Prosecutor general to charge 30 May Day protesters

Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin says he will press charges against 30 of the 193 protesters arrested from a mass antigovernment protest on May 1.

“Out of the 128 cases we accepted from the police, we’ve forwarded around 98 cases to the committee on reviewing first time offenders. That means we will press charges against only about 30 people. That includes repeated offenders and the people suspected of attacking police officers at the protest,” he said.

Over 20,000 opposition supporters took to the streets on May 1 over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim. Police cracked down on protesters at dusk when they attempted to enter Malé’s restricted Republic Square.

Nearly 200 were arrested and scores were injured, including two police officers.

Muhsin at a press briefing today said his office will uphold the rights of the accused, but said he had noticed protesters were committing serious crimes at the opposition’s demonstrations.

“Article 32 of the constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. The law does not allow attacking and inciting violence against law enforcement agencies, and causing terror in society. This is terrorism under Maldivian law,” he said.

Muhsin warned of harsh penalties for individuals who commit such acts and advised political parties to refrain from encouraging terrorism.

Charges against protesters at present range from disobedience to order to assaulting police officers.

Muhsin also said public prosecutors are looking at charging individuals over libel and slander following allegations by recent defectors from the ruling coalition accusing President Abdulla Yameen and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb of links with the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in 2012.

The ex police chief Abdulla Riyaz was summoned to the police last week over comments he had made in an interview with opposition aligned Raajje TV on Afrasheem’s death and the torching of the station in 2013.

“People are acting however they want. They are trying very hard to defame state institutions in front of the public. The constitution does not give us the right to commit crimes hiding behind a political party,” he said.

“People in responsible posts are publicly accusing others of murder. We are researching on pressing charges against individuals who accuses some one of a crime and which the punishment is had.”

Muhsin said the PG office will appeal cases where the criminal court releases protesters from remand on the condition they avoid further protests: “My stand is the court cannot release a detained person imposing conditions barring him from attending protests. If I know of such a case and the subjected person do not have the ability to appeal, the PG office will appeal the case.”

The criminal court in March imposed such conditions on dozens of protesters. MP Ahmed Mahloof spent weeks in police custody and house arrest when he refused the criminal court’s conditions to stay away from protests. The high court brought the practice to an end when Mahloof appealed the criminal court’s ruling.

Muhsin also dismissed the opposition’s claim that the police is now imposing restrictions on freedom of assembly, by requiring prior permission for protests and banning the use of four wheeled vehicles in protests without prior notice.

“I don’t believe the right to protest has been narrowed in Maldives. I believe the right to protest and freedom of assembly is much wider in Maldives compared to other countries, to the extent that we eventually end up violating rights of others,” he said.

The opposition has criticized Muhsin over the rushed trial of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges and for accepting a discounted luxury flat by the government. The flats were also given to the five Supreme Court judges, and several heads of independent institutions.


Cameraman ‘forced’ to erase footage of PG meeting judge

A cameraman of the opposition aligned Raajje TV was forced to erase footage of a meeting between prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin and criminal court judge Abdul Bari Yousuf at a café, the broadcasting commission has found.

The PG allegedly met Bari at the Café Layaali in Malé on March 8 while the latter was presiding over former president Mohamed Nasheed’s terrorism trial.

The pair have denied the meeting took place, and Muhsin has previously said he would resign immediately if the allegations are proven to be true.

Following an inquiry, the commission determined on Monday that the Raajje TV journalists “faced reasons forcing them to delete the footage.”

“As the commission saw that this was a situation that obstructed press freedom, the members who participated in the meeting to conclude this case decided unanimously to appeal to all parties to ensure that broadcasters and the media as a whole do not face such compulsion in order to maintain an environment where journalists can fully exercise the right guaranteed by the constitution and laws without fear,” reads the summary statement of the report prepared the commission.

The commission also investigated a complaint alleging that Raajje TV disseminated false information as PG Muhsin denied meeting the judge. The commission decided that the station did not violate the broadcasting code of content as it had sought comment from both Muhsin and Bari.

The meeting took place days before a three-judge panel sentenced ex-president Nasheed to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges. Judge Bari also presided over ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s trial on weapons smuggling charges.

After Raajje TV reported the alleged meeting, the criminal court barred the station’s reporters from attending hearings. The court accused Raajje TV of “spreading lies about judges, meddling in judges personal affairs and engaging in actions that may harm judges.”

Muhsin meanwhile told Minivan News at the time that the judge was already at the café when he went there for a meal with family members.

However, Raajje TV insisted the pair were sitting at the same table and that Muhsin had walked away when the journalist started asking questions.

At the time, a Raajje TV staff told Minivan News that a group of young men led by Progressive Party of the Maldives MP Ahmed Assad forced the cameramen to delete the footage.

In 2013, the watchdog Judicial Service Commission suspended Judge Bari for over a year pending the outcome of a complaint lodged against him for alleged misconduct.

Although the commission did not reveal any details of the complaint, local media reported that a female attorney from the Prosecutor General’s Office had alleged that Bari had sexually assaulted her.

Bari was cleared of the allegations and resumed duty at Criminal Court on July 24, 2014.


Criminal Court barring Raajje TV from trials “unacceptable,” says media council

The Criminal Court’s decision to bar opposition-aligned Raajje TV from observing trials is “unacceptable,” the Maldives Media Council (MMC) has said.

The court had accused the station of “spreading lies about judges, meddling in judges personal affairs and engaging in actions that may harm judges” after a Raajje TV journalist and cameraman videotaped an alleged meeting between Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf and Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin at Café Layaali in Malé on Sunday night.

At a press conference today, MMC President Mohamed Asif ‘Mondhu’ said the court could have barred the journalist involved in the incident instead of barring all journalists from the station.

Mondhu also noted that the cameraman was forced to delete the footage.

A Raajje TV staff told Minivan News that a group of young men led by Progressive Party of the Maldives MP Ahmed Assad forced the cameramen to delete it.

While taking video footage inside a public restaurant was not illegal, Mondhu said Café Layaali’s owner would have been within his rights to either obstruct filming or ask them to leave if patrons complained.

“However, if the footage is not connected to the owner, [they] can’t order it to be deleted,” he said.

Mondhu also criticised police for not stopping the group from forcing the Raajje TV cameramen to delete the footage, characterising the incident as police’s failure to provide security to media personnel.

MMC member Ahmed Hamdhoon meanwhile said the council would investigate the case to identify the culprits.

Judge Bari is currently presiding over the trials of both former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.

The alleged meeting took place hours after the seventh hearing of Nasheed’s terrorism trial.

PG Muhsin told Minivan News that the judge was already at the café when he went there for a meal with family members.

“The crew were right next to me. But I don’t even think they recognised me. Because they didn’t videotape me, they were taping Bari who was sitting at another table. I don’t know why they would accuse me of such a thing. Anyone there would clearly see that I was sitting with a separate group of people and Judge Bari was sitting at another table,” he said.

However, Raajje TV insists the pair were sitting at the same table smoking shisha and that Muhsin walked away when the journalist started asking questions.

MP Assad and the group arrived shortly thereafter and forced the cameramen to delete the footage, after which Specialist Operations (SO) officers escorted the Raajje TV staff to the police station.

The police conducted body searches and took statements from the crew. They were released afterwards.

A police spokesperson said Raajje TV crew members had not been arrested, but detained briefly for videotaping in Café Layaali without the owner’s permission.

Related to this story

Raajje TV barred from Criminal Court, accused of threatening judge

Judges Didi and Yoosuf refuse to step down from Nasheed’s terrorism trial

JSC clears Criminal Court Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf of ethical misconduct


Civil Court rejects Nazim’s defamation case against police chief

The Civil Court has rejected a defamation case filed on behalf of former Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim against Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed.

Briefing the press today on the status of several cases relating to Nazim’s arrest and prosecution on charges of weapons possession, terrorism and treason, Hameed revealed that the Civil Court refused to accept the defamation case on the grounds that the police chief has legal immunity for statements made in his official capacity.

Nazim’s lawyers sued Waheed for telling the press on January 29 that an improvised explosive device was found in Nazim’s home.

Hameed said at the time that the explosive device had not been found during the initial search, and was not listed in a record of items found, explaining that police only announced its discovery days later after an analysis conducted without independent oversight.

The legal team would request a review of the Civil Court registrar’s decision, Hameed told the press today, contending that the immunity was specified in a regulation pre-dating both the 2008 constitution and the Police Act.

The legal team was also awaiting replies from the Civil Court regarding lawsuits against Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin for alleged violations of Nazim’s constitutional rights and “malicious prosecution” of his wife, Afaaf Abdul Majeed.

The PG office withdrew charges of weapons possession against Afaaf on February 25.

Afaaf has also sued PG Muhsin for defamation.

Hameed also revealed that the PG office yesterday declined to provide information requested under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act. The legal team has subsequently filed a case against the PG office at the Civil Court.

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has meanwhile met Nazim today to seek a statement for its investigation of a complaint regarding Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed, Hameed noted, adding that the Human Rights Commission of Maldives was also investigating a similar complaint.

The legal team also submitted complaints to the PIC regarding the SWAT team involved in the midnight raid, Hameed said, adding that the PIC has said it was in the process of gathering information in response to a separate FoI request.


Fingerprints on confiscated pistol did not match Nazim’s, lawyers reveal

Fingerprints lifted from a pistol confiscated from Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim’s residence did not match the former defence minister’s print, Nazim’s legal team has revealed.

At a press briefing this afternoon, Nazim’s lawyer, Maumoon Hameed, explained that a police forensic report shared with defence lawyers stated that “latent prints” from the weapon did not match either Nazim or any of his family members.

“This proves that their evidence has no connection to Colonel Mohamed Nazim,” Hameed contended.

Nazim is currently on trial on charges of illegal weapons possession after police raided his apartment on January 18 and discovered a pistol and three bullets in a bedside drawer. Nazim was subsequently dismissed from the cabinet and arrested on additional charges of treason and terrorism.

Hameed noted that the fingerprints must belong to a “third party” but police have not made any attempt to identify the source of the prints during the investigation after receiving the forensic report on January 20.

Police hastily concluded the investigation on February 9 and forwarded the case to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office, Hameed added.

Police have so far not responded to requests for an independent forensic examination of the evidence and other information relating to the case, he noted.

In a statement last month, police denied allegations made by Nazim’s legal team that police planted the pistol in the then-defence minister’s apartment to “frame” him, insisting that “nothing was done in violation of procedures, regulations and laws in the investigation of the case.”

Jumhooree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz, a former police commissioner and member of Nazim’s legal team, meanwhile questioned why police did not take video footage of the “forced entry” and midnight raid on January 18.

Riyaz also alleged that police did not take fingerprints from Nazim’s bedside drawer.

Riyaz urged President Abdulla Yameen to initiate an independent inquiry into the incident, contending that Nazim should be immediately released in light of the forensic evidence.

Riyaz reiterated that Nazim was being “framed” by political rivals to “destroy his political career,” adding that Nazim’s “unlawful arrest” would be investigated “some day” in the future.

Adhaalath Party Spokesperson Imran Zahir expressed concern over “obstacles to a free and fair trial” for Nazim due to several irregularities in the trial.

Zahir called on the PG office and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to arrange for an open and public trial at a larger venue as only six members of the public were allowed into the Criminal Court to observe proceedings.

While Nazim has offered to bear the expense for a public trial at the Dharubaaruge Convention Center in Malé if the state was unable to do so, judges refused the request at a hearing earlier this week.

Anonymised witnesses

At this week’s hearing of Nazim’s trial on illegal weapons possession, lawyers objected to witness statements from 13 anonymised police officers submitted by the prosecution.

Noting that the PG office has redacted the names of the witnesses as well as other details, Hameed said defence lawyers could neither rebut nor impeach anonymous witnesses as it would be impossible to determine if the officers had in fact been present on the scene during the raid.

The state prosectors’ claim that anonymising the police witnesses to ensure their safety was not a reasonable justification without establishing that either Nazim, his family, or supporters have threatened or intimidated witnesses.

The justification was “laughable” as police have said the SWAT team officers involved in the raid were the most highly-trained in the force, he added.

Hameed questioned the officers’ training “if any of them are trembling with fear of Colonel Nazim, or his wife”, adding that it was more likely that they want to remain anonymous to “impede assessment” of their testimony.

Moreover, police and military officers have openly testified at former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial, Hameed noted, adding that the opposition leader has the support of 45 percent of the electorate.

Hameed accused PG Muhthaz Muhsin of dereliction of duty and failing to protect Nazim’s fundamental rights.

At a High Court hearing on the legitimacy of the search warrant authorising the raid, Hameed said the PG office suggested that the Criminal Court should rule on the legality of the warrant during the trial and the High Court had concurred.

However, Hameed said prosecutors remained silent when Nazim’s lawyers raised the issue at this week’s Criminal Court hearing, after which  Judge Yoosuf Abdul Bari Yousuf had said the defence’s request had been noted and asked Hameed to speak on the evidence itself.

“This goes to show that the Prosecutor General does not want to afford these rights. It shows that the Prosecutor General is attempting to impede Colonel Mohamed Nazim from raising these legal points. We note our concern over this and appeal to [PG] not to act like this,” he said.

Related to this story:

Evidence against Nazim consists only of 13 anonymised police statements

Ex-Defence Minister calls for an open, public trial

No hope for fair trial, says former defense minister’s family

Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials

Ex defense minister’s wife charged with illegal weapons possession


Evidence against Nazim consists only of 13 anonymised police statements

Evidence against former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim consists only of statements by 13 anonymised police officers, defence lawyers claimed last night.

At a second hearing into an illegal weapons charge, Nazim’s lawyers insisted evidence had been fabricated, and asked the Criminal Court’s three-judge panel to examine the legality of the means used to obtain evidence.

Nazim was charged with illegal weapons possession after police raided the then-defence minister’s apartment on January 18 and discovered a pistol and three bullets in a bedside drawer. Nazim was subsequently dismissed from the cabinet and arrested on additional charges of treason and terrorism.

Nazim’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed said some of the police statements were dated a year back, and argued anonymised witnesses would obstruct Nazim’s right to a free and fair trial as it would be impossible for the defence to determine if the officer had in fact been present on the scene during the raid.

But presiding Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf told Hameed to focus on the content of the statements, and suggested judges would determine the authenticity of the witnesses.

Meanwhile, state prosecutors claimed it was necessary to anonymise witnesses to ensure their safety.

Major blunders

Hameed also pointed to what he called major blunders by state prosecutors, including a decision to withdraw charges against Nazim’s wife during the first hearing, allegedly in light of new information found in a pen drive confiscated during the raid.

According to prosecutors, the documents show Nazim was conspiring with opposition Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa group to harm senior government officials.

State prosecutors were also forced to change charges from illegal weapons possession to importing and possessing illegal weapons midway through yesterday’s hearing due to an error in the charge sheet.

Noting that evidence obtained by unlawful means is inadmissible in court, Hameed contended the search warrant issued by Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed was unlawful.

Station Inspector Ahmed Azmath Abdulla had obtained the warrant on his superior’s orders, not on information he had received, Hameed said.

Further, there had been no police intelligence reports on the presence of illegal weapons at Nazim’s apartment, he alleged.

Police must scrutinise and verify information before obtaining a warrant that violates a citizen’s privacy, he added.

The bench, however, pointed to a High Court ruling in which the appellate court said it could not rule on the legality of the search warrant as the case was ongoing at the Criminal Court.

Hameed noted the High Court’s ruling ordered the Criminal Court to rule on the warrant’s legality during the trial. Judge Yoosuf said the defence’s request had been noted and asked Hameed to speak on the evidence itself.

Hameed also asked for an open and public trial in a larger hall, saying Nazim had no confidence in Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin.

But judges said the trial was already public as media and members of the public were allowed to observe hearings. Ten reporters and ten members of the public were allowed into the courtroom.


Hameed asked the state to provide additional information, including a video recording of the raid, forensic analysis reports, copies of data obtained from the pen drive, copies of the forms submitted to the Criminal Court to obtain the search warrant, statements by all police officers during the investigation, video recordings of interviews with Nazim, his family and his security officers, and lists of police officers on duty on the night of the raid.

The extensive list was necessary to determine if the evidence had been fabricated, he said.

State prosecutors said they would issue the requested documents upon further review.

Nazim’s family in a statement last week urged the international community to step up pressure on President Yameen’s administration, claiming “there is no hope that Nazim can expect a fair trial” due to a “notoriously politicised judiciary.”

“Nazim never expected to be where he is now. But he has fallen foul of a political conspiracy, one in which powerful forces within the Maldivian government have sought to destroy him and thus prevent him from challenging for the leadership of the ruling party,” Nazim’s family explained in a letter to the international community.

The Maldives Police Services have denied planting evidence and framing the former minister, insisting officers had acted professionally during the midnight raid.

The government has maintained the arrests and charges against Nazim demonstrate “no one is above the law,” and says it has no influence over the trial, claiming charges were initiated by an independent Prosecutor General and tried through an impartial judiciary.

Related to this story:

Ex-Defence Minister calls for an open, public trial

No hope for fair trial, says former defense minister’s family

Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials

Ex defense minister’s wife charged with illegal weapons possession

Nazim remains in custody as High Court rejects appeal

Former Defence Minister Nazim remanded for 15 days

Police deny framing Nazim as former Commissioner alleges politicisation

No forensic evidence against Nazim, says legal team