Democracy Network alerts Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges on Nasheed’s sham trial

Human Rights group Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has urged the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to investigate the jailing of former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

The “independence of the judiciary has been lost,” MDN said in a letter to Gabriela Knaul, stating President Abdulla Yameen was using the judiciary as a tool to “oppress the opposition.”

“We fear that without timely intervention, the country will complete its slide back to autocracy. We strongly urge you to investigate the matter further and issue a public statement denouncing this flagrant abuse of rights being perpetuated through the Maldives’ judiciary,” the letter read.

MDN called upon the international community to take serious measures to prevent further human rights violations at the “helm of a corrupt judiciary.”

The former president was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison last night (March 13) over the January 2012 military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Nasheed’s administration detained Judge Abdulla after deeming him a national security threat. Then- Home Minister Hassan Afeef accused the judge of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.

Delivering the guilty verdict last night, Judge Abdulla Didi said the prosecution’s evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that Nasheed ordered the chief judge’s arrest or “forceful abduction.”

The NGO described the trial as a “political tool designed to disqualify him from contesting future elections and silence his voice of political opposition,” noting that the trial took place at an “uncharacteristically extreme speed.”

“The systematic procedural irregularities in the current proceedings demonstrate that the current charges against Nasheed are a continuation of the same campaign to disqualify him from political office and effectively silence his political dissent in the Maldives, using a corrupt and biased judicial system to realise this goal,” said MDN.

All four of Nasheed’s lawyers quit on March 9 in protest of the Criminal Court’s refusal to grant sufficient time to examine the prosecution’s evidence and mount a defence.

The presiding judges had denied the lawyers’ request for adequate time, stating the legal team has had the case documents for three years.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) said today Nasheed “was denied fundamental rights which guarantee a fair trial by the constitution, and some rights granted by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

HRCM noted that the Criminal Court denied requests made by the commission to observe trials.

Advocacy group Transparency Maldives (TM) also expressed “grave concern” on the guilty verdict, stressing Nasheed was denied legal representation, right to appeal and adequate time to build a defence against new terror charges.

TM also noted that the “serious issues of conflict of interest were prevalent in the case” with two of the three judges presiding over the case having provided statements during the investigation.

“These procedural irregularities raise serious questions about the fairness, transparency and independence of the judicial process followed and the provision of the accused’s inalienable right to a fair trial,” read a TM statement today.

TM called upon state actors to “uphold democratic principles and international conventions”, while urging the public and law enforcement agencies to “exercise restraint and calm in order to mitigate further deterioration of the security situation in the Maldives.”

Knaul had previously expressed concern over lack of due process in a 2012 trial in which Nasheed had been charged with “arbitrarily detaining” Judge Abdulla at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court.

Knaul questioned the constitutionality of the magistrate court and the appointment of the three-judge panel, “which seems to have been set up in arbitrary manner, without following procedures set by law.”

“It is indeed difficult to understand why one former President is being tired for an act he took outside his prerogative, while another has not had to answer for any of the alleged human rights violations documented over the years,” wrote Knaul, in her report to the UN Human Rights council following her mission in Maldives in February 2013.

Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin in February withdrew the lesser charges and re-prosecuted Nasheed on harsher terror charges.

The United States, United Kingdom and the European Union have expressed concern with the lack of due process, while Amnesty International said Nasheed’s sentencing “after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.”


Related to this story

Former President Nasheed found guilty of terrorism, sentenced to 13 years in prison

“This is not a court of law. This is injustice,” Nasheed tells the Criminal Court

US, EU, and UK concerned over lack of due process in Nasheed trial

Nasheed trial “not free or fair,” says Maldivian Democracy Network

Former President Nasheed appears in court with arm in makeshift sling

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High Court rules Jabir cannot be released

The High Court has decided that the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) member Abdulla Jabir cannot be released from jail as his legal team had requested.

Jabir’s legal representatives submitted their appeal earlier this month on March 3. At the hearing yesterday (March 10) Jabir’s lawyers asked the court to release the MP until it had reached a conclusion on whether or not to uphold the Criminal Court’s decision to imprison him for 12 months.

On February 20 Jabir was sentenced to 12 months in prison after being found guilty of failing to provide a urine sample to the police to run a drug test.

The Kaashidhoo MP’s representatives have argued that his trial and sentencing “was in violation of several procedural and factual formalities accorded in the Constitution and statutes of the Maldives.”

Local media reported that the High Court informed Jabir’s legal team that their request could not be granted later on the same day.

The incident leading to Jabir’s imprisonment happened on November 16, 2012, when a total of 10 people were taken into police custody after police raided and searched the island Hondaidhoo. Officers alleged they found large amounts of “suspected” drugs and alcohol upon searching the island.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said at the time of the arrests that officers requested all suspects taken into custody on Hondaidhoo to provide urine samples for a routine examination. Seven individuals including other senior MPs refused to give a urine sample, leading to prosecution.

Police issued an order for Special Envoy Ibrahim Hussain Zaki – one of those facing charges related to the incident – to be taken into custody presented in court after officials were unable to present him with a summons.

After his conviction, Jabir’s legal team submitted a plea to the High Court arguing that he had the right to campaign for the Majlis elections. Jabir was set to re-contest his Kaashidhoo seat after an internal MDP decision to discipline the MP for repeatedly breaking three-line whips was overturned on appeal.

The constitution stipulates that a anyone sentenced to longer than 12 months in prison will be ineligible for election to the People’s Majlis.

While the MP was recently found not to have been guilty of possessing cannabis during the incident, his trial for alcohol possession is ongoing.

Speaking prior to this announcement by the High Court, Jabir’s wife Dhiyana Saeed stated the legal team would file a case with the Civil Court if the High Court did not accept.

Dhiyana was not responding to calls at the time of press.

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Juvenile Court sentences 17 year-old boy to four months in prison for kissing girl

Additional reporting by JJ Robinson

The Juvenile Court has sentenced a 17 year-old boy to four months in prison after he kissed a 16 year-old girl in a court waiting room.

The girl was sentenced to four months house arrest.

The sentences were given after the boy was brought to court for a remand hearing in an ongoing drugs case, and kissed the girl who was in the waiting room. The pair were convicted for indecent behaviour and contempt of court for kissing on court premises.

“The boy was taken out of where those in custody are kept to the general waiting area, and walked right up to a girl standing there and kissed her in public. We found the girl to be 16 years of age,” a Juvenile Court official told Minivan News on condition of anonymity.

The official said although the girl involved in the matter had been sentenced to four months under house arrest, the court had ruled to delay implementation of the sentence for three years as this was her first offence. If the girl did not commit repeat offences of a similar nature in the next three years, the sentence against her would be annulled, the official said.

The four months would be added to the boy’ s drug sentence, the official added.

Harsh sentencing

Belying the country’s reputation as a luxury honeymoon destination, Maldivian courts issue harsh sentences for sexual offences.

In February 2013 a 15-year-old rape victim was sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest, for a separate offence of fornication.

The girl had given birth to a baby in June 2012, which was discovered buried in the outdoor shower area of her home. Her stepfather was later charged with child sexual abuse, possession of pornographic materials and committing premeditated murder.

Following global outrage and a two-million strong petition threatening a tourism boycott by online activist group Avaaz.org, the girl’s sentence was overturned in the High Court on appeal.

Meanwhile in July 2013 the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – the judiciary’s watchdog body – rejected the recommendation of its own subcommittee calling for the suspension of Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed.

Multiple leaked videos circulating on social media showed the judge fornicating with unidentified foreign women in a Colombo hotel room.

The JSC declined to suspend the judge, citing “lack of evidence”.

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Tourism boycott would be “setback for economic rights of women” says President, as Avaaz petition reaches two million

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has issued a statement warning that calls for a boycott on tourism over the flogging sentence for a 15 year-old rape victim “will only serve as a setback to the economic opportunities and rights we are all striving to uphold for women, girls and the hardworking Maldivian people in general.”

The President’s statement comes as an Avaaz.org petition calling for a moratorium on flogging and better laws to protect women and girls in the Maldives reached more than two million signatures – more than twice the number of tourists who visit the country each year.

In a letter published on Minivan News on Saturday, Avaaz.org Executive Director Ricken Patel insisted that the organisation had not called for a outright tourism boycott.

“What we do stand ready to do, however, is to inform tourists about what action is and isn’t being taken by the Maldives government to resolve this issue and change the law, and to identify those MPs and resort owners who are using their influence to push for positive change – and those who are not,” Patel said.

“Around the world people are interested (and have a right to know) what kind of systems they’re supporting with their tourism dollars, and to make their holiday decisions accordingly,” he added.

President Waheed meanwhile thanked the international community “for their concern” in the case, noting that Attorney General Azima Shukoor had met the girl “and she is receiving the appropriate physical and psychological counseling.”

“This case should never have been presented in the courts and we are working to ensure that cases like this are never brought to the courts again,” President Waheed said.

“We appreciate the international compassion for this young woman and ask for your patience as this case moves through the judicial system. As both the President and as a father, I am fully committed to protecting and advancing the rights of women and girls in the Maldives and throughout the world and share your deep concern about this young victim,” he said.

“The Maldives is a young democracy working to balance our religious faith with our new democratic values. I ask that you support us and join us as partners as we work through this challenge.”

President Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) has meanwhile declared itself in coalition with the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), which has publicly endorsed the 15 year-old’s flogging sentence, stating that she “deserves the punishment” as outlined under Islamic Sharia.

The Adhaalath party, members of which largely dominate the Maldives’ Ministry of Islamic Affairs, stated that the sentence of flogging had not been passed against the minor for being sexually abused by her stepfather, but rather for the consensual sex which she had confessed to having to authorities.

“The purpose of penalties like these in Islamic Sharia is to maintain order in society and to save it from sinful acts. It is not at all an act of violence. We must turn a deaf ear to the international organisations which are calling to abolish these penalties, labeling them degrading and inhumane acts or torture,” read a recent statement from the party.

“If such sinful activities are to become this common, the society will break down and we may become deserving of divine wrath,” the Adhaalath Party stated.

A previous call for a moratorium on the flogging of women for the crime of extramarital sex was raised by UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay during an address to parliament in 2011.

Following her address, demonstrators gathered outside the UN building holding placards calling for Pillay to be “arrested”, “flogged” and “slain”.

Pillay’s statement was publicly condemned by the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), Islamic Ministry, MPs and religious NGOs, while the Adhaalath Party called on then President Mohamed Nasheed to condemn Pillay’s statements “at least to show to the people that there is no irreligious agenda of President Nasheed and senior government officials behind this.”

“What’s there to discuss about flogging? There is nothing to debate about in a matter clearly stated in the religion of Islam. No one can argue with God,” said Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem at the time.

More recently, a  report on extremism in the Maldives published in US West Point military academy’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) Sentinel has warned that growing religious extremism and political uncertainty in the country risk negatively affecting the country’s tourism industry.

“Despite its reputation as an idyllic paradise popular among Western tourists, political and religious developments in the Maldives should be monitored closely,” the report concluded.

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Two Pakistani nationals fined MVR 100,000, sentenced to life for drug trafficking

The Criminal Court today sentenced two Pakistani nationals to 25 years prison and fined the pair MVR 100,000 (US$6666) each.

The pair were given a month to pay their fines.

The court identified the two Pakistanis as Ishfaq and Imthiyaz Khan.

The Criminal Court ruling said that on February 12 of this year the pair arrived in the Maldives around 12:51am early morning on Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL107.

Imthiyaz and Ishfaq both confessed that they had swallowed a large amount of illegal drugs in bullet-sized packets. When the drugs found inside their body was tested it was showed to be containing Diamorphine, a substance found in heroin is banned under section 1 of the Drug Act.

The court determined that both men had violated the Maldives Drug Act and sentenced them accordingly.

Last Wednesday, the Criminal Court sentenced Ali Ugail of Hulhudhoo in Addu City after the court found him guilty of trafficking illegal drugs into the Maldives.

The court said Ugail arrived to the Maldives on March 29 on Air India Flight number AI263 carrying 76 bullet-sized packets containing Diamorphine.

Ugail confessed to the crime in court and was also sentenced  to 25 years and a fine of MVR 100,000.

Police statistics issued today by the Statistics and Analysis Unit show that in the first 10 days of Ramadan, 63 drug-related cases were filed by police.

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Man sentenced to six months for possession of sex toys

The Criminal Court has sentenced a man to six months imprisonment after the police discovered two plastic sex toys inside his room.

The court identified the offender as Musthafa Hussein of Mahchangolhi Feyruge.

According to the Criminal Court, possession of objects shaped like sexual organs were prohibited under articles 4(c) and 13(c) the Contraband Act of 1975.

While article 4 of the Act states that pornographic material cannot be brought into the country, under article 13[c] images, sounds or videos depicting sexual activities as well as objects made to look like sexual organs shall be considered pornographic material for legal purposes.

Musthafa was therefore charged with possession of pornographic material.

The sex toys were discovered by police when they searched his room during a special operation on April 30, 2011.

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High court judge rules Himandhoo protest was ‘terrorism’ and denies appeal

A high court appeal by three men sentenced to jail for the violent protest at Himandhoo has failed.

Ahmed Ramzee, Ahmed Ali and Adam Mohamed, all from Himandhoo, were originally sentenced for up to 10 years each for their involvement in the protest in October 2007.

The 200 police and army personnel who travelled to the island in search for evidence related to the Sultan Park bombing the previous month were confronted by the islanders, who donned red motorcycle helmets and armed themselves with batons and knives and denied the authorities entry to the Dhar-al-khuir mosque.

In the ensuing skirmish, a policeman was taken captive and another’s hand was severed. Shortly afterwards a video discovered on an Al Qaeda forum was found to contain footage taken inside the Dhar-al-khuir mosque moments before it was raided by police.

Senior High Court Judge Ali Hameed today ruled that the actions of the three men during the protest qualified as ‘terrorism’ under the law of Maldives, and said that the case was not open to appeal. Reading the verdict, Judge Hameed said their actions were “against the public order of the country and weakened the religious unity of the people.”

“The [verdict] of the criminal court cannot be overturned,” he said.

In the appeal, the men claimed their actions against the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were in “self defence”. Adam Mohamed and Ahmed Ramzy also told the court in previous hearings that their confessions had been extracted under duress.

At the time, Minivan News reported that Mohamed’s account tallied with other reports of abuse to have emerged from the police-run Dhoonidhoo detention centre. On 19 March 2008, he told the court he had been taken out of his cell at night during the investigation, handcuffed with his hands behind his back, and beaten in the football ground area.

Clemency

On 9 February senior members of the Maldivian government met with the 16 people arrested and sentenced for the Himandhoo protest, to inform them that President Mohamed Nasheed had made the decision to lessen their sentences under the forthcoming clemency bill.

“One criteria of the clemency laws is that [the defendant] must have exhausted all other avenues of appeal,” said the President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair. “They are more eligible [for clemency] as a result of going through the [appeals] process.”

Zuhair said the accusation that the government was ‘releasing terrorists’ was unfair.

“I believe people cannot comment on the actions of the government without knowing the details of the matter,” Zuhair said. “There are complex issues being considered, such as the trial that was conducted under the previous constitution. The president has made it known he will alleviate their sentences.”

“This government came into power saying democracy would extend to religious matters,” Zuhair added.

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