Former MDP MP sues state for MVR4.2 million for illegal jail term

Former opposition MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor is seeking MVR4.2 million (US$270,967) in compensation for an “illegal” Criminal Court issued jail sentence in October 2013.

Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed had sentenced the former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP in absentia for contempt of court when he refused to attend court on charges for refusal to provide urine.

The High Court overturned the six-month sentence in December 2013.

Hamid had contended he was not obliged to attend hearings as that the Criminal Court had repeatedly scheduled trial during People’s Majllis work hours, against privileges afforded to MPs in the Parliamentary Privileges and Powers Act.

“I am standing up for justice, and to a host of illegal administrative procedures and processes that have been used to harass me, deprive me of campaigning for my seat and physical harm for which I am now getting treatment,” Hamid told Minivan News today.

The refusal to provide urine charges are still standing, but Hamid has criticised the judiciary for allowing Judge Abdulla to continue overseeing the case even after he had unfairly sentenced Hamid to jail.

Hamid lost the MDP primaries for the Malé seat in January.

President Abdulla Yameen in 2011 successfully sought MVR244,00 (US$15,742) for his unlawful military detention on the presidential retreat in 2010. He was an MP at the time.

Contempt of court

The Prosecutor General charged Hamid with refusal to provide urine, alcohol possession and cannabis trafficking after his arrest in a November 2012 police raid on a private picnic island.

Former MP Abdulla Jabir and former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Special Envoy Ibrahim Hussein Zaki were also arrested at the time. All three have alleged the police severely brutalised them during the raid.

In the run up to November’s presidential elections, the Criminal Court expedited hearings into Hamid’s refusal to provide urine case. The charges carry a one-year jail term under Maldivian law.

Hamid accused Judge Abdulla Mohamed of a personal vendetta against him at the time.

Following the sentence, Hamid took refuge inside the Majlis premises for four weeks, and only left after newly elected President Abdulla Yameen assured him he would not be arrested and allowed to stay in his own residence.

However, shortly after Hamid left the Majlis, the Supreme Court struck down the article barring courts from holding trials against MPs during Majlis hours.

The next day, Hamid was taken to jail. Two days later, three High Court judges overturned the Criminal Court’s sentence stating an MP could not be summoned to court during Majlis hours as per the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act of the time.

Hamid’s failure to attend court was justified and as such the Criminal Court had no grounds to sentence him for contempt of court, the High Court said.

The Criminal Court has since cleared Jabir and Hamid of alcohol possession, and the PG has now withdrawn charges of cannabis possession.

Jabir was however sentenced to a year in jail in February for refusal to provide urine, but President Abdulla Yameen pardoned him in July.

Hamid is also being charged for a second time for alleged refusal to provide urine following a separate arrest in July 2012 after he had crossed a police barricade during a protest.

The PG had also charged him with disobedience to order in the same case, but has now withdrawn the charges.

Hamid has been summoned to Criminal Court tomorrow to answer both counts of refusal to provide urine.


MP Easa withdraws bill reducing penalty for refusal to provide urine

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Easa has withdrawn a bill reducing the penalty for refusal to provide urine from a one year jail term to 15 days in jail.

Easa proposed the amendment to the Drugs Act after the Criminal Court sought to prosecute MDP MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor for refusal to provide urine when they were arrested on Hondaidhoo Island in August 2012.

If convicted with a one-year jail term, the two MPs may lose their parliamentary seats.

At the time, the MDP accused the judiciary of “purging” MDP MPs from parliament in order to influence the party’s simple majority in parliament ahead of several no-confidence motions against ministers of former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Easa said he had withdrawn the bill due to criticism from his own party and because he believes the police will be more professional with the election of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

The Criminal Court’s Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed has sentenced Hamid to six months in jail for disobedience to order after he refused to obey court summons to attend a refusal to provide urine trial.

Hamid contends the court summons were issued in violation of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act which prohibits the judiciary from scheduling hearings during Majlis work hours.

Hamid had sought refuse inside the People’s Majlis when the six month jail term was issued. The MDP then amended the parliament’s standing orders to allow an MP convicted of criminal acts to continue to attend Majlis sittings.

The Home Ministry transferred Hamid to house arrest in mid November and Hamid has now left the parliament after four weeks.

New Home Minister Umar Naseer has said enforcing Hamid’s jail sentence would be difficult as the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Department (DPRS) does not have the facilities to transport Hamid back and forth from Maafushi Island jail to Malé.

“We have to arrange a speed boat to bring him to every single session if he is kept in a jail outside Malé. We may have to bring him two or three times a day,” he told local newspaper Haveeru.

Furthermore, Naseer explained that incarcerating Hamid in the Malé City jail was not an option because the jail was at full capacity.