Following an incendiary Friday sermon warning unjust judges of hellfire, thousands gathered outside the Islamic Center in Malé at noon and prayed for former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s freedom.
Dozens of police officers attempted to disperse the congregation before the prayer began, but later watched on until the prayer was completed. The police then cordoned off the area.
The sermon, issued by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, quoted several verses from the Qur’an and hadiths from the Prophet Mohamed’s Sunnah on the importance of delivering just verdicts and the wickedness of false testimony.
The unusually incendiary sermon comes in the wake of an 11-year jail term for Nazim on charges of smuggling weapons, and a 13-year jail term for Nasheed on charges of terrorism over the military detention of a Criminal Court judge.
The opposition has claimed the trials were unjust and marred with irregularities including the Criminal Court’s refusal to call defence witnesses and to allow adequate time and facilities to mount a defence.
Nazim maintains he was framed by rogue police officers on the orders of Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, a claim the police and Adeeb have denied. Defence lawyers said prosecution’s witnesses had lied in court, and said the judges had violated the ex-defence minister’s right to defence.
Reading out the prepared sermon, Imams across the country said upholding justice was necessary for progress and the establishment of peace and order. Islamic Empires had progressed because they were founded on justice, they said.
Quoting from Surat al-Nisa, the sermon said: “Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those to whom they are due; and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice.”
The sermon also urged judges to be fair, consider both sides of the argument and evidence in delivering a verdict. Providing false testimony is among the greatest of sins, it added.
Quoting from Prophet Mohamed’s Sunnah, the sermon said: “Judges are of three types, one of whom will go to Paradise, and two to Hell. The one who will go to Paradise is a man who knows what is right and gives judgment accordingly; but a man who knows what is right and acts tyrannically in his judgment will go to Hell; and a man who gives judgment for people when he is ignorant will go to Hell.”
Religious conservative Adhaalath Party’s scholars control the Islamic Affairs Ministry. The party recently withdrew support for President Yameen’s administration, and joined Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) under the banner “Alliance Against Brutality.”
The alliance has been organising daily protests in Malé.
After the sermon ended, the congregation of men and boys gathered outside the Islamic Center, adjacent to the military barracks and offered a prayer for Nazim and Nasheed: “Our beloved leader, a man loved by a majority of us, Mohamed Nasheed, has been unjustly sentenced and imprisoned. He has suffered and continues to suffer brutality. O Allah! Save Mohamed Nasheed from jail and keep him safe. Bless us in our work to establish peace and security in our country, and make us victorious.”
“Colonel Mohamed Nazim, a man who has dedicated his life to serving our people, has been falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned. Protect Mohamed Nazim and all Maldivians who suffer injustice.”
Opposition supporters last week also offered a similar prayer at the Islamic Center, prompting Home Minister Umar Naseer to call for police action against using mosques and surrounding areas to “make political statements.”
Dozens of opposition supporters on Baa Atoll Thulhadhoo Island also prayed for Nazim and Nasheed yesterday.
RaeesNasheed ge Minivan kamaai Salamathaai Rahkaatherikamah kurevey KHASSA DHUVAA B.Thulhaidhoo gai miadhu kohfi pic.twitter.com/CIml2coSeJ
— 105k (@Nishantha28) March 27, 2015
The alliance meanwhile held a march attended by hundreds in the afternoon and a rice pudding banquet at Raalhugandu area at night in Malé. There were protest marches on Thulhadhoo and Gaaf Alif Atoll Kolamafushi as well.
People are clearly not intimidated. Protests in other islands. Gaaf Alif Kolamaafushi. #FreeNasheedNow pic.twitter.com/ikirWTACiV
— Shauna Aminath (@anuahsa) March 27, 2015
Maldivians stand up against brutality. Calling for justice, release of President Nasheed. Baa Atoll, Thulhaadhoo. pic.twitter.com/XxMC4dFbju
— Shauna Aminath (@anuahsa) March 27, 2015