Supreme Court could at any time transfer any three of the remaining six High Court judges in Malé to a second regional branch in the north.

If any of the two former criminal court judges sit on the Malé bench, the appeal cannot proceed.

The division of the High Court into three regional branches with three judges each was required through amendments to the Judicature Act in December last year.

The regional branches can only hear appeals of magistrate court verdicts, while only the main branch in Malé can hear appeals of challenges to laws and regulations.

Critics have previously questioned the need to divide the high court bench, noting magistrate courts typically only hold trials on petty crimes. The bulk of complicated civil and criminal matters are heard at the Malé’s superior courts.

The opposition has described the judges’ transfer to the regional branches as a demotion, and said it will allow the Supreme Court to transfer judges it is not happy with to the regional branches.

The apex court’s decision to divide the High Court comes at a much later date than that required by law. The amendments said the Supreme Court must establish the regional branches within 90 days of the ratification of the law.

On Sunday, Nazim highlighted several lapses in due process at the criminal court, including judge’s failure to call defence witnesses, discrepancies in testimony by anonymous police officers and police failure to follow standard procedures in the midnight raid on his apartment.

State prosecutors on Monday said police are authorised to change their standard operating procedures at any time.

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State defends lapses in raid on ex-defence minister’s home

State prosecutors have defended the police’s failure to videotape a raid in which a pistol and three bullets were discovered in the ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s apartment.

The retired colonel was sentenced to 11 years in jail on weapons smuggling charges. He maintains he was framed by rogue police officers, and has taken up the police’s failure to follow standard operating procedures as a key argument in an ongoing appeal at the High Court.

But public prosecutor Adam Arif today said that the police can “change the standard operating procedure whenever they want to.”

“The criminal court’s judgment that said police are not required to follow the standard operation procedure is lawful. These procedures set up by the police are subject to change at any time. These procedures are always changing,” he said.

Police officers, who had provided anonymous testimony at the criminal court, admitted they did not videotape the raid as required, and provided conflicting testimony on how and when mandatory photographs were taken.

Nazim also claims officers did not provide him with a copy of the search warrant when SWAT officers first entered his house.

His lawyers have alleged several lapses in due process, including the criminal court’s refusal to call defence witnesses and failure to allow Nazim to mount a proper defense.

The ex-defence minister maintains that the weapons were planted on the orders of tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb after the pair fell-out over Adeeb’s alleged use of SWAT officers to commit criminal activities. Adeeb has denied the claims.

Nazim’s lawyers told the High Court yesterday that the criminal court had blocked him from mounting a proper defense by refusing to call defence witnesses and blocking defence lawyers from cross-examining state witnesses.

They have also alleged state prosecutors coached witnesses, and said discrepancies in police testimony indicate that police officers had lied under oath.

Responding to Nazim’s arguments today, Arif denied irregularities including that of witness coaching, and insisted that Nazim was allowed to defend himself.

“Interviewing witnesses” before court appearances are done in many democratic countries, Arif said.

He admitted to discrepancies in witness statements, but said the contradictions were not serious enough to undermine the whole case.

“The state provided enough evidence which proved the case at the lower court. We proved that weapons were found at his house. If Nazim cannot prove how the weapons came to be there then it can either be that he smuggled the weapons or made the weapons,” Arif said.

At the criminal court, Nazim had attempted to argue that the 9mm Browning pistol had belonged to a Special Protection Group Corporal, who  had lost it at Shangri-La resort in 2014. When the military promptly dismissed the claim, the criminal court refused to call defence witnesses.

The court also refused to call witnesses to testify to the fall-out between Nazim and Adeeb, and to prove the police’s SWAT team had committed criminal offences before.

Arif today said the criminal court is authorized to bar some witnesses if they appear to be irrelevant, and said the judges had blocked Nazim’s lawyers from cross-examining state witnesses because their questions had “strayed from the subject.”

Along with the weapons, police said they had discovered a pen drive containing documents detailing a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen. Nazim’s lawyers have also questioned the validity of the documents.

Judges Abdul Ganee, Abdulla Hameed, Shuaib Hussain Zakariyya, Abbas Shareef and Abdul Rauf Ibrahim are overseeing Nazim’s appeal.

Two judges who oversaw Nazim’s trial, Abdulla Didi and Sujau Usman, were promoted to the High Court on June 8.

Nazim’s trial also coincided with a terrorism trial against ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The opposition leader was sentenced to 13 years in jail on March 13.

He was tried by the same three judges who oversaw Nazim’s trial.

The pair’s imprisonment has triggered a political crisis with daily protests from February through May, two mass demonstrations and hundreds of arrests.

Foreign governments, international organizations including the UN, and civil society groups have criticised the trials for apparent lack of due process. President Yameen, however, insists he has no constitutional authority to release the pair and says they must exhaust all appeal processes.

Nasheed’s lawyers were blocked from filing an appeal when the criminal court failed to issue the required case documents within a shortened 10-day appeal period.

The former president was temporarily transferred to house arrest yesterday.

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Foreign ministry recalls high commissioner to Malaysia

The ministry of foreign affairs has recalled today the Maldivian high commissioner to Malaysia, who is reported to be a close associate of the jailed ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

The ministry in a press statement said the High Commissioner Mohamed ‘FA’ Fayaz had failed to “adequately promote Maldives’ foreign policy interests in Malaysia.”

Hours later, Fayaz announced his resignation from the foreign service on Twitter.

Speaking to CNM, Fayaz said he was unable to continue living in Malaysia any longer for personal reasons.

When asked if he would accept a different position with the government, Fayaz said: “I do not think I will be offered another job.”

Fayaz was the deputy minister of transport and communication during the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.

He then served as minister of state for home affairs and was appointed as the high commissioner to Malaysia in May 2014.

Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail on weapons smuggling charges. The police had found a pistol and three bullets during a midnight raid on January 18.

President Abdulla Yameen dismissed Nazim from the cabinet two days later, and he was arrested on February 10 on charges of treason.

Citing documents allegedly found in a pen drive with the weapons, police said Nazim had planned to attack the president, tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb and police chief Hussein Waheed.

In court, Nazim said the weapons were planted in his bedroom by rogue police officers on the tourism minister’s orders.

The ex-defence minister said Adeeb bore a grudge against him after he lodged a complaint with the president on masked men, reported to be police officers, cutting down all of Malé City’s Areca palms on Adeeb’s orders last year.

The media was barred from the hearing where state prosecutors revealed the documents from the pen drive.

But pro-government newspaper Vaguthu later publicised the documents claiming Nazim’s legal team “took pictures of the documents and sent to close friends.”

The leaked documents purportedly showed Nazim was planning to secure weapons from the state armoury to assassinate president Yameen.

Fayaz was to get support from the Thailand army “if necessary” to help Nazim assume the presidency.

Nazim’s lawyers, however, slammed Vaguthu for “blatantly false information” and categorically denied taking photos of the documents. They noted that court officers confiscated phones and searched lawyers with a hand-held metal detector before they entered the courtroom.

The documents also contained a chart showing the Yameen administration divided into factions led respectively by the president and Nazim.

Nazim’s “team” included Fayaz, the Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), Home Minister Umar Naseer, former Police Commissioner and current JP MP Abdulla Riyaz, former State Trading Organisation (STO) Managing Director Adam Azim (Nazim’s brother), PPM MP Hussain Manik Dhon Manik, PPM MP Ahmed Nazim, Youth Minister Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, and President’s Office Minister Abdulla Ameen.

The president last week dismissed Maleeh without any explanation.

Following Nazim’s dismissal, the military dismissed Major Ahmed Faisal and Captain Ibrahim Naeem from the posts of head of the Special Protection Group (SPG) and Head of Armoury, respectively.

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Ex-defence minister appeals weapons smuggling sentence

Former defence minister Mohamed Nazim has appealed an 11-year jail term on weapons smuggling at the high court today.

Nazim’s defence team said the criminal court had failed to provide a required report into court proceedings by the 2pm appeal deadline today.

The US and UK have criticised Nazim’s trial for apparent lack of due process, and the opposition has been protesting daily for his release.

Nazim’s lawyers said the criminal court’s failure to provide the case report “hampered” his right to appeal and that the new 10-day appeal deadline was too short to file an appeal. The Supreme Court had shortened the 90 day appeal period to 10 days in January.

The retired colonel is currently in Singapore seeking emergency medical treatment unavailable in the Maldives. He left Malé on Friday with his wife.

“Nazim said to let the public know he will not flee and will return as soon as his treatment is completed,” a family member said.

Although inmates are usually allotted three months for overseas treatment, Nazim was only given 45 days. The home ministry authorised him to travel to Singapore only, despite the family saying Singapore was too expensive for medical care.

The inmate’s families are usually required to bear expenses for overseas medical treatment.

After a midnight police raid in January, officers said they had confiscated a pistol, bullets and a pen drive containing information that Nazim was plotting a coup d’etat and planning to harm the president, police commissioner and tourism minister. Nazim says the items were planted.

He requested permission to travel overseas three weeks ago after his doctor advised him to undergo some tests unavailable in the Maldives.

The family has declined to reveal details of Nazim’s medical condition, but said it needs to be monitored and treated.

No prison guards will travel with him, but the correctional service and a guardian from the family will come to an agreement under which the guardian will be responsible for the inmate.

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Comment: ‘It’s not political’

Mohamed Nasheed, opposition leader and former President, was jailed for 13 years on charges of terrorism for an act that does not fit into any of the over 300 definitions of terrorism that currently exist across the world. One of the five co-defendants in the case, Moosa Jaleel, the current Defence Minister and Nasheed’s Chief of Staff at the time of the said act of ‘terrorism’, was cleared of the same charge yesterday. For Nasheed, the conviction came because he could not prove he was innocent. For Jaleel, the acquittal came because the prosecution could not prove he was guilty. Neither of the verdicts, according to the government, was political.

Rtd Col Mohamed Nazim, Defence Minister until charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government in February 2015, was found guilty of a lesser charge of smuggling weapons into the country. The evidence against Nazim could not have been any more frivolous or, frankly, any more ludicrous. Allegedly, he was planning to shoot and kill Yameen, his right-hand man Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, and a few others in the current government. He laid out detailed plans of how to do it and supposedly saved them on a pen-drive. More sophisticated event planning can be found in a primary school exercise book. Nazim’s legal team pointed 12 gaping holes in the evidence against him. Yet, he was pronounced guilty and jailed for 11 years. Nothing political about it, maintained the government.

Next came Mohamed Nazim, MP for Dhiggaru area, and, until Ahmed Adeeb weighed into the relationship, Yameen’s closest political ally and partner in all businesses above and below board. Yameen and Nazim went way back, even founded a political party together – People’s Alliance – which later merged with Gayoom’s PPM. Adeeb’s presence somehow muddied the waters between the friends and, before Nazim could say ‘jangiya’, he had been sentenced to 25 years (life) in prison for corruption worth 1.4 million Rufiyaa. The fraud was committed when Nazim was working in the Atolls Ministry back in 2004. When things were good between Yameen and Nazim, the same courts had said about the same allegations that ‘Nazim had no charges to answer.’ But now, out of favour with Yameen, not only were the charges worth answering, they were also worth life imprisonment. Meanwhile Adeeb, who is basking in the sunshine of Yameen’s approval, can happily ignore allegations of corruption worth millions of US dollars. Not only that, the Auditor General who dared expose the allegations, was removed from his positionand a more ‘friendly’ figure put in his place so Adeeb does not have to put up with listening to such ‘drivel’ against him. On top of it all, news came yesterday that theTourism Ministry is to have ‘extended powers’. ‘It’s not political’, says the government.

Meanwhile, life keeps getting harder to live on the islands of Maldives. Taxes have gone up, along with living expenses. Salaries, however, remain as low as ever. While each tourist who arrives in the Maldives – and according to Tourism Ministry figures there were over a 100,000 in February alone – spends an average US$350 a day, the average monthly salary of a civil servant remains below that amount. While the price of fuel has gone down dramatically across the world, electricity bills have become impossible for people to pay. Not only are the bills remaining as high as ever, the government is also cutting subsidies which made it possible for people to pay them in the first place. ‘Don’t make this political’, says the government.

Amidst all this came the news that the President’s Office has given each of the five Supreme Court judges, along with the president of the Anti-Corruption Commission, newly built apartments in Male’ at a discounted rate. Land is the most precious commodity in the Maldives, especially in and around Male’. Decades of centralisation has meant all essential services such as healthcare and education are only available in the capital city with even a modicum of satisfaction. People are desperate for housing in the area – the apartments in Male’ are meant as some sort of a solution for this problem. Yet, instead of the desperate, they are given to the already flush. ‘It’s to protect their integrity’, said Adeeb, speaking for the President’s Office. ‘It’s not political.’

While coping with the hardships of surviving in the messed up economy, half the country is out on the streets attempting to save, through peaceful civil resistance, the last remaining vestiges of democracy. The government has responded by describing civil and political rights enshrined in the 2008 democratic Constitution as ‘loopholes’ through which people are abusing the ruling party. Laws will be made to close them holes, it has said. So the authorities first moved to ban protesting in certain areas, then at certain times, then at certain decibels and, most recently, without prior permission of the police.

The police have taken into custody close to 200 people in less than a month, and the courts have taken to imposing unconstitutional conditions on their release, demanding that they don’t protest for days, weeks or even months, if they want to remain free citizens. Those who defy the bans are locked up, deprived of basic rights and even abused psychologically and physically. Opposition parliamentarians are often the victims. Most recently, MP Ahmed Mahloof defied the conditional ban on protests only to see his wife being physically, and she alleges sexually, abused by a group of policemen as he was hauled away to detention without charge for an undefined length of time. ‘Don’t make this political’, says the government. ‘It’s rule of law’.

To prove that ‘it’s not political’, the government continues to behave as if none of these events are taking place. It has announced plans to prettify Male’ with flowers all over the city; the Clock Roundabout is to get a new clock; one part of the land-sparse Male’ is to be turned into a show area of ‘what it used to be like’; buildings are to be painted; and a dozen or so Maldivians are to sky-dive into the national stadium in a grandiose gesture. Meanwhile, a travelling band of PPM activists are to tour the country setting off fireworks on various islands, when they are not travelling to award air-conditioners and other bribes ahead of by-election votes, that is.

Of course, none of this is political. These are not attempts to pretend that everything is fine. These are not attempts to show that only a few dozen mad people are out protesting, trying to upset the smooth running of a democratically elected, benevolent government which is only trying to do best by its people.

Of course not. All these activities are to celebrate 50 years of independence. Independence? Where is the freedom? you ask. Oh, don’t get political.

This article first appeared on Dhivehisitee.com. Republished with permission. 

Azra Naseem is a former journalist who now works as a Research fellow in Dublin City University. 

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]sarchive.com

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