JP proposes all-party talks in first meeting with government

The opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) has proposed conducting all-party talks to resolve the ongoing political crisis at the first meeting between the opposition party and President Abdulla Yameen’s representatives today.

JP MP Abdulla Riyaz told Minivan News that the party proposed three other issues for discussion: freeing opposition politicians in jail or facing criminal prosecution within legal bounds, ensuring the independence of the judiciary, and protecting investors.

A second meeting has been scheduled for 3:00pm on Sunday to discuss the proposals.

President Abdulla Yameen had called for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties last month, but Riyaz said the JP today proposed setting up a “platform” for discussions among all political parties, including the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

The JP’s representatives for the talks are MPs Riyaz, Ilham Ahmed, Faisal Naseem, and Hussain Mohamed.

The government’s representatives include tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, president’s office minister Mohamed Hussain Shareef ‘Mundhu,’ and environment minister Thoriq Ibrahim.

Mundhu told the press that the discussions took place in “a friendly atmosphere” and both sides agreed on how to carry the talks forward. The ministers will present the JP’s proposals to the president, he added.

All-party talks

The president’s official invitation for talks came after months of continuous protests over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim as well as a US$90.4 million claim on JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group.

The JP immediately agreed to sit down with the government without conditions.

Gasim has meanwhile been in Bangkok since late April. According to local media, the criminal court has issued an arrest warrant for Gasim on charges of financing a historic anti-government mass protest on May 1.

The JP’s deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed are accused of inciting violence at the May Day protest, and have been charged with terrorism. If convicted, they face between 10 and 15 years in jail.

Both Ameen and Sobah are out of the country. In a video message this week, Sobah said he is seeking political asylum.

President Yameen has meanwhile ruled out negotiations over Nasheed and Nazim’s release. His agenda focuses on political reconciliation, strengthening the judiciary and political party participation in socio-economic development.

The MDP has proposed Nasheed, chairperson Ali Waheed and MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as representatives. The Adhaalath Party proposed its president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, who is currently in police custody. He is also charged with terrorism over the May Day protest.

The government has rejected Nasheed and Imran as representatives.

Speaking to Minivan News today after Riyaz declared that the JP was not involved with the ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ alliance and the upcoming mass protest on June 12.

MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz said that JP members were working with the alliance in their individual capacity. He noted that the JP had not formally joined the alliance or supported the May Day protest.

MDP MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih meanwhile told the press this afternoon that all political parties should sit down together for the talks in order to ensure a positive outcome.

“We think that a good result can be achieved when parties of all ideologies sit at the same table for discussions as all parties were given the same agenda and they have the same concerns,” he said.

The newly-appointed British High Commissioner to the Maldives has also supported all-party talks.

“We think it’s important that talks involving all parties should take place. It seems to me to be logical that talks should take place involving all the parties together, both the party in government and parties in opposition,” James Dauris said in an interview with Minivan News during a two-day visit to the Maldives in May.


Former police chief questioned over Dr Afrasheem murder, Raajje TV arson

Former police commissioner and opposition MP Abdulla Riyaz was summoned to the police headquarters last night over comments he had made over the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali and the torching of the Raajje TV studios.

Riyaz said he was questioned about remarks made in an appearance on Raajje TV on April 20.

The MP had said he would reveal information on Dr Afrasheem’s murder in October 2012 “when the time comes” and that police had been negligent in the arson attack in October 2013 that had destroyed the opposition-aligned private broadcaster’s offices.

The Jumhooree Party (JP) MP for Thaa Kibidhoo said he was asked if he had any additional information on the two cases.

“I said any information I got at the time will be with the police,” he told reporters outside the police headquarters.

Riyaz was police chief from February 2012 until his resignation in November 2013, shortly after president Abdulla Yameen assumed office.

Police accused him of disclosing state secrets or confidential information, Riyaz said, but the specific information in question was not made clear.

Riyaz stressed that he had not revealed any sensitive information during the Raajje TV interview, adding that he had faced criticism from the public for not doing so.

Explaining what he meant by revealing information “when the time comes,” Riyaz said he will answer truthfully if he is questioned at court or the parliament’s national security committee.

Police did not take his statement as he spoke “off the record” and told interrogators he would remain silent over the allegations against him.

Riyaz said he chose to remain silent because “the government is framing politicians”.

The MP said he was afraid to drive his car without checking to see if anything has been planted, he said, claiming that attempts were being made to frame him with drugs.

Riyaz has maintained that police framed ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, who was sentenced to 11 years in jail in March over weapons smuggling charges after police found a pistol in his apartment in late January.

He also called on police to provide updates to the public about the investigation of Dr Afrasheem’s murder, the Raajje TV arson, and the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

The police summons for Riyaz came amid heightened political tension in the wake of a crackdown on a mass anti-government rally on Friday. Nearly 200 protesters were arrested after clashes with riot police in the largest anti-government demonstration in a decade.

Opposition leaders involved in organising the May Day protest, including senior members of the JP, have since been arrested. Riyaz is the deputy leader of the JP’s parliamentary group.

In December 2012, Riyaz had said that Dr Afrasheem’s murder was politically motivated with a local gang offered MVR4 million (US$260,000) to carry it out.

The late moderate religious scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives MP was brutally stabbed to death on October 1, 2013 in a murder that shocked the nation.

Hussain Humam, the chief suspect in the murder and the only person convicted of the crime so far, has alleged president Abdulla Yameen and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb’s involvement in the killing.

However, Adeeb accused the opposition of orchestrating Humam’s remarks in a “character assassination” attempt. Humam had said at the first hearing of his appeal at the High Court last month that president Yameen and Adeeb “will know best” the details of the murder.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom meanwhile told reporters yesterday that president Yameen should sue opposition politicians alleging his involvement in the murder for defamation and strongly condemned the insinuations.

Humam was found guilty and sentenced to death in January 2014 while a second suspect charged with Dr Afrasheem’s murder, Ali Shan, was acquitted in September last year with the court citing insufficient evidence.

Shan was implicated in Humam’s confession, but the judge said several witnesses had testified that the accused was at a restaurant at the time the murder took place.

A third suspect, Azlif Rauf, who Humam said had planned the murder, left to Turkey with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang in January.

The Raajje TV studio was meanwhile torched and completely destroyed on October 7, 2013. Suspects arrested in connection with the arson attack have yet to face trial despite CCTV footage of the arsonists.

Reporters Without Borders at the time condemned the police for failure to defend the station despite repeated requests for protection, and the forwarding of a specific threat the previous evening.


Fingerprints on confiscated pistol did not match Nazim’s, lawyers reveal

Fingerprints lifted from a pistol confiscated from Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim’s residence did not match the former defence minister’s print, Nazim’s legal team has revealed.

At a press briefing this afternoon, Nazim’s lawyer, Maumoon Hameed, explained that a police forensic report shared with defence lawyers stated that “latent prints” from the weapon did not match either Nazim or any of his family members.

“This proves that their evidence has no connection to Colonel Mohamed Nazim,” Hameed contended.

Nazim is currently on trial on charges of illegal weapons possession after police raided his apartment on January 18 and discovered a pistol and three bullets in a bedside drawer. Nazim was subsequently dismissed from the cabinet and arrested on additional charges of treason and terrorism.

Hameed noted that the fingerprints must belong to a “third party” but police have not made any attempt to identify the source of the prints during the investigation after receiving the forensic report on January 20.

Police hastily concluded the investigation on February 9 and forwarded the case to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office, Hameed added.

Police have so far not responded to requests for an independent forensic examination of the evidence and other information relating to the case, he noted.

In a statement last month, police denied allegations made by Nazim’s legal team that police planted the pistol in the then-defence minister’s apartment to “frame” him, insisting that “nothing was done in violation of procedures, regulations and laws in the investigation of the case.”

Jumhooree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz, a former police commissioner and member of Nazim’s legal team, meanwhile questioned why police did not take video footage of the “forced entry” and midnight raid on January 18.

Riyaz also alleged that police did not take fingerprints from Nazim’s bedside drawer.

Riyaz urged President Abdulla Yameen to initiate an independent inquiry into the incident, contending that Nazim should be immediately released in light of the forensic evidence.

Riyaz reiterated that Nazim was being “framed” by political rivals to “destroy his political career,” adding that Nazim’s “unlawful arrest” would be investigated “some day” in the future.

Adhaalath Party Spokesperson Imran Zahir expressed concern over “obstacles to a free and fair trial” for Nazim due to several irregularities in the trial.

Zahir called on the PG office and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to arrange for an open and public trial at a larger venue as only six members of the public were allowed into the Criminal Court to observe proceedings.

While Nazim has offered to bear the expense for a public trial at the Dharubaaruge Convention Center in Malé if the state was unable to do so, judges refused the request at a hearing earlier this week.

Anonymised witnesses

At this week’s hearing of Nazim’s trial on illegal weapons possession, lawyers objected to witness statements from 13 anonymised police officers submitted by the prosecution.

Noting that the PG office has redacted the names of the witnesses as well as other details, Hameed said defence lawyers could neither rebut nor impeach anonymous witnesses as it would be impossible to determine if the officers had in fact been present on the scene during the raid.

The state prosectors’ claim that anonymising the police witnesses to ensure their safety was not a reasonable justification without establishing that either Nazim, his family, or supporters have threatened or intimidated witnesses.

The justification was “laughable” as police have said the SWAT team officers involved in the raid were the most highly-trained in the force, he added.

Hameed questioned the officers’ training “if any of them are trembling with fear of Colonel Nazim, or his wife”, adding that it was more likely that they want to remain anonymous to “impede assessment” of their testimony.

Moreover, police and military officers have openly testified at former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial, Hameed noted, adding that the opposition leader has the support of 45 percent of the electorate.

Hameed accused PG Muhthaz Muhsin of dereliction of duty and failing to protect Nazim’s fundamental rights.

At a High Court hearing on the legitimacy of the search warrant authorising the raid, Hameed said the PG office suggested that the Criminal Court should rule on the legality of the warrant during the trial and the High Court had concurred.

However, Hameed said prosecutors remained silent when Nazim’s lawyers raised the issue at this week’s Criminal Court hearing, after which  Judge Yoosuf Abdul Bari Yousuf had said the defence’s request had been noted and asked Hameed to speak on the evidence itself.

“This goes to show that the Prosecutor General does not want to afford these rights. It shows that the Prosecutor General is attempting to impede Colonel Mohamed Nazim from raising these legal points. We note our concern over this and appeal to [PG] not to act like this,” he said.

Related to this story:

Evidence against Nazim consists only of 13 anonymised police statements

Ex-Defence Minister calls for an open, public trial

No hope for fair trial, says former defense minister’s family

Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials

Ex defense minister’s wife charged with illegal weapons possession


JP Leader Gasim meets Sri Lankan President Sirisena

Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim met Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena this morning to discuss the ongoing political crisis in the Maldives.

JP Spokesperson Ali Solih told Minivan News that former Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, deputy leader of the JP parliamentary group, and JP Deputy Leader Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan also took part in the meeting at the President’s Office in Colombo.

The JP leaders briefed President Sirisena about the current political situation in the Maldives, he said.

Former Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem – a senior member of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – revealed in a tweet following the meeting that Sri Lanka “is sending a high level delegation to Malé to express deep concern on the arrest and harassment of political leaders.”

While the MDP-JP alliance launched nightly protests against alleged breaches of the constitution by President Abdulla Yameen’s administration in the wake of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s arrest on charges of possessing illegal weapons, tensions escalated further with the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on Sunday (February 22) on charges of terrorism.

Solih meanwhile revealed that the JP leaders are scheduled to meet a United Nations delegation today whilst further meetings with foreign diplomats could also take place.

A time or date for Gasim’s return to the Maldives is yet to be determined, he added.

Asked if the JP believed the government was planning to arrest the party’s leader upon his arrival, Solih said the party “would not be surprised” if Gasim was taken into custody.

“Our leaders have undertaken these efforts expecting that anything could happen at any time,” he said.

At the first hearing of Nazim’s trial last week, State Prosecutor Adam Arif said documents on a pen drive confiscated from the then-defence minister’s apartment showed he was planning individual and joint operations, financed by the Villa group, to cause bodily harm to “senior honourable state officials.”

However, speaking to journalists prior to departing to Colombo, Gasim dismissed allegations of a conspiracy between his Villa Group and Nazim as “a deliberate fabrication” intended to “frame” political opponents.

MDP-JP protest march

Gasim departed to Colombo with a joint MDP-JP delegation on Wednesday night (February 25) to meet diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka.

The delegation met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and European Union delegations and provided information on the state’s prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim.

While MDP MP Abdulla Shahid, International Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor and Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab returned on Thursday night (February 26) ahead of the MDP-JP mass rally yesterday, Gasim stayed behind with the JP leaders, ostensibly to meet President Sirisena today.

In a recorded message from Gasim played out at yesterday’s 10,000-strong protest march in Malé, the JP leader called on the government to immediately release opposition leader Nasheed as well as retired colonel Nazim and withdraw terrorism charges against current Defence Minister Major General (Retired) Moosa Ali Jaleel and former Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfan.

Gasim also issued several demands to the government, which were later reiterated during the protest march across the capital’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu.

In addition to withdrawing charges against “political prisoners,” the demands included repealing amendments to the Auditor General’s Act that saw the removal of former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim, empowering local councils, and investigating serious corruption allegations against senior government officials.

Gasim said he could not participate in the rally due to important appointments the next day and insisted that toppling the government was not the purpose of the protest as alleged by the government.

While the JP had declared that the rally would end at 6:00pm, Gasim appealed to participants not to carry out any illegal activities or incite violence or unrest.

However, despite MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed announcing the end of the protest march shortly after 6:00pm, opposition supporters continued the protest in the absence of MDP and JP leaders near the Malé City Council Hall, and the Alikilegefaanu and Majeedjee Magu junction near President Abdulla Yameen’s house.

At least 31 protesters were arrested before riot police dispersed the crowd around 1:00am.

Related to this story

10,000 protest in Malé, call for President Yameen’s resignation

Allegations of conspiracy with Nazim “deliberate fabrication,” says Gasim

High Court overturns stay order halting seizure of Villa properties

Gasim defiant as opposition sign agreement to defend Constitution


Police deny framing Nazim as former Commissioner alleges politicisation

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has denied allegations it is framing former defence minister Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim, who faces charges of plotting to overthrow the government.

In response to the claims made by Nazim’s legal team that dangerous weapons were planted in his home, police stated that “nothing was done in violation of procedures, regulations and laws in the investigation of the case”.

“Saying that police brought items into Nazim’s apartment” is untrue, read the police statement, describing such accusations as “baseless” and as “efforts to accuse the police in order to deceive the public to achieve particular goals”.

Nazim’s legal team – which alleges officers spent ten minutes unsupervised in his room during the raid – has appealed against the Criminal Court’s decision.

Meanwhile, former Police Commissioner and Jumhooree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz has expressed concern over what he described as “politicisation of the police”.

In a joint rally by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the JP last night Riyaz suggested: “We are now witnessing the realization of political agendas through the police force.”

“When I was there, the institution was free from political influence,” he added.

Riyaz was appointed the Commissioner of Police immediately after the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed on February 7, 2012, following a mutiny by sections of the security forces.

He was replaced after President Abdulla Yameen assumed presidency in November 2013, joining the then pro-government Jumhooree Party soon after and winning the Kinbidhoo constituency seat in the 2014 Majlis polls.

While the police received extensive criticism from opposition groups for their role in the transfer of power, and the brutal suppression of protesters the following day, Riyaz himself was investigated by the Police Integrity Commission for appearing to campaign against Nasheed’s 2013 presidential bid.

Riyaz re-posted a letter he claimed to have been sent, urging the police to “say no” to Nasheed on election day, just as they had on February 7.

The MP announced he would be joining Nazim’s legal team shortly after his arrest earlier this week, as did Adhaalath Party Spokesman Sheikh Ali Zahir.

Riyaz was not responding to calls at the time of publication.

Foul play

Nazim’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed told Minivan News today that police officials had informed the Criminal Court under oath that the investigation had been completed and sent to the PG’s Office.

Yesterday’s police statement, however, noted that investigations into his case – including the “forensic process” – had not been concluded.

“Virdhan from Maldives Police Services who was under oath, stated in the remand hearing that although some forensic work is not fully complete, the investigation of the case has been completed,” explained Hameed.

Therefore, he said that the legal team has today asked the Criminal Court to provide them with transcripts or audio recording of the remand hearing.

He also stated that they have submitted a defamation case against the Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed for telling the press on January 29 that an improvised explosive device was found in Nazim’s home.

Hameed argued that the explosive device had not been found during the initial search, and was not listed in a record of items found, explaining that police only announced its discovery days later after an analysis conducted without independent oversight.

The legal team has also raised questions over why Nazim was arrested after more than 20 days had passed since the police raid on his residence.

He was dismissed as the defence minister two days after the January 18 raid, which police have maintained was ordered without knowing the identity of the residents.

Related to this story

Police accuse Nazim of plotting coup, planning to harm senior government officials

Police raid Defence Minister Nazim’s home in early hours

Former Defence Minister Nazim remanded for 15 days

Former Defence Minister arrested on illegal weapons charge


JP calls on government to speed up projects included in PSIP budget

The Jumhooree Party (JP) has called on the government to launch projects included in the public sector investment programme (PSIP) approved with the annual budget passed by parliament.

Following a meeting with Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad, JP MP Abdulla Riyaz told the press that a number of projects for which funds were allocated in the PSIP budget had yet to commence, some of which were planned for constituencies represented by the party’s MPs.

The former police commissioner said the party accepted that the government was facing difficulties managing the budget, assuring the JP’s cooperation for passing a supplementary budget to finance the development projects.

After criticising the government’s flagship special economic zone (SEZ) legislation in parliament, the JP reversed its stance and announced a three-line whip in favor of the bill.

The change in the party’s stance closely followed the government’s cancellation of various business agreements made with the JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group.

Following Gasim’s crucial decision to support President Abdulla Yameen’s 2013 presidential election bid, his party joined the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and its ally Maldivian Development Alliance in contesting the March parliamentary polls as part of the Progressive Coalition.

However, the PPM severed its coalition agreement with the JP in May after Gasim stood for post of Majlis speaker despite the PPM fielding its senior MP Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed.

Following the passage of the SEZ bill, the JP has sought reconciliation, whilst President Yameen has signalled that the government was willing to “work together” with the former coalition partner.