Global MPs’ group calls for Mahloof release

Global MPs’ group Parliamentarians for Global Action has condemned the detention without charge of MP Ahmed Mahloof and called upon authorities to immediately release him from house arrest.

Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) expressed its “undiminished solidarity” towards MP Mahloof in a statement today.

He was arrested at an opposition rally on March 26 for allegedly “obstructing police duties and disobeying police orders.”

Noting that Mahloof may have been “targeted” by police for his criticism of the government, PGA expressed concern that freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the constitutional rights of MPs may have been violated.

After five days at the Dhoonidhoo detention centre, Mahloof refused to accept the court’s conditional release, which would have barred him from protesting for 60 days. The criminal court then placed him under five days of house arrest.

Mahloof was expelled from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives after its disciplinary committee said he brought President Abdulla Yameen into disrepute with false statements in the media.

Meanwhile, a letter from the Prosecutor General’s office was leaked to Minivan News, which arguesthat some recent decisions by the court may have limited individuals’ rights relating to pre-trial detention.

The letter, addressed to Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, said the decisions limited rights under Article 49 of the constitution.

This article says that no one shall be detained prior to sentencing unless there is a fear of the accused failing to appear at court, for the protection of public safety, or to prevent the accused interfering with witnesses.

Local media have interpreted the letter, dated yesterday, as a warning to the criminal court over the conditional release of people arrested at protests, which often stipulates they must not go to any more demonstrations for 60 days.

Previously, MP Fayyaz Ismail, of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), was detained for 15 days after he refused to accept release on these conditions following his arrest at a protest on March 8.

At the time, the Criminal Court had released 33 of the 77 individuals arrested at protests, on the condition they would not participate in further protests for 60 days.

“This is not a limitation of rights, but a violation of [the detainee’s] rights to assembly, expression, and free will,” said Shahindha Ismail, executive director of Maldivian Democracy Network’s, earlier this month.

Courts can enforce conditions on detainees to ensure a person’s attendance at hearings, for example having to obtain a permit from the court when travelling, but they cannot place a condition asking the individual not to go to a protest, she said.

The government has started implementing stronger measures in the crackdown against opposition protests, which escalated after the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed on February 22.

President Abdulla Yameen today ratified an amendment to the Civil Service Act which bars civil servants from holding posts in political parties and taking part in political activities.

The amendment comes at a time where several state owned companies have been accused of firing opposition supporters for participating in anti-government protests.

Since March 1, at least four employees of State Electric Company Limited and one from Malé Water and Sewerage Company were dismissed, and at least five were suspended from Maldives Ports Limited.


MP Mahloof, Raajje TV journalists among nine arrested at opposition protest

MP Ahmed Mahloof and opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV journalist Mohamed Wisam and cameraman Adam Zareer are among nine arrested from last night’s opposition protest march.

A police media official told Minivan News today that the former ruling party MP, two journalists and six others were arrested for “obstructing police duties and disobeying police orders.”

The Criminal Court this morning extended the remand detention of the Galolhu South MP and the two journalists to five days.

While one protester was released from police custody, the court extended the remand detention of two protesters to seven days and three protesters to five days.

Photos of Specialist Operations (SO) police officers manhandling the Mahloof have been widely circulated on social media. Journalists at the scene reported that the MP’s shirt was ripped open during the arrest near the fish market.

Photo from Ranreendhoo Maldives
Photo from Ranreendhoo Maldives

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile condemned Mahloof’s arrest, claiming he was “targeted” by the police and due to his outspoken criticism of the government following his expulsion from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

The ruling party’s disciplinary committee expelled Mahloof on February 25 for allegedly defaming President Yameen and bringing the government into disrepute with false statements in the media.

In a statement released today, the MDP claimed Mahloof was arrested “brutally” and condemned police for “obstructing the protest in violation of the Constitution”.

Police used obscene language while arresting the MP, the statement alleged.

The opposition party said riot police officers pepper MDP MP Ali Nizar as well as other protesters in the eye and confiscated the protest’s “sound pickup” and loudspeakers.

Raajje TV has meanwhile condemned the arrests of the two journalists, describing the arrests as an “obstruction of rights guaranteed under the constitution, including the rights to freedom of information and freedom of press.”

A Channel One journalist was also arrested the previous night for allegedly obstructing police duties. The Criminal Court extended his remand detention to 10 days.

Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of its staff, Raajje TV noted that it was “yet to receive any justice with regards to previous attacks targeted to our station and journalists.”

Raajje TV journalist Wisam interviewing MP Mahloof
Raajje TV journalist Wisam interviewing MP Mahloof

The Maldives Police Service also released a statement alleging that protesters assaulted several police officers last night after breaking through barricades near the Republic Square.

Protests are banned in the ‘green zone’ area encompassing the Republic Square as well as police and military headquarters.

Protesters also smashed the windows of a police vehicle last night, the statement added. Police officers on the vehicle were attempting to stop protesters from using loudspeakers after 11:00pm.

Invoking powers granted by Article 41 of the Freedom of Assembly Act, police issued a statement earlier this week ordering protest organisers not to use loudspeakers or megaphones after 11:00pm and to end the protest at 12:00am.

Moreover, police warned protesters against repeatedly gathering in one location or street.



PPM submits amendment to make enforcement of death penalty mandatory

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) has proposed an amendment to the Clemency Act (Act no 2/2010) which would make performing the death penalty mandatory in the event it was upheld by the Supreme Court.

The amendment was submitted by PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof, the third MP to submit an amendment to put the death penalty into practice.

Mahloof’s amendment would require the President to enforce any death penalty if the Supreme Court issues the verdict of death, or if the Supreme Court supports the ruling of the death penalty made by either the Criminal court or the High Court. The move would halt the current practice of the President commuting such sentences to life imprisonment.

Mahloof, in a press conference held in his party head quarters on Monday, stated that he had proposed the amendment in an effort to stop crimes of murder and violence.

He claimed people were of the view that if death penalty or capital punishment is enforced it would bring down crime, and that he had decided to propose the amendment in consultation with several people including fellow parliamentarians.

“I believe nobody would want to die. So if the death penalty is enforced, a person who is to commit a murder would clearly know that if he carries out the act, his punishment would be his life. I believe this will deter him from committing such acts,” Mahloof said.

However, Mahloof admitted that enforcement of capital punishment would not be the sole solution to the problem. He reiterated that in order to achieve a solution, the new penal code and the criminal evidence bill had to be passed.

He also stated that he has been working on drafting a separate bill which is intended to prevent ongoing violence, murder and other criminal activities.

Mahloof has proposed to amend the article 21 of the Clemency Act.

The article 21 of the existing Clemency Act states: “Even if stated otherwise in this act, if the Supreme Court issues a death sentence, or a lower court or High Court issues a death sentence and if the Supreme Court upholds that sentence, the President has the authority to relieve the sentence into a life imprisonment, after consideration of either the state of the guilty, the legal principles behind the issue, consensus of the state or the values of humanity. But once such a sentence is being relieved to a life imprisonment, the guilty shall not be eligible for pardon, under any clause of this act.”

Mahloof’s amendment to the same article reads: “Even if stated otherwise in this act, if the Supreme Court issues a death sentence, or a lower court or High Court issues a death sentence and if the Supreme Court upholds that sentence, the President shall enforce the sentence.”

In Islamic Sharia, death penalty is the punishment of a murderer (one who kills deliberately) and that he is to be killed in retaliation (Qisaas) unless the victim’s next of kin let him off or agree to accept the ‘Diyah’ (blood money).

Previously, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Rasheed and later MP Ibrahim Muthalib submitted similar amendments to the clemency act but both subsequently withdrew these.

MP Rasheed at the time said that he felt he had to present the amendment because of the increase in assaults and murder cases, which had “forced the living to live amid fear and threats.”

After the preliminary debate was concluded and he was given the opportunity to say the last word on the amendment, MP Rasheed withdrew the changes he had originally submitted to parliament citing that he withdrew the amendment because other necessary bills related to curbing criminal activities, such as the Penal Code and Criminal Justice Procedure Bill, had yet to be passed.

In April 2011, MP Ibrahim Muthalib became the second MP who had proposed amendments to Clemency act requiring the state to enforce death sentence.

MP Muthalib at the time told Minivan News that the purpose of the amendment was to uphold Islamic Shariah in the Maldives.

“[The amendment aims] to avoid human beings from changing the verdict determined by Islamic Shariah,” said Muthalib. “It’s the same bill as presented last time. [Referring to MP Rasheed’s amendment]”

On November 2010, Criminal court sentenced Mohamed Nabeel to death for the murder of Abdulla Faruhad, after reviewing the statements of witnesses and finding him guilty of the crime, making it first such sentence to be issued in a case related to gang murder.

The Judge issuing the sentence stated that article 88 clause (d) of the Penal Code of the Maldives stated that murders should be dealt accordingly to the Islamic Shariah and that persons found guilty of murder “shall be executed” if no inheritor of the victim denies the murderer to be executed, according to Islamic Shari’ah.

Previous death sentences issued in the Maldives have included (in 2005) those found to be involved in the death in custody of Evan Naseem, and the perpetrators of 1988 coup.

However none of these sentences were implemented and the guilty were given sentences of life imprisonment.

“An attempt to conceal the real truth”

Aishath Velezinee, formerly the President’s appointee to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), said the amendment was another attempt by the MPs to avoid “the real issue” and to “deceive the public”.

“The real issue for thriving crime is corruption. The constitution has recognised this and required the judiciary be checked and cleansed.  The JSC breached the constitution, and those MPs are proposing this to cover up the JSC,” Velezinee said.

“Islam upholds justice, and not only has death penalty; it has very clear qualifications for judges too. Neither MP Mahloof, nor any of the Sheikhs, has expressed alarm that the judges are far below standard and some of them are convicted criminals themselves. This is pure politics and abuse of Islam,” she added.

Velezinee also stated that she had earlier sent a letter to the Parliament highlighting the incapacities of the judiciary and the question of public trust upon the the courts and the JSC, when the amendment had earlier been proposed by MDP MP Ahmed Rasheed.

Velezinee claimed that Mahloof’s amendment was an attempt to hide what her letter had highlighted about the Criminal Court and the Judiciary as a whole.

Speaking to Minivan News, MDP MP and spokesperson, Imtiyaz Fahmy stated that the amendment was a “childish act” from MP Mahloof and that it could be a popularity stunt, especially at a time when a very “complete” and “relevant” Penal Code is about to be passed by the Parliament.

The last person to be executed in the Maldives after receiving a death sentence was in 1953 during the first republican President Mohamed Ameen. Hakim Didi was charged with attempting to assassinate President Ameen using black magic.