President Yameen grants clemency to 169 convicts

President Abdulla Yameen has granted clemency yesterday to 169 convicts serving banishment, house arrest, or jail sentences.

According to the President’s Office, Yameen granted pardons or commuted sentences in accordance with Article 29 of the Clemency Act.

Some 116 individuals were released on parole with conditions following consideration of “age, health, type of medical treatment, time and circumstance, compassion, and behaviour,” the President’s Office revealed in a statement.

Convicts sentenced for drug abuse would be required to complete rehabilitation programmes, the statement noted.

Moreover, released inmates would be returned to jail to serve out the remainder of their sentences if they violate parole or commit a crime.

Persons convicted of murder, a crime with a punishment (hadd) prescribed in Islamic Shariah, terrorism, child sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape, and homosexuality were not among the 169 released convicts, the President’s Office said.

“In addition to the above-mentioned [exceptions], sentences were commuted based on records from the Maldives Police Service without including persons who could pose a threat to society’s safety and security,” the statement read.

It added that President Yameen had announced his intention to release prisoners at a campaign rally in Fuvahmulah last month.

Home Minister Umar Naseer told Minivan News in the wake of President Yameen’s announcement that the release of inmates would not present any difficulties to ongoing efforts to combat drug trafficking.

“It will not be a hindrance because the present Clemency Act prevents serious offenders from being released. Furthermore, this process will be monitored by the Home Ministry,” he said.

President Yameen also commuted the sentences of 24 inmates in January while his predecessor Dr Mohamed Waheed released 39 convicts during his last days in office.

Article 115 of the constitution states that the president has the authority “to grant pardons or reductions of sentence as provided by law, to persons convicted of a criminal offence who have no further right of appeal.”

On January 9, police cleared or expunged criminal records of 1,023 young persons who were arrested for various criminal offences, as part of the government’s pledge to facilitate youth employment.

“Political stunt”

Following President Yameen’s announcement last month, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy described the move as “a very irresponsible political stunt”.

“This is a stunt they are pulling off as elections approach – an act without any form or structure. This is a stunt like they used to pull during the Gayoom administration – as every election nears, they’ll let out numerous prisoners and the streets will be teeming with drug abusers,” the Maafanu North MP said.

Fahmy also defended the release of convicts under the MDP government’s ‘Second Chance Programme,’ which he stressed was “a structured effort, under which applicable prisoners were released under parole to be under the guardianship of a family member.”

They were given training in various skills and were provided with employment opportunities. They were monitored constantly and were taken back in when there is a risk of re-offending crimes.”

“Yameen and the people around him were those who most criticised our ‘Second Chance Programme’. And now look at what they are attempting to do. This clemency plan has no structure and will prove detrimental to the society,” he said.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who served as Home Minister during the Waheed administration – shut down the ‘Second Chance Programme’ in March 2012, alleging that the MDP government had used it to “release unqualified criminals under political influence and without any clear procedure”.

In July 2012, Jameel blamed a “surge in crime” partly on the ‘Second Chance Programme’, claiming that over 200 convicted criminals released under the scheme had been returned to prison for re-offending.

Jameel also published a comment piece in newspaper Haveeru in September 2011 criticising the programme and emphasising the importance of granting clemency in accordance with the Clemency Act.


President commutes sentences of 24 inmates

President Abdulla Yameen has commuted the sentences of 24 inmates under the authority vested in the president by the Clemency Act of 2010.

According to a President’s Office statement, sentences were commuted based on the inmate’s age; time spent under house arrest, jail, or banishment; medical condition; and discipline. Conditions were attached to the commutation, the statement said.

The president considered the following criteria in commuting sentences:

  • Inmates must not have committed a disciplinary offense in the past two years
  • Inmates must not have received an presidential pardon or commutation of sentence, or drug rehabilitation through the Drug Court or been granted parole in the past five years
  • Inmates must not have been sentenced in 2013

Individuals who were convicted of murder, terrorism, disturbing the peace – including attacking or threatening a security officer or vandalising public property, child abuse, rape, homosexuality, drug trafficking involving an amount more than four grams, or a hadd crime were not considered, the statement said.

The president did not include anyone that could be determined as dangerous to the society. Yameen will grant clemency to an additional group of convicts on April 1, the statement said.

Article 115 of the constitution states that the president has the authority “to grant pardons or reductions of sentence as provided by law, to persons convicted of a criminal offence who have no further right of appeal.”

On January 9, police cleared the police records of 1,023 young persons who were arrested for various criminal offenses, as part of the government’s pledge to facilitate youth employment.

At the time, Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed urged all young persons to make the best out of this “golden opportunity” and to leave the crime environment and become useful individuals to society.

In March 2012, current Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed shut down former President Mohamed Nasheed’s flagship Second Chance program set up to reintegrate convicts into society.

Jameel, who was Home Minister at the time, said that Nasheed’s administration had used the program “to release unqualified criminals under political influence and without any clear procedure “.


DPRS replaced with Maldives Correctional Service

President Abdulla Yameen has established the Maldives Correctional Service on December 31, 2013, which replaces the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services.

The President’s Office announced that, together with the establishment of the Correctional Service under the Maldives Prisons and Parole Act, the DPRS’s Second Chance Programme will also be discontinued effective from Tuesday.


Inmates at Maafushi Prison ordered to trim beards to be eligible for parole, claims family member

Inmates in Maafushi Prison have been handed a notice informing them that they must have short hair and trimmed or shaved beards in order to be eligible for parole, a family member of an inmate informed Minivan News.

The source told Minivan News that the notice handed to inmates states that according to Prison Order 12, article 1.5, inmates shall not grow their hair and beard unless for “a medical purpose”, and hair must be trimmed or shaved, or they would not be eligible for parole.

The notice also stated that in a meeting held by the Parole Board on April 11, 2012, the board decided to consider hair as a disciplinary issue when selecting inmates for parole, and that inmates who insisted on long hair or growing their beards would have it recorded as a misdeed in their disciplinary record, according to the source.

The notice was made in compliance with Second Chance Program Office memo number 479/167/2012/113, Minivan News was informed.

When considering parole the board will check for record of misdeeds over the past six months.

Parole Board Chair Dr Ali Shahid Mohamed meanwhile denied that the Parole Board made such a decision.

‘’We are not mandated to determine the regulations and rules of the prison, we only see their disciplinary records and we will see what progress the inmate has made in prison,’’ Shahid said.

Shahid said he does not know what the prison regulations stated about beard and hair.

‘’We did not make any specific decision related to hair or beard in the meeting that day, we enhanced an earlier decision to consider the inmates disciplinary record when releasing inmates on parole,’’ he said.

Parole Board member from Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Service (DPRS) Bilal did not respond to calls at time of press.

DPRS Director General Mohamed Rasheed’s mobile phone was switched off.

In November last year a group of prison guards working in Maafushi Prison filed a case at the Maafushi Court after they were ordered to shave off their beards.

Maafushi Court ruled that growing a beard for men in Islam is more than a Sunnah and almost ‘waajib’ (obligatory), and that prison officers should not be asked to shave off their beards.

In March this year the High Court invalidated the ruling saying that Maafushi Court gave no opportunity for the defendant – the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) – to say anything before the case was concluded, and that therefore the ruling was unlawful.