High Court overturns Criminal Court’s July 2010 suspension of senior police officers

The High Court on Tuesday overturned the Criminal Court’s suspension of two senior police officers in July 2010, ruling that Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s decision to bar Superintendent Mohamed Jinah and Inspector Mohamed Riyaz from the court for six months was unlawful.

The pair was suspended after they appeared in court over the detention of then-opposition MPs Abdulla Yameen, Ahmed Nazim and Gasim Ibrahim on charges of bribery and treason.

The suspension for alleged contempt of court was appealed at the High Court by the Attorney General’s Office on July 21, 2010.

Police meanwhile filed a complaint against the chief judge at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) alleging “obstruction of high-profile corruption cases.”

The JSC has however not completed an investigation of the complaint to date. The case is among 168 complaints that the commission has yet to conclude as of December 2011, according to the JSC annual report for 2011 (Dhivehi).

In January 2012, the JSC revealed that there were 11 complaints filed at the commission against Judge Abdulla Mohamed, including allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Procedural fairness

In its judgment on Tuesday (Dhivehi) – more than two years after the case was registered – the High Court ruled that the administrative action against Jinah and Riyaz was neither procedurally fair nor in accordance with regulations on holding persons in contempt of court.

A police media official told Minivan News at the time that court had “sent a letter signed by the Chief Judge of the court to Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh. The letter did not mention any specific reason [for the suspensions], only ‘ethical grounds’.”

The High Court noted that the Criminal Court did not reply to a letter from the Maldives Police Service – sent two days after receiving the letter from the Criminal Court on July 11 informing the Police Commissioner of the suspension – seeking clarification concerning the unprecedented action.

Police had asked the court to clarify the date the hearing in question took place, the nature of the contempt allegedly exhibited by the pair or the alleged violation of ethical codes, whether it had taken place outside the hearing and whether the police officers were given any warning prior to the administrative action.

While article 43 of the constitution guarantees the right to “administrative action that is lawful, procedurally fair and expeditious,” the High Court noted that due process was not followed by the Criminal Court as the officers were not informed either of the reasons for the action or “the date of the incident”.

The High Court ruling also referred to article 68 of the constitution, which states, “When interpreting and applying the rights and freedoms contained within this Chapter, a court or tribunal shall promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, and shall consider international treaties to which the Maldives is a party.”

“Obstruction of investigations”

Appearing on state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) on July 17, 2010, then-Deputy Commissioner of Police Ismail Atheef explained that Jinah and Riyaz had appeared in court on July 9.

However, the letter from Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed informing police of the suspension was received two days later on July 11.

“If someone is in contempt of the court, action has to be taken immediately according to provision five of the court regulations,” he noted.

Atheef added that the detectives were not given any warning nor had their conduct in court been noted by the journalists who were present.

“So when this letter came to us, the way police interpret it is that this is an obstruction specifically of our investigation,” he claimed.

It was the first time that police officers were suspended from the Criminal Court, Atheef said.

The former Deputy Commissioner contended that the suspension was a deliberate obstruction because Riyaz and Jinah, as the two lead detectives and top police lawyers, would have had to appear at court to seek an extension for MP Nazim’s detention.

Meanwhile, Jinah was among a number of senior officers assaulted by mutinying police inside the police headquarters before the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7, 2012.

Following the police mutiny at the Republic Square and violent clashes with military officers, Jinah was handcuffed and taken to the Dhoonidhoo detention island.

Local media reported this week that Jinah was demoted from the rank of chief superintendent to superintendent on November 19.

Jinah was reportedly demoted over remarks he made to the media following the arrest of Gassan Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

However, in June this year, the Civil Court ruled in favour of Jinah in a case filed by Gassan claiming violation of his basic rights by the superintendent. In October 2011, Gassan was arrested on suspicion of hurling a wooden block into a crowd of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protesters outside the former president’s residence.

While the former head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED) has reportedly decided to leave the Maldives Police Service, police have said the request made last month has not yet been granted as the disciplinary board was investigating a case involving the senior officer.


Police exhibit video footage of falling plank injuring 17 year-old outside Endherimaage

Police have exhibited video footage of a wooden pole thrown from above injuring a 17 year-old during a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest outside former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s residence, Maafanu Endherimaage.

At a press briefing last night, Superintendent Mohamed Jinah said police wished to “reveal the truth” about the incident as “deliberately false allegations have been made against police using the media” to bring the institution into disrepute, and “relentless attempts” had been made to cast aspersions on police and its senior officers.

On Monday, police arrested Gassan Maumoon, son of the former President, on suspicion of hurling the 5-foot block of wood from the Endherimaage building. The Criminal Court however ruled that his arrest was unlawful and ordered his release.

The video footage shows the wooden pole strike the victim on the head and the crowd scattering after other objects were thrown down. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Minivan News journalists observed gravel, hot boiling water and sharp metal objects raining down on protesters.

Jinah said the victim, Hussein Hassan, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo Semy, had to undergo brain surgery to repair damage to his skull and “one side of his body is paralysed.”

Police did not want to reveal such video footage to the public lightly, said Jinah, but did so in this case because “many people have been using different media to claim that [the incident] never happened and make serious allegations against police contrary to the truth of the matter to bring the institution into disrepute.”

Police were also investigating damage caused to private property during the MDP protest and ascertaining the cost of the damages, Jinah said, adding however that police had not been provided security camera footage from residences in the area upon request.

Two MDP activists were arrested on suspicion of causing damage to the former President’s residence and adjoining houses. The pair have since been released after interrogation despite the Criminal Court extending their arrest for five days.

Of the two cases under investigation, said Jinah, “the most important and serious matter” was the “life-threatening” incident that left the 17-year-old hospitalised.

“We had reasons to implicate Gassan Maumoon in this matter,” Jinah said, adding that police had statements from eight witnesses who saw Gassan on the balcony as well as photos taken by a police forensic team of wooden poles inside the Endherimaage building Thursday night.

In addition to eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence, said Jinah, the “most important reason” for suspecting Gassan was his admission upon questioning that he did step out to the balcony.

When Gassan let slip that he was on the balcony, Jinah said “after a gesture from his lawyer he then exercised the right to remain silent.”

“When a police investigation team gets such information, there is no reason not to suspect a person of committing a crime,” he asserted.

The Criminal Court’s decision to order Gassan’s release was not based on the evidence submitted but “a procedural point” argued by the legal team of the accused.

Gassan’s lawyers filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus, or release from unlawful arrest, before police were due to take the former President’s son before the Criminal Court for an extension of detention.

The Criminal Court has since imposed a one-month travel ban upon request by police.

Meanwhile in a video message released before his arrest with footage from opposition-aligned private broadcaster DhiTV, Gassan denied the allegations and said he heard the protesters call for Gayoom to be “brought out, killed and dragged through the street.”

“At this dangerous moment, my priority was to take my father and mother to what I saw as the safest place in the house,” he said. “Afterwards, I called Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh and asked for help to save us. However we haven’t seen those who committed this atrocity taken for interrogation.”

After being summoned for questioning on Saturday, Gassan noted that police informed his lawyer by phone that a second summons chit was cancelled.

However, a third chit was issued the night before his arrest: “We believe that a third chit came to me after the government directly influenced police and ordered them,” he said.

Asked about the circumstances surrounding Gassan’s arrest, Jinah said Gassan was summoned a second time after receiving new information.

“We decided to take him into custody at the police headquarters,” he said. “If a person cannot be arrested at a police office, I don’t believe we can arrest a person on the street either.”


Leaked report identifies investigative failures in acquital of drug kingpin

A report compiled by the Presidential Commission (PC) following an inquiry into the controversial acquittal of alleged drug kingpin Adam Naseer in February 2010 has been leaked online, suggesting that shortcomings in the police investigation and weak evidence were responsible for failure to convict one of the “top six drug lords” identified by police.

According to the report, the inquiry into the police investigation and subsequent prosecution was requested by President Mohamed Nasheed in March 2010.

Police were unable to find “any evidence to prove at court that Adam Naseer bought and sold drugs,” the report concludes.

It further states that there was “reason to suspect negligence or a plan” behind the failure to gather strong evidence.

“Weak points”

The PC report identifies as “weak points” discrepancies in the statements provided by the police investigation team regarding the amount of drugs seized in the operation, revealing that police did not take the suspect’s fingerprint, dust the evidence for fingerprints or search Naseer for “any sign of drugs on him.”

“Apart from the statement of the police agent, Naseer’s friend [Ahmed] Ramzee, there was no other evidence to prove that the can [of narcotics] belonged to him,” reads ‘weak point’ number six. “And while police were certain for many hours that Naseer had the can, he was not caught red-handed.”

It adds that due to the hasty decision to arrest Naseer and search his residence before someone arrived to collect the can, police lost the opportunity to nab the suspect’s associates.

Among the other findings, the report notes that police trailed the suspect for six months prior to his arrest after intelligence sources learned that Naseer was going to recover drugs buried in an agriculture field he owned in Seenu Hithadhoo.

In addition to Rf5 million (US$389,100) in cash, police recovered eight empty rubber packets with trace amounts of narcotics and a plastic can with drugs from his residence.

However police were unable to uncover any details of Naseer’s dealings during the six-month investigation, such as his sources and customers.

The report notes that the inquiry was based on a summary report available from the Criminal Court website after the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) denied the commission’s request for the court report.

“The Prosecutor General’s Office informed the commission in writing that the [PG] office could provide any assistance saying that [investigating] such cases was against the commission’s mandate,” it reads.


The report recommends “strengthening investigative capability,” suggesting that police should not undertake such operations without “modern facilities” and officers with the skill and training to employ them.

Moreover, the report notes that all three investigative teams were led by Superintendent Mohamed Jinah, head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED), recommending separating the teams to allow for monitoring of progress.

The report further advises instituting safeguards against potential corruption inside the DED and guarding against possible attempts to compromise high stakes investigations.

Among the irregularities noted in the report, the commission was told by the police agent that he was not remunerated while Superintendent Jinah insisted otherwise.

Read full report (in Dhivehi)


Criminal Court obstructing corruption investigation, police allege

The Criminal Court’s suspension of two police lawyers on “ethical grounds” amounts to obstruction of the ongoing investigation into alleged corruption and bribery in parliament, claims Deputy Commissioner of Police Ismail Atheef.

Speaking on Television Maldives last night, Atheef explained that the two lead detectives on the case, Inspector Mohamed Riyaz and Superintendent Mohamed Jinah, appeared in court on July 9, but the letter from Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed informing police of the suspension was received two days later.

“If someone is in contempt of the court, action has to be taken immediately according to provision five of the court regulations,” he said, adding that the detectives were not given any warning nor had their conduct in court been noted by the journalists who were present.

“So when this letter came to us, the way police interpret it is that this is an obstruction specifically of  our investigation,” he claimed.

It was the first time that police officers were suspended from the Criminal Court, said Atheef.

The Deputy Commissioner insisted that the suspension was a deliberate obstruction because Riyaz and Jinah, as the two lead detectives and top police lawyers, would have had to appear at court to seek an extension for Nazim’s arrest.

A court official told Minivan News at the time that details of the suspension could not be provided to the media.

”They were suspended due to a case relating to this code of ethics. It is for more than one reason,” he said.


Atheef stressed that police had a good working relationship with the Criminal Court, but began facing difficulties obtaining court warrants in June 2009 when it began an investigation into alleged corruption in the former Atolls Ministry.

Appearing alongside Deputy Commissioner Atheef, the two police lead detectives on the corruption investigation highlighted procedural difficulties faced in their investigations.

The senior officers expressed concern that investigations into “high-profile corruption cases” were compromised at “a very preliminary stage”.

In some cases, Atheef said, police have heard from the public that warrants have been rejected before receiving an official response from the court.

“The suspect knows we’ve asked for a warrant and have been rejected, so he’s free to do whatever he wants,” said Atheef. “We have to appeal and try to get it again but there’s no point.”

Moreover, in the absence of a Criminal Procedures Act, the officers said, there were no “clear guidelines” on how arrests should be made.

While only the Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed personally issued warrants at present, Jinah argued that it was neither “practical nor reasonable” for one man to bear the responsibility.

Jinah revealed that the Criminal Court gave evidence police presented to seek an arrest warrant to the defence counsel of detained MPs Abdulla Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim.

“In the criminal justice procedure, disclosure of evidence is a completely different stage,” he said. “This happened way before the threshold test to determine whether or not to prosecute.”

He added that the incident had jeopardised the police investigation.

In some cases, said Inspector Riyaz, the media and supporters of the suspect were present when police arrived on the scene after obtaining a search warrant.

Referring to the case of alleged corruption in the former Atolls Ministry, involving MPs Ahmed Nazim and Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem, Riyaz pointed out that Criminal Court was inconsistent in issuing warrants.

“In a case involving two suspects, we requested a travel ban and to check their bank statements,” he said. “But [the court] enforced a travel ban on one and allowed us to check his bank statement. And for the other, [the court] allowed us to get his bank statement but refused to enforce a travel ban.”

On the importance of detaining suspects, Jinah said stopping communication was crucial to preserve evidence.

Moreover, he added, police did not have to go the Supreme Court to confiscate a suspect’s mobile phone.

Drug bust foiled

Jinah, head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED), said a Criminal Court official informed police last week that a warrant could not be issued for a case involving a kilogram of illegal drugs.

Distinguishing between routine and targeted enforcement, Jinah explained that expediting search warrants was crucial in the latter case.

“This is completely unacceptable,” he said. “I believe the application for the court order should at least be considered. It’s fine if they considered what was in it and said this can’t be done.”

He added that police summoned the court official who relayed the Chief Judges’ answer but he chose to remain silent.

“Now more than a kilo of drugs has gone into Male’,” he said, adding that the court later issued the warrant but “it was no use to us then.”

As investigating judges was outside the police mandate, said Jinah, police have decided to lodge a complaint with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) regarding the incident.