Chief justice and police commissioner discuss police obstruction and assault cases

Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed met on Thursday and discussed measures to expedite cases involving assault of police officers and obstruction of police duty.

According to a statement by the Maldives Police Services, Saeed pledged to take the necessary steps and said law enforcement officers must receive due protection and security.

Appreciating the service of policemen, Saeed said the nation came first before the individual, and said the Supreme Court bench would not engage in any act that may cause harm to the Maldives.

Waheed said “attacking law enforcement officers is a crime in civilized countries,” and spoke about the need for expediting cases involving attacks on police officers.

Hundreds of individuals were arrested from protests on charges of obstruction of police duty and assault of police officers during the anti-government protests following the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.

An individual found guilty of the offense may be fined up to MVR12,000 (US$778) and/or sentenced to six months in jail.

According to statistics published by the Prosecutor General’s Office, in 2013, 101 individuals were charged with obstruction of police duty. In 2012, 65 individuals were charged with obstruction of police duty and 59 were charged with assaulting a police officer. Figures were not available for 2014.

The police have not published statistics on the number of individuals arrested on these charges.

According to the police statement, Saeed and Waheed also discussed measures to reduce crime rates in the Maldives.

Saeed was appointed as the Chief Justice following the controversial and sudden dismissal of former Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan after a People’s Majlis amendment to the Judicature Act reducing the seven-member Supreme Court bench to five judges.

Supreme Court Justices Ali Hameed and Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi and Deputy Commissioners of Police Ahmed Saudhy and Mohamed Sodiq also participated in the meeting.

Meanwhile, Prosecutor General Muhthaz Mushin has requested the police speed up investigation in cases involving arrest from unlawful protests and submit charges for prosecution within 48 hours.

Related to this story

Three opposition protesters fined for obstruction of police duty

PPM pledges harsher punishments for assaulting police, ‘obstructing police duty’

High Court rules that MPs’ police obstruction cases cannot be refiled


Prosecutor General’s Office drops charges against CNM journalist Haseen

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office has dropped criminal charges against Channel News Maldives (CNM) senior journalist Abdulla Haseen for obstruction of police duty during an opposition street protest in July 2012.

PG Muthaz Mushin told CNM yesterday that the decision to withdraw the case was made as the PG Office had found that such a case had not been prosecuted in the past after considering the incident and prosecuting guidelines.

Speaking to Minivan News, Haseen said the Prosecutor General’s Office has not yet formally informed him of its decision to withdraw charges.

“These are false charges raised by the state against press freedom and an attempt to defame me. They have absolutely no evidence. Until the Criminal Court annuls its court summons for September 28, I will go.”

A second hearing of the case had been scheduled to take place on September 28. Haseen had been accused of shoving police barricades at the Chandanee Magu-Orchid Magu junction and using obscene language to address riot police officers during an MDP protest.

At the first hearing of the trial, he pleaded not guilty and noted that he had attended political rallies and street protests to cover them as a journalist.

Haseen expressed concern over a “prevailing climate of press intimidation,” noting an increase in threats against journalists by anonymous sources, politicians, religious radicals and gangs, and arbitrary arrests by the police.

The Maldives now ranks 108th place in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index for 2014, marking a decline in press freedom for the third consecutive year.

Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan disappeared on August 8 and is believed to have been abducted. Today marks the 41st day since his disappearance.

Earlier this month, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) called on the PG and the government to drop the charges against Haseen.

“We note with regret that this is the first criminal prosecution of a journalist since the adoption of a democratic constitution in 2008,” the main opposition party said.

The MDP expressed concern with the filing of charges over two years after the incident allegedly occurred, noting that obstructing police duty was the most common charge pressed by the state.

“And we note with concern that Abdulla Haseen is being prosecuted at a time when the media in the Maldives is facing serious challenges with journalists assaulted, television stations torched, death threats made against journalists, personal safety of journalists lost, and a journalist believed to have been abducted,” the opposition party said.


High Court rules that MPs’ police obstruction cases cannot be refiled

The High Court has today overruled a decision made by the Criminal Court to accept a previously withdrawn police obstruction case involving MPs Ali Waheed and Ahmed Mahloof.

The case was first filed in the Criminal Court by the Prosecutor General (PG) on 9 November 2010 before being withdrawn twenty days later.

The public prosecutor had argues that the initial case was only withdrawn temporarily while police investigated a related incident.

After the case was again filed in the Criminal Court, defense lawyers of Ali Waheed – which includes former Attorney General Husnu Suood – invoked procedural issues saying that the case could not be refiled.

According to the High Court, on 12 September 2012 the Criminal Court ruled it would proceed with the case, stating that the PG had full authority under the article 5 of the Prosecutor General’s Act to do so.

Ali Waheed subsequently appealed the decision at the High Court, arguing that the PG did not have the authority to re-submit a case without first bringing changes to it.

The High Court’s ruling stated that there were three situations where the PG could withdraw a case filed at a court: to revise the case, to withdraw a case without specifying any reason, or to withdraw a case after telling the court that that the office did not wish to proceed.

The ruling today said that the PG had sent a letter to the Criminal Court on November 29, 2010, asking it to send all the files concerning the case, and that the PG had not stated that the case was being withdrawn for revision.

The High Court said that PG lawyers had explained the withdrawal was because the PG had asked for police to investigate a case where a group of people stormed into the Civil Service Commission. Both cases were related, but the police had not concluded the investigation when hearings into the first case had started.

Ali Waheed was charged with obstruction of police duty during an anti-government protest he had participated in while a member of the then opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).  Waheed, who has since defected to the Maldivian Democratic Party in May 2011, was charged for breaching article 75 of Maldives Police Services Act.

During the hearings held at the High Court, 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 PG had the discretionary power to decide upon the procedures as to how criminal charges can be filed.

Both Waheed and Mahloof were elected to parliament as representatives of the DRP. However, following the split of the DRP into two factions, both Waheed and Mahloof chose to leave the party.

Mahloof went onto join the Progressive Party of Maldives, the party formed by followers of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.


Three opposition protesters fined for obstruction of police duty

The Criminal Court has handed an MVR3000 (US$ 194.5) fine to three men who were arrested at opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protests on charges of obstructing police duty.

The three were sentenced based on eyewitness statements by police officers, a statement by the Maldives Police Services said.

MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has condemned the charges as “manufactured”, but noted the Criminal Court had scaled down severity of sentences due to increased criticism of judiciary.

Last year’s report by UN Special Rapporteur Gabriella Knaul expressed “deep concern” over the failure of the judicial system to address “serious violations of human rights” during the Maldives’ 30 year dictatorship, warning of “more instability and unrest” should this continue to be neglected.

Ahmed Nazeer, 23, and Ahmed Ahid, 37, were arrested on March 1, 2012 at an MDP protest held to block then President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan from delivering a presidential address at the People’s Majlis.

According to the police statement, the two men beat on police shields with their hands and feet and attempted to break police lines at the junction of Lily Magu and Alikilegefaanu Magu in Malé.

Ubaidhulla Saeed, 29, was fined for breaking through police barricades and disobeying police orders on June 22, 2012 in front of the Bank of Maldives (BML) main branch on Boduthakurufaanu Magu.

Obstruction of police duty is deemed a crime under Article 72 of the Police Act. An individual found guilty of the offense may be fined up to MVR 12,000 (US$ 778), and/ or sentenced to six months in jail.

The MDP held serial protests calling for early elections following former President Mohamed Nasheed’s ouster in February 2012.

According to the MDP, the police arrested over 800 individuals over the past two years and the Prosecutor General has filed charges against an estimated 170 MDP supporters “for exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly.”

The charges include terrorism, obstructing police duty, disobedience to order and attacking police officers.

The Prosecutor General’s Office states that police charged 37 individuals with obstruction of police duty in 2013.


PIC advises protesters not to obstruct police duties

Protesters are advised not to obstruct the implementation of police duties, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) announced in a press statement (February 17), according to local media.

The PIC noted that police and protesters are sustaining injuries ‘typically’ caused when police break up protests, which occurs “when protesters break through police barricades” and gather at locations prohibited in the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly act.

Protesters were advised not to obstruct police duties and “exercise their freedoms” within the limits of the law, while the PIC advised police to “only use force to the extent demanded by the given circumstance” and also to keep their actions within the limits of the law, local media stated.

Under the new bill, citizens are not allowed to hold gatherings within a certain distance of the headquarters of police and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

Among the key features of the bill is the outlawing of demonstrations outside private residences and government buildings, limitations on media not accredited with the state and defining gatherings as a group with more than a single person.

Demonstrations would also be outlawed within a certain distance of the residences of the president and the vice president, the offices of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), tourist resorts, harbours utilized for economic purposes, airports, the President’s Office, the courts of law, the Parliament, mosques, schools, hospitals and buildings housing diplomatic missions.

The bill also states that demonstrators wishing to protest against a specific individual, may not use megaphones, stand outside, or have a sit-down outside that person’s residence.


MP Ali Waheed seeks temporary injunction after Criminal Court rejects appeal

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.

Case history

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.