Civil Court to order police to bring historian Shafeeg to Court

Civil Court Judge Abdullah Adheeb has said today that he would order police to summon 82 year-old historian Ahmed Shafeeg.

Shafeeg is being sued by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom after Shafeeg publicly alleged that 111 custodial deaths occurred during Gayoom’s 30 year regime.

Shafeeg made the allegations in his book, “A Day in the Life of Ahmed Shafeeg”, and had failed to be present to the court due to poor health.

Judge Adheeb today said that after Shafeeg had failed to attend the hearings, the civil court staff had to ‘stick’ the summoning order at the front door of his residence. The judge added that when the summoning order was sent to Shafeeg, his son had said that he had been unable to attend to the court due to his old age and poor health.

The judge also said that he had asked Shafeeg to appoint someone to represent him at the court, but Shafeeg responded saying that he would attend to the court after he had recovered from his illness.

During today’s hearings, the judge handed over some medical documents highlighting Shafeeg’s medical conditions to Gayoom’s lawyer, Mohamed ‘Wadde’ Waheed Ibrahim.

Gayoom’s lawyer then requested the judge send the police to summon Shafeeg to court.

A similar request was made by Gayoom’s lawyer during president Nasheed’s presidency, which the judge acknowledged but today replied “We all know how things were at that time.”

Adjourning today’s hearings, Judge Adheeb stated that he would once again order police to summon Shafeeg to the court.

Earlier during President Nasheed’s presidency, he promised that the Maldives Police Service would investigate claims made by local historian Ahmed Shafeeg in his book, that 111 Maldivian citizens were held in custody and tortured by the former administration.

The claims led Gayoom to declare that he would file a court case against Shafeeg for politically-motivated slander.

The former president’s lawyer, Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim, at the time was cited in newspaper Miadhu as saying that lawsuits would be filed “against anyone who writes anything untrue and unfounded against Gayoom”, and noted that all such cases so far had been won.

During a ceremony at the Nasandhura Palace Hotel to launch Shafeeg’s book, titled “A Day in the Life of Ahmed Shafeeg”, Nasheed observed that the former President was not solely to blame for human rights violations.

“The [human rights] violations were not committed by Gayoom alone. A whole system committed them. The whole culture of the Maldives committed them,” Nasheed said at the time.

Shafeeg, now 82, was held in solitary confinement for 83 days in 1995 together with three other writers, including Hassan Ahmed Maniku, Ali Moosa Didi and Mohamed Latheef.

Shafeeg contends that 50 of his diaries containing evidence relating to the deaths of the 111 Maldivians were confiscated during a raid by 15 armed men. He was ultimately released by Gayoom with without charge, and was told by the investigating officer to write a letter of appreciation to the then-President for the pardon.

Last September, Civil Court Judge ordered that the passport of 82 year-old historian Ahmed Shafeeg be held.

The judge said the court would seize Shafeeg’s passport after Gayoom’s lawyer at the time alleged that he had information that Shafeeg was about to leave the country.

A medical certificate was produced to the court at the time by Shafeeg, which Gayoom’s lawyer said was against procedure and that Shafeeg would have to fill in a form stating that he could not appear at court due to his medical condition.

Gayoom’s lawyer told the judge that Shafeeg was intentionally dismissing the summons, “while he has been attending other functions.”

Given the current state of the Maldives judiciary, sensitivity of the issue and extreme political polarisation of the country, it is likely that any verdict with even a remote chance of being accepted by both sides would need to come from an international court. Shafeeg’s family had indicated that they are prepared for this course of action should legal proceedings falter in the Maldives.