Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ali Waheed has today appealed a Criminal Court decision to reject procedural points raised during previous hearings of a case against him.
Lawyers representing the Thoddoo constituency MP argued during a High Court appeal hearing today that charges against him for obstructing police officers in their duty had previously been dismissed and, as a procedural point, could not therefore be legally resubmitted.
Ali Waheed is charged with obstruction of police duty during an anti-government protest he participated in while of member of the then opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP). Waheed, who defected to then-ruling MDP in May 2011, was charged for breaching article 75 of Maldives Police Services Act.
During today’s High Court appeal hearing, Waheed’s lawyer, former Attorney General Husnu al Suood, repeated his argument that the state could not resubmit the same criminal charges for a second time without any changes.
He contended that the decision of the prosecutor general (PG) to pursue the case contradicted article 223 of the constitution, which prescribes the powers of his office.
Responding to the argument, Assistant Public Prosecutor Hussain Nashid claimed that the charges had only been dropped “temporarily” in a bid to respect the “fairness” of criminal trials.
Nashid also argued that the prosecutor general had the discretionary power to decide on the procedures as to how criminal charges can be filed.
Meanwhile, Ali Waheed’s lawyer requested the High Court bench issue a temporary injunction to withhold the ongoing case at Criminal Court until the High Court decides on the matter.
In response to the request, chair of the sitting judges bench Judge Yoosuf Hussain said that the court would decide on whether to issue the requested injunction by the end of the day.
Speaking to Minivan News today, prominent criminal lawyer Abdulla Haseen said he believed that the prosecutor general legally had the power to resubmit criminal cases after withdrawing them. However, Haseen contended that any such decision should be “fair and just, without any political influences”.
“I do not believe that the constitution limits the power of PG to resubmit criminal cases again. But it should be done in a fair and just way without any political influences,” he said
Even though Haseen declined to comment on the ongoing court case, he stressed that the PG should ensure cases being sent to trial were done so in a way that was fair and just, especially when focusing on political figures. Haseen stressed such a decision was vital in order to maintain the credibility and impartiality of prosecutions.
“We don’t usually see the PG resubmitting cases like this but it does not mean he cannot. However exercise of his discretion should always be impartial. When Ali Waheed’s case was withdrawn, it reflected political motives as much as it did when he decided to resubmit the case. PG is an independent constitutional body and should not be subject to political influence,” he explained.
The Prosecutor General’s Office was not responding to calls at time of press.
The case was first sent to the PG’s Office after an investigation by the police in March 2010.
By November that year, state prosecutors had dropped the charges against Ali Waheed on the grounds of a “lack of fairness”, stating that police had failed to submit a case relating to MDP activists entering the Civil Services Commission (CSC) office and harassing its staff.
The case against Ali Waheed was once filed again by the PG last year following the controversial transfer of power that brought President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s government into office.
Following the decision, Ali Waheed’s defence lawyer Suood argued during a Criminal Court hearing that the state cannot file the same criminal charges once they had been dropped on an earlier occasion.
Ali Waheed’s procedural points were dismissed by the sitting criminal court judge Abdulla Didi, stating that the PG could re-file a case.
During previous Criminal Court hearings, Waheed stated that he was unclear about the charges pressed against him. He added that he was not someone who would ever confront police with arms and questioned whether it was only him and Mahloof that were there during the protests.
State prosecutors responded that they had decided to prosecute Ali Waheed and fellow MP Ahmed Mahloof because they had been able to obtain sufficient evidence to support charges against the two politicians.
Along with MP Ali Waheed, former DRP MP Ahmed Mahloof is also facing the same charges.
Both Waheed and Mahloof were elected to parliament under the ticket of DRP. However, following the split of the DRP into two factions, both Waheed and Mahloof chose to leave their former party and head in two different directions.
Mahloof joined the newly formed Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the party formed by the DRP members who supported former President Gayoom as opposed to the party’s current leader, MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali. Ali Waheed meanwhile joined the MDP.
During the first hearing of the trail against him, Mahloof requested that the judge carry out the trial separately stating that although he and Waheed were once in the same party, times had changed and the pair now followed different political beliefs and parties.
The request was dismissed at the time by the presiding Judge Abdulla Didi, who stated that the state had levied one charge against both him and his parliamentary colleague. Judge Didi said differing political beliefs was immaterial to the case that was being heard.
Following the filing of the case against Waheed for the second time, the MDP at the time raised concerns stating that the case had lost its meaning because of the delay in prosecution.
In a statement, the MDP claimed that “without considering the legal principle ‘justice delayed is justice denied’, we would like to bring to notice that the state is prosecuting meaningless cases while more important cases remain unprosecuted, while others have already been dismissed,” read the statement.
It further described the prosecution of its members at the time as a “series of attempts to hurt” the party after the fall of the previous MDP-led government. The MDP contends that former President Mohamed Nasheed was removed from office under “duress” following a mutiny by sections of the police and military on February 7, 2012.
Waheed, previously speaking to local media after the hearing, stated that he would not be threatened by such cases that the current government was pressing against him, and said he would “face the charges with courage”. He also asked the PG to prosecute him for even “slightest” wrong he had committed.
“This prosecution is not just a prosecution levied against me, this is a prosecution that is levied against the 50,000 members of MDP and the majority of the citizens of Thoddu constituency,” he said.
Ali Waheed told the press at the time that such unpleasant inducements by the government to pressure him to join them would not work and claimed that he would not leave the MDP to support an illegitimate government.