MP Hamid calls for Majlis intervention to overturn Criminal Court sentence

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.


Man sentenced to one year imprisonment for refusing urine sample

The Criminal Court on Sunday sentenced a man to one year imprisonment for refusing to submit a urine sample to police.

The verdict marks the first time a person was convicted for the offence since the new drug law came into force on December 31, 2011.

Ali Abdulla, of Hulhumale’ flat 10g 4, was arrested in a drug-related case on May 14 and refused to submit a urine sample to police.

He was sentenced under article 123(b) of the Drug Act (Dhivehi), which states that refusing to submit a urine sample when arrested on drug-related charges is a crime punishable by a one year jail term.

Following a police special operation in November that saw two MPs arrested from an uninhabited island in Haa Dhaal atoll on suspicion of drug use and alcohol consumption, police said individuals who refused to undergo a urine examination could face prosecution.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for Kaashidhoo Abdullah Jabir and MP for Henveiru-South Haamid Abdul Ghafoor, former President Nasheed’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair, his wife Mariyam Faiza, and former President Nasheed’s Chief Advisor Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, allegedly refused to cooperate with police in the urine testing procedure.

Meanwhile, police sent cases of two individuals aged 23 and 39 who refused to provide urine samples to the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) in December.


MPs can be arrested at crime scene, High Court rules

The High Court on Thursday ruled that MPs could be arrested at crime scenes despite a provision in the parliamentary rules stipulating that MPs could not be arrested while there was a pending no-confidence motion.

The ruling (Dhivehi) was made after the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) appealed a decision by the Kulhudhufushi Magistrate Court to release MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, who were arrested on an uninhabited island on charges of alcohol consumption.

While it overruled the magistrate court decision to release the suspects, the High Court however ruled that there were no grounds to detain the MPs any further.

In its appeal, the state had requested authority to arrest the MPs again. But the High Court noted that the only reason police had given for requesting extension of detention was that the suspects might attempt to influence witnesses, ruling that such a possibility no longer existed.

In separate rulings referring to the constitution, the Police Act and Islamic Shariah, the High Court determined that despite the provision in the parliamentary standing orders, MPs could be arrested from crime scenes or if the arresting officer observes a crime being committed.

The article in the parliamentary rules was intended to protect MPs against arbitrary arrest, the High Court noted, but did not preclude arrests under any circumstances.

Section 202(d) of the house rules state that MPs cannot be arrested while there is a no-confidence motion before parliament to impeach the president or remove a cabinet minister, judge or member of an independent commission from his or her post.

Parliament on Wednesday meanwhile approved amendments to section 202 with 27 votes in favour and 18 against.

“The amendment proposed to Article 202 (b) states that if in the event of the arrest of a Member of Parliament under a circumstance that excludes allegations of criminal offense, and where immediate interrogation is not possible, then either the Speaker or the Secretary General of the People’s Majlis must be notified of the arrest in 15 minutes at the most,” according to the Majlis secretariat.

At the time of their arrest on November 16, no-confidence motions were submitted against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan.

While Speaker Abdulla Shahid had instructed police to abide by the rules and release the MPs, police had refused and contended that it was up to a judge to determine the legality of the arrest.

During the hearings on the appeal, the High Court rejected a request by the state to abolish the provisions in the parliamentary rules as the appeal concerned extension of detention and not the constitutionality of a clause in a specific regulation.

Following an emergency meeting in the wake of the arrests, parliament’s Privileges Committee passed a motion to ask the Prosecutor General to press charges against Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz for arresting the MPs in violation of the law, and disregarding the Speaker’s instructions to release them.

The committee also passed a motion to ask the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to investigate allegations of police brutality against the MPs.

Meanwhile, in a statement at the time, police said 10 people were arrested during a ‘special’ operation on the island of Hodaidhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll.

In addition to ruling coalition Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Abdulla Jabir and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor – also the party’s international spokesperson – those arrested included former SAARC Secretary General and Special Envoy to the former President, Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, former Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair and his wife Mariyam Faiz.

The others arrested were Jadhulla Jaleel, Hamdan Zaki, two Sri Lankan nationals named Raj Mohan and Anoor Bandaranayk as well as a Bangladeshi named Suhail Rana.

While Hamdan Zaki – son of Ibrahim Hussain Zaki – was detained on orders of the magistrate court, he was released to house arrest on Wednesday after being taken to hospital. Hamdan’s family told local media that he suffered a seizure when he was taken to the hospital and accused police of ill treatment and negligence.

Hamdan Zaki was admitted at the ADK hospital and reportedly suffered another seizure on Thursday morning.

MP Jabir meanwhile alleged that police used excessive force during the arrest. Jabir previously told Minivan News police actions resembled “a terrorist killing operation.”


Government threatens legal action against parliament

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza has threatened legal action “using all the powers of the government” against the People’s Majlis to “bring parliament back to the right path” in an appearance on government-aligned private broadcaster DhiTV on October 25.

Referring to parliament’s General Affairs Committee approving an amendment to the rules of procedure to conduct no-confidence motions through secret ballot, Riza said that the government could not “turn a blind eye” to what he contended was a move that violated the constitution.

“The constitution and parliamentary rules of procedure clearly state which votes are to be conducted through secret ballot. The rest of the votes should be open,” he claimed.

Riza went on to heavily criticise the committee decision, insisting that it violated the parliamentary rules on conducting committees meetings and votes.

The formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has submitted no-confidence motions against both Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

While the motion against Home Minister Jameel has been tabled in the agenda for November 14, the impeachment motion has yet to be tabled.

The MDP-dominated General Affairs Committee approved the amendment for a secret ballot last week with four votes in favour and none against, committee chair and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP for mid-Henveiru Ali Azim told local media. Only five MPs reportedly attended the committee meeting last week.

The amendment to parliament’s standing orders or rules of procedure would have to be approved in a vote at the Majlis floor to become official.

While a minister can be removed from his post through a simple majority of the 77 MPs in parliament, a two-thirds majority or 52 votes would be needed to impeach a sitting president.

Meanwhile, responding to Riza today, MDP Spokesperson and Henveiru South MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor told Minivan News that the party believed the remarks constituted a threat to violate separation of powers.

“It is simply second nature for the 7/2 police and military-backed coup-invoked dictatorship to use force to stay afloat,” the MP said.

Hamid had earlier tweeted that Abbas’s remarks were “open threats of use of force to stop secret ballot.”