The Criminal Court has decided to delay the trial of controversial religious scholar Sheikh Ibrahim Fareed after the state lawyers told the court they wanted to withdraw the case.
According to local media, state lawyers told the Prosecutor Genral’s (PG) Office had decided to withdraw the case because too much time has passed since Fareed had committed the offense.
Sheikh Fareed was charged for conducting religious sermons in some islands of Haa Dhaalu Atoll after the government cancelled his permission to preach in 2007. The last hearing in to the case was held on 30 January 2011.
Lawyers told the Criminal Court that the PG Office had sent letters to the court informing of the decision to withdraw charges, but the court had refused to accept the letters. Instead, the letters were handed to the judge during today’s hearing.
The judge told the state prosecutor there were many charges the PG Office should withdraw if charges against Fareed are to be dismissed, and said the PG Office should treat everyone equally when dealing with such matters.
The judge also said that the PG Office cannot decide to withdraw cases filed at the court with the ongoing leadership vacuum at the PG office.
The Criminal Court will only accept the withdrawal if the new PG wished to withdraw charges, the judge said. A next hearing will be held after a new PG is appointed by the new parliament, he added.
When charges were first filed against Sheikh Fareed, the President of Islamic Foundation of Maldives (IFM) Ibrahim Fauzy told Minivan News that Fareed was arrested alongside many MDP delegates while he was aboard a boat traveling from Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll in the year 2007.
”The former Religious Unity Act is contradictory to the new constitution, it is not acceptable to charge Sheikh Fareed over this issue,” said Fauzy. ”It is all related to politics. The former government confiscated his permission to preach, and later he only spoke at political rallies when he was in the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).”
Sheikh Fareed was arrested several times during the former regime for his participation in anti-governmental protests. According to the local media, he was also once charged with terrorism but acquitted.
In 2007 he was the vice president of MDP religious council but resigned after alleging that the party was against Islam.