Foreigner acquitted of resort crash deaths flees Maldives after prosecutors seek to withhold passport

A Swedish national acquitted this month of causing a quad bike crash that killed two British tourists has fled the Maldives, even as state prosecutors urgently sought to withhold his passport ahead of a possible appeal.

Filip Eugen Petre was acquitted on September 5 by the Criminal Court of all charges relating to his alleged role in a quad bike accident that resulted in the deaths of British couple Emma and Johnathon Gray at Kuredu Island Resort in August 2011.

According to a leaked communique drafted by the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) and later obtained by Minivan News, the Maldives Police Service – under a court order – returned the passport of the accused in the early hours of September 7.

Just hours earlier, the PGO had sought to file an “urgent appeal” against the decision after concerns that a “serious miscarriage of justice” could occur if the accused was allowed to leave the country without a final decision on whether to appeal his case.

According to the PGO, Petre left the Maldives in the early hours of September 7, the same day of the country’s presidential election.

“The Prosecutor General’s Office was notified at approximately 4:20pm [hours after he was acquitted on September 5] that the accused demanded his passport be returned by the Maldives Police Service,” read the leaked communique.

“As we had not received any document detailing the grounds for the [Criminal Court’s] Judgment, Maldives Police Service was advised by Prosecutor General’s Office to make a written submission to the controller of immigration requesting that the accused’s passport be withheld for 7 days under the immigration Act of the Maldives.”

Minivan News understand that prosecutors were still awaiting a detailed summary of the Criminal Court’s judgement on the case at time of press.

Communication breakdown

Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali confirmed this week that he was not aware of receiving any request from the police to withhold Petre’s passport for the seven days.

Minivan News was awaiting a response at time of press to requests for information from Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef to establish if the institution had responded to the PGO’s request to withhold Petre’s passport.

“On September 6, 2013, (which is one day before the Presidential election) a Friday which is usually a public holiday, at approximately 9:00pm, we were informed that the accused had filed a motion in Criminal Court demanding that his passport be released,” wrote the PGO.

“Maldives Police Service was summoned before the Criminal Court and was questioned extensively on the request to withhold the passport. We were informed at approximately 10:08pm that an order was made by Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed for Maldives Police Service to release the accused’s passport.”

The PGO wrote that it was “mindful” of the challenges of extraditing Petre should the High Court opt to appeal at a later date, particularly due to the absence of a relevant bilateral treaty with Sweden .

“However remote or challenging its enforceability could prove, we would attempt to obtain an order of stay to prevent the release of the accused’s passport for seven days,” read the communique. “[This] would give this office time to receive a summary judgment and to make a preliminary decision to appeal in the High Court and thereby attempt to obtain an assurance of the accused’s return to the Maldives.”

The PGO said that, on September 6, the High Court had accepted a request by Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz to open the court after 10:00pm to try and file a motion to temporarily prevent authorities returning Petre’s passport.

“Due to the lengthy administrative process of opening a state owned building on a public holiday at such a late hour, we decided to request that we be allowed administrative facilities available at Maldives Police Service to prepare an urgent appeal to the High Court to prevent what we strongly believe could be a serious miscarriage of justice given the circumstances,” wrote the communique.

“We were informed of the decision of Maldives Police Service to release the passport of the accused at approximately 12:56am on September 7, 2013.”

“We were also informed by the High Court that we would have to appeal the judgment of Criminal Court, which is a near impossibility as we had no documentation on the grounds for the acquittal except for handwritten notes taken by the prosecutor during judgment hearing. The High Court requested that we make the submissions the next morning.”

According to the PGO, whilst working on an appeal later that morning – election day in the Maldives – the office was informed by the Maldives Police Service at 10:54am that Petre had left the country at 01:25am.

“We have requested Criminal Court for the case report and we shall review the case for all possible avenues of appeal, despite the possible challenges of having the accused appear before the high court in the event of such an appeal,” added the PGO.

Previous hearings

Petre’s case was reported to have come to standstill in March this year, as the Criminal Court awaited responses from the parents of the deceased, regarding their preferred form of punishment for the accused.

However, both police in the UK and the respective families of the deceased insisted at the time that the families respective decisions had been submitted and then re-submitted to the court.

Petre’s acquittal was said to have been based on the argument that prosecutors had failed to prove the accused had driven the quad bike linked to the incident, according to the PGO.

In previous hearings of the trial, prosecutors claimed that the charge of ‘disobedience to order’ of which Petre was accused had resulted from his decision to carry people on a vehicle which was not intended for passengers.

Then presiding Judge Abdul Baary Yousuf declared in court during earlier hearings that Petre’s lawyer had himself confessed during the trial that his client had driven the quad bike carrying Emma and Jonathan Gray as it crashed on the tourist property.

The father of the accused – Kureudu Island Resort resort shareholder Lars Petre – in a statement previously published in Minivan News also admitted that his son had been driving the quad bike on which the couple had been riding.

Judge Yousuf was later dismissed from his post pending disciplinary hearings into his conduct, with Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed presiding over the case on February 2, 2013, according to the PGO.

“On September 5, 2013, a hearing was scheduled in criminal court at 11:00am presided by Judge Abdullah Didi. The Judge questioned whether there was anything further to be said in the matter by either the State or the accused,” the PGO claimed.

“Thereafter, the state was questioned as to explain the basis for the criminal charge. Our Prosecutor explained in great detail as to what had transpired in the hearings so far and also highlighted the fact that the accused had admitted to driving the quad bike and that the Court had ruled that the accused could not retract the admission. The judge questioned the accused whether he was driving the quad bike and the accused refused to answer the question.”

Judge Didi then pronounced on September 5 that as the accused had denied the charges, the burden was upon the prosecution to prove the case. He then held a second hearing the same day to acquit Petre.

Seeking culpability

Contacted this week over the details of the leaked communiqué, Robert Oldfield, a relative of Emma and Johnathon Gray, told Minivan News that the families of the deceased had been left disappointed by Petre’s acquittal.

Oldfield stressed that both families did not believe there had been any “malice” resulting in the incident that killed the couple.

However, based on previous admissions in court that Petre had been driving the quad bike, he had hoped that the country’s courts would establish Petre’s culpability for the deaths.

“He [Petre] should have held his hands up and admitted he was driving the bike that has resulted in the death of two people and left their child an orphan,” Oldfield said. “To my mind, it’s the cowards way out,” he added after being informed that Petre has since left the country.

Oldfield reiterated that the families of the deceased had not wanted the accused to face any severe or long-term action, but had nonetheless wished to see justice served in relation to outlining responsibility for the crash.

Jonathan Gray’s mother Cath Davies told UK-based newspaper the Halifax Courier in March 2012 that the prospect of Petre facing the death penalty was “shocking. It’s absolutely horrendous.”


MDP requests Prosecutor General investigate “coup agreement”

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has requested the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office launch an investigation into the “coup agreement” that was recently leaked on social media.

MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told local media today (September 5) that the request was filed at the PG’s Office along with supporting evidence that backed the authenticity of the document.

After toppling former President Nasheed’s government, the plan according to the document was for then Vice President Mohamed Waheed to take charge and form a “national unity government” that represented all the opposition parties.  It also outlined plans to dismantle and factionalise then ruling party MDP.

Despite denial from the parties implicated in the agreement, Fahmy – also MP for the Maafannu Dhekunu constituency, argued that the Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz had the power to order investigations into such cases.

Fahmy claimed that the reason the MDP had not submitted the case to police was that senior officers “had a direct involvement in the coup and therefore they would not investigate” the case.

“The agreement, which plots to carry out acts that violate the constitution and the laws, reveals that certain members of police and the military were prepared to pledge their support to the anti-government movement. After plotting to carry out several criminal offences, they had toppled a government elected by the people using force and violence,” Fahmy claimed.

Fahmy furthermore claimed that the MDP would be closely monitoring whether the PG exercises the duty vested in him by the constitution. Former President Nasheed earlier this week questioned the PG’s ability to act impartially.

Previously, the PG Muizz had ignored a solicitation petitioned to him by former MDP Chairperson and MP Mariya Didi arguing that President Waheed had played a “pivotal” role in the “unlawful overthrow” of his predecessor on February 7, 2012,  thereby committing the offence of plotting to remove the president or topple the government by the use of an unlawful weapon, as mentioned under section 30 of penal code.

However, no decision from the PG has been made on the solicitation to this date. The media official at the PG’s Office was not responding to calls at time of press.

Authenticity denied

The leaked “coup agreement” mentions a detailed step by step manual to oust Nasheed’s government that was to commence from a nation-wide Islamic symposium on February 24, 2012 – 17 days earlier than the day Nasheed felt forced to resign from office.

The document surfaced on social media on Tuesday (September 3). According to the document, the plot included forcing Nasheed to resign the presidency, and having the Supreme Court order him to remain away from politics for the rest of his life.

The document, dated December 29, 2011, featured seals resembling those of the then-opposition parties Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), Jumhoree Party (JP), Dhivehi Rayythunge Party (DRP), People’s Alliance (PA) and the Civil Alliance.

However, all parties to the alleged agreement denied the document’s authenticity, arguing that their signatures had been forged.

Speaking to Minivan News last Wednesday, Vice President of the Civil Alliance coalition of NGOs, Abdulla Mohamed – named in the agreement – dismissed the document: “I swear by Allah, that I have never signed an agreement with any political parties both in my personal capacity and in my capacity as the Vice President of the Civil Alliance.”

“Any agreement, had we made one, would have been live on television. I even have the minutes of meetings held with political parties and I will reveal them soon,” Abdulla Mohamed said.

The unauthenticated signatures in the document appeared to include those of PPM Vice President Umar Naseer, Islamic Minister Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed (on behalf of the AP), Leader of the DQP Dr Hassan Saeed, Leader of the JP Gasim Ibrahim, DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim on behalf of the PA.

Read an English translation of the document

Download the original document in Dhivehi


“No reason” to delay trial for just four weeks, says Nasheed

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has requested state institutions consider the Prosecutor General’s statement to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court during the most recent hearing of his ongoing trial.

During the hearing on Wednesday (March 7), state prosecutors said they did not object to delaying the trial until presidential elections scheduled for later this year are over.

The prosecution told the three-member panel of judges that they “did not have any problem” withholding the trial for four weeks, and “did not object to delaying the election until the end of the scheduled presidential elections in September 2013.”

Nasheed is facing criminal charges over the controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed during the last days of his presidency.

Speaking during a party rally held on Wednesday evening, President Nasheed stated that the four-week break granted by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court until the next hearing was an opportunity for state institutions to decide on the matter.

“Delaying trial for just four weeks has no meaning. There is no reason for it nor does it help anyone. We want the trial to be delayed till the elections are over. [The prosecution] gave one month and said that they did not object to further delays,” Nasheed told his supporters.

Nasheed said that it was very clear that charge of arresting the judge was not a charge against him alone, but several others as well.

He also warned that if the magistrate court issued a verdict that would bar him from contesting the elections, a lot of people would rise up against the decision and trigger a “very dangerous political insurgency”.

“Can remain straitjacketed for another 40 days”: former president

“[The government] and the prosecutor general knows very well that Nasheed of Galolhu Keneryge can remain straitjacketed for anther 40 days. He can do that. The torture he receives from it will not change anything,” Nasheed said.

Nasheed also criticised the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) stating that the problem with Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was not just the panel of judges. He alleged that the JSC had formulated the bench and have now been forcing administrative staff of the court to do specific things to impact the trial.

Elaborating, Nasheed claimed that the current Cabinet Secretary of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, Abdulla Nazeer – who was a state minister of education – regularly paid visits to the judges and cabinet ministers and regularly contacted the judges to inquire about the progress of the trial.

“Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential hopeful Abdulla Yameen does not talk about the case. Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali does not speak about it. But it is always traitor Waheed who speaks of it,” Nasheed said.

“He will always say it is with the courts. We are seeing today and every other day how much he is trying to influence this trial. It is posing a huge challenge towards a fair and transparent hearing.”

Nasheed further claimed that the current judiciary of the Maldives was being operated for the benefit of a few politicians.

Despite the law stating otherwise, the judiciary was incompetent and inexperienced, and could not guarantee a court room that would deliver justice to the people of the country, Nasheed said.

“They will take us tomorrow. Even then, be courageous. They will take us the day after tomorrow. Even then, be courageous. Next time it would not be just a day, next time it would be 10 days, perhaps a month but still we shall not back down,” he said, as supporters roared in support.

No withdrawal, no objection

Despite Nasheed’s remarks, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz stated that he was not withdrawing the charges against Nasheed, and said that he was still sticking by his decision.

He told local newspaper Haveeru that the state prosecutors will be present any time the court wishes to schedule the trial.

“We told [Nasheed’s lawyers] that we have no problem requesting the court delay the hearing for four weeks. We even told the court that,” he said. “I don’t mind even if the court delays the case. But we don’t have an desire to delay the trial. The court can carry out the trial the way they wish. I have no objection to it; we would follow the schedule they give.”

During Wednesday’s hearings, Nasheed’s legal team requested the court delay the trial until the end of the scheduled presidential elections in 2013, and in a separate request, asked the court for a delay in proceedings by four weeks.

However, the judges dismissed the request to delay the trial until the end of the elections, but agreed to withhold it for four weeks, stating that the panel of judges by majority “have decided to proceed with the trial”.

Nasheed’s lawyers subsequently contested the decision, claiming that continuing the trial could compromise the rights of many people, arguing that Nasheed was the presidential candidate of the largest political party in the country, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

However, the court stated that Nasheed’s claim he was the presidential candidate of a political party lacked legal grounds to support it, as presidential candidates were announced by the Elections Commission after it opened the opportunity to file presidential candidates.

Politicised trial

Speaking to Minivan News, the former President’s Spokesperson MP Mariya Ahmed Didi claimed the court’s decision reflected “how politicised” the trial was.

“The prosecution did say that they had no objection to defer the trial after the election. However, the court opted for a four week [delay],” she said. “We do feel that the fact that the PG has said that he did not object but the court to give only four weeks deferment shows how politicised this trial is.”

Didi added that Nasheed’s legal team had not ruled out the option of appeal and said that President Nasheed and senior members of MDP are currently engaged in discussion with the legal team on whether to do so.

Speaking to Minivan News, Kirsty Brimelow QC, one of three UK-based experts on former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team, said that there remained a “strong argument” in the case that the prosecution of Nasheed was “not in the public interest”.

“It is a strong argument that a prosecution is not in the public interest. The currently constituted court comprises of judges who may be biased or have the appearance of bias. They should recuse themselves,” she argued.

She also contended that the prosecution of Nasheed’s case before the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court fell “below international standards for fair trial procedure”.


Former President Nasheed’s trial politically motivated: Bar Human Rights Committee

The trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed on charges of illegally detaining a judge appears to be a politically motivated attempt to bar the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate from the 2013 presidential election, the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) concluded in a report launched on Thursday (December 13).

The report was compiled by Stephen Cragg on behalf of the BHRC, the international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales, following a visit to the Maldives from November 3 to 6 to observe hearings of former President Nasheed’s trial.

“BHRC notes that Mr Nasheed’s lawyers have petitioned the prosecutor-general to review whether the prosecution of Mr Nasheed is in the public interest, and it seems to BHRC that this is an application worthy of very serious consideration,” the report stated.

“BHRC is concerned that a primary motivation behind the present trial is a desire by those in power to exclude Mr Nasheed from standing in the 2013 elections, and notes international opinion that this would not be a positive outcome for the Maldives.”

According to a press release by the BHRC, the report was based on “an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the trial of ex-President Mohamed Nasheed.” The BHRC observer, Stephen Cragg, is a member of the bar and barrister at Doughty Street Chambers.

Former President Nasheed faces criminal charges for the military’s controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed on January 16 this year.

Home Minister Hassan Afeef sought to justify the arrest at the time on the grounds that the judge was a national security threat after he blocked investigation of his misconduct by the judicial watchdog and quashed a police summons for him.

The judge had “taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist,” Afeef said, accusing Abdulla Mohamed of obstructing high-profile corruption casesreleasing murder suspects, colluding with drug traffickers, and barring media from corruption trials.

Judge Abdulla “hijacked the whole court” by deciding that he alone could issue search warrants, Afeef contended, and had arbitrarily suspended court officers.

In the conclusions of the BHRC report, the author observed that the detention of the judge was “not a simple case of abuse of power.”

“Rather, the underlying narrative of the situation is that of a president desperate to bring change to a new democracy after decades of oppression, and finding himself thwarted by the inability of the organs of state set up by the constitution to deliver much needed  reform,” the report stated.

Referring to “the large number of international reports” that have found the Maldivian judiciary to be flawed, the BHRC noted that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) “failed in its twin tasks of ensuring that the judiciary has the appropriate experience and qualifications, and in bringing to book the judges who fail to fully and fairly implement the rule of law.”

“Implicit in these criticisms is that Mr Nasheed cannot be guaranteed a fair trial,” the report concluded.

The BHRC also expressed concern with the “deterioration of human rights protection in the Maldives since the transfer of power in February 2012” as reported by Amnesty International and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

“Again, a failure to comply with human rights standards by the Maldivian authorities is a grave threat to the democracy so recently achieved,” the report stated.

“How the Maldives deals with this prosecution and trial (if it goes ahead) may well decide the course of its government for years to come.”

Back in September, the government criticised Amnesty International’s report, “The Other side of Paradise: A Human Rights Crisis in the Maldives”, as being “one sided”.

The BHRC is a UK-based independent body “concerned with protecting the rights of advocates, judges and human rights defenders around the world.”

JSC and failure of oversight

The BHRC report also noted that article 285 of the constitution mandated the JSC to determine whether or not the judges on the bench possessed “the educational qualifications, experience and recognized competence necessary to discharge the duties and responsibilities of a judge, [and] high moral character.”

“However, the JSC  failed to bring in any standards in the two years allowed and in August 2010 almost all judges, good and bad, were re-instated in post at that point amidst much controversy,” the report observed.

It added that the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) expressed concern with the JSC’s failure to “fulfil its constitutional mandate of proper vetting and reappointment of judges.”

“The JSC (made up of politicians, lawyers and judges) has also been criticised as ineffective in its other role of overseeing  complaints about judges. Complaints about the worst judges built up and were not investigated. A large number of complaints were made about the head of the criminal court in Malé, Judge Abdulla Mohamed,” the BHRC report explained.

“In an open letter to parliament in March 2011, former President Nasheed’s member on the JSC and outspoken whistle-blower, Aishath Velezinee, claimed that the politically-manipulated JSC was protecting Judge Abdulla.

She claimed this protection was provided despite the existence of “reasonable proof to show that Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed was systematically committing the atrocity of setting free dangerous criminals and declaring them innocent with complete disregard to the evidence [presented at court].”

Despite Judge Abdulla having been sentenced for a criminal offence, Velezinee wrote that Speaker Abdulla Shahid pushed for his reappointment and later “bequeathed the Criminal Court to Abdulla Mohamed until 2026″ under the Judges Act, which was passed hastily during the constitutional crisis period in July-August 2010.

Velezinee meanwhile told the author of the BHRC report that it was “the State’s duty to remove [Judge Abdulla] from the judiciary”.

“She has written a remarkable memoir of her time on the JSC, describing the machinations and tribulations of the Committee, and its failure to establish ethical or moral standards for judges,” the report noted.

Meanwhile, on January 16, 2012, “frustrated by an inability to remove allegedly bad judges, President Nasheed (or one of his ministers, it is still not entirely clear) ordered the detention of Judge Abdulla,” the BHRC report continued.

“He was taken to an island and kept there for almost three weeks, despite the protests of lawyers and judges. It does not seem that he was badly treated, and the government emphasised the lack of other effective powers to justify its actions.”

It added that the Supreme Court demanded the immediate release of the judge “as he was arrested not in conformity with the laws and regulations, and the acts of MNDF [Maldives National Defence Force] was outside its mandatory power.”

The trial

Former President Nasheed’s trial is set to resume after the Supreme Court on December 5 decided in a 4-3 ruling that the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court hearing the case was legitimate.

The BHRC report noted that Nasheed was charged under article 81 of the penal code, which states: “It shall be an offence for any public servant to use the authority of his office to intentionally arrest or detain any innocent person in a manner contrary to law. A person guilty of this offence shall be punished with exile or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding MVR 2,000.”

The former President’s legal team informed the author that “a range of defences will be advanced” in his trial.

“For example, is the President a public servant to whom the Article applies? Does the Article relate only to the person who, in fact, takes a person into custody or directly orders an arrest? What effect does the term ‘innocent’ have in the Article?” the report explained.

“The team is to request that the Prosecutor General reconsiders whether the prosecution against Mr Nasheed should proceed, arguing that it is not in the public interest that it should do so. It was explained that if Mr Nasheed is sentenced to more than a year in custody then (even if he is immediately pardoned) he will be excluded from running in the 2013 elections.”

The author of the report also spoke to a number of lawyers, politicians and the Prosecutor General during their visit, and “almost all criticised the failure of the JSC to bring about reform of the judiciary in the way expected by the new constitution.”

“Opinion was split between those who thought there was no option  but to prosecute Nasheed, and those who wanted the wider context to be taken into account by the prosecutor,” the report noted.

“There was a strong  feeling amongst some that the politicians of the old regime had escaped prosecution for much worse abuses of power. The foreign government representatives I spoke to clearly see Nasheed as a force for good in the region and desperately want a solution  to the current proceedings which will allow him to stand in the election next year.”

Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed, chair of parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee, meanwhile explained that the absence of powers to replace members of the JSC “severely restricted” the parliamentary committee from ensuring that the JSC was functioning effectively.

Nasheed also criticised the Supreme Court for overturning Acts of Parliament that “purported to legislate for the justice system” as part of its stance that “anything to do with the administration of justice was a matter for the [Supreme] Court.”

Former MP Ibrahim Ismail ‘Ibra’, chair of the constitution drafting committee of the Special Majlis, meanwhile contended that the President “had no choice but to arrest Judge Abdulla” as the only option to “remove a rogue judge from the criminal justice system.”

Ibra explained that the “backdrop to President Nasheed taking or authorising the action he did against the judge” was the JSC’s failure to investigate serious complaints, some dating back to 2005.

“However, when the JSC did adjudicate against Judge Abdulla in one case, the Judge went to the civil court and obtained an injunction against the JSC to stop them taking action against the judge. Essentially the system had ground to a halt,” the BHRC report stated.

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz however insisted that “it was right that Mr Nasheed should face trial and that even before Mr Nasheed had lost power it was considered the right thing to do.”

“I asked him whether there was a code of practice which governed prosecution decisions. He said that there was but that it was not in the public domain. He said that it was possible for prosecution decisions to take into account the public interest, but was a little vague as to how this was actually done,” the report stated.

“He mentioned that when Mr Nasheed had been president there had been a decision in the public interest not to pursue him in relation to fairly minor electoral offences. He did say that it was possible for the prosecutors to reconsider, following charge, whether a prosecution should continue.”