Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor has called on Members of Parliament to intervene in a High Court appeal to overturn a Criminal Court six month jail term issued in absentia.
Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed handed Hamid a six month sentence for disobedience to order after the MP refused to attend a separate trial over refusal to provide urine.
Hamid contends the Criminal Court’ summons were unlawful as hearings for the urine trial were scheduled during Majlis work hours in violation of the Parliamentary Privileges and Powers Act. He then sought refuge inside the Parliament House when the Criminal Court ordered the police to arrest him and present him at court.
“The Criminal Court first issued court summons in contravention to the Parliamentary Privileges Act and then sentenced me in absentia for making use of my parliamentary privileges,” Hamid said.
Hamid filed an appeal at the High Court to overturn the Criminal Court’s sentence but the case was dismissed today when Hamid’s lawyers failed to attend the hearing over an administrative error. Lawyers will resubmit the case tomorrow, he said.
Claiming the Criminal Court sentence endangers all MPs, Hamid said: “I call on all Members of Parliament to intervene in this case. This is not about refusal to provide urine. This sentence has clearly violated parliamentary privileges.”
Today is Hamid’s 28th day inside the Parliament House.
In a letter to the Speaker Abdulla Shahid, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz said Judge Abdulla has acted against the norms in Hamid’s case.
Hence, People’s Majlis Speaker Abdulla Shahid has written to Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz to overturn the sentence contending the ruling violates the privileges afforded to MPs in the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.
MP Riyaz Rasheed raised a point of order during today’s Majlis sitting to debate the state budget over Hamid’s “unlawful” presence in the Majlis.
In response, Shahid said he has asked the Chief Justice to advise him on the issue and stated: “As the Majlis Speaker I must uphold the laws you, honorable MPs, have passed when rulings against an MP is issued in violation of the privileges afforded to an MP in the Parliamentary Privileges Act and when such rulings are being implemented.”
Hamid has said the Criminal Court was on a “personalized hunt” for him and added: “I believe the objective of these show trials with manufactured narratives of drinking is a smear campaign targeted at reducing the number of my party Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs.”
The Inter Parliamentary Union has expressed concern over “the frequent intimidation, harassment and attack of MPs as they go about their work.”
A total of eight MDP MPs currently face criminal charges whilst MDP MP Ali Azim and MDP aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Mohamed Nashiz were disqualified from their seats by the Supreme Court in a controversial ruling over decreed debt in October.