Ex-Defence Minister Nazim found guilty of smuggling weapons, sentenced to 11 years in jail

The Criminal Court has found former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim guilty of smuggling dangerous weapons and sentenced him to 11 years in jail.

At a late night hearing on Thursday, the three-judge panel said Nazim had not been able to demonstrate how he had come to possess a pistol and three bullets found in his apartment during a police raid on January 18.

The weapons did not belong to the state armoury and therefore must have been smuggled into the country, the judges said. Further, since the police had discovered the weapons at Nazim’s home in a raid conducted according to the law, they must be considered to belong to the former defence minister, judges concluded.

Nazim’s defence team have maintained the pistol and three bullets were planted by rogue officers on the orders of Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, after the pair fell out over Adeeb’s alleged use of police SWAT team for criminal activities.

The Maldives Police Services and the Tourism Minister have denied the accusations as baseless and untrue.

Nazim, as he was escorted out of the courtroom under a police guard tonight, told his distraught family, “We will still gain justice.”

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, defence lawyer Maumoon Hameed said the three judges had not considered the defence’s arguments and said he would lodge an appeal at the High Court as soon as possible.

The Criminal Court last week refused to call all but two of the 37 defence witnesses, claiming some were not relevant while others did not appear to negate the prosecution’s claims.

Following the weapons discovery, Nazim was dismissed from the cabinet. He was then arrested on February 10 under additional charges of terrorism and treason.

State prosecutors in court also claimed documents on a pen drive confiscated along with the weapons revealed that Nazim was plotting a coup d’etat and planning to harm President Abdulla Yameen, Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed and the Tourism Minister.

The documents were presented in a closed hearing, allegedly to demonstrate the former defence minister had a motive in smuggling the pistol.

Nazim’s family had previously said “there is no hope for a fair trial” due to a “notoriously politicised judiciary,” and said Nazim had “fallen foul of a political conspiracy, one in which powerful forces within the government have sought to destroy him and prevent him from challenging the leadership of the ruling party.”

Right to defence “obstructed”

At a 4:oopm hearing on Thursday, state prosecutors and defence lawyers presented closing statements.

State prosecutor Adam Arif said Nazim had admitted police discovered the weapons in his bedroom during a search carried out in his presence. Claiming Nazim had failed to explain who the weapons belonged to, Arif said he must be held responsible for the pistol and three bullets discovered under his roof.

Tests carried out by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) proved the weapons were functioning and dangerous. Further, the MNDF had said the weapons did not come from the state armory, he said.

Police officers had also testified the raid and search were conducted according to rules and regulations, he added.

But referring to the Criminal Court’s refusal to call the majority of Nazim’s defence witnesses, defence lawyers contended the court had “obstructed” Nazim from mounting a proper defence.

Lawyers claimed over 15 SWAT officers broke down the door to Nazim’s apartment on the night of the raid, barged into his bedroom in the dark, pointed a riot gun at his head and escorted him and his wife into the living room.

SWAT officers then spent at least ten minutes unsupervised in the former Defence Minister’s bedroom, during which they planted the bag containing the pistol in a bedside drawer, lawyers suggested.

Police testimony confirmed the search team had arrived approximately 15 minutes after the SWAT officers secured the premises, but state prosecutors had failed to explain the gap, lawyers argued.

The defence team also contended police conduct of the raid and search was unlawful, arguing the resulting evidence was therefore inadmissible in a court of law.

Lawyers said if the defence had been allowed to call its witnesses, it would have been possible to prove police spent time unsupervised in Nazim’s bedroom, and that SWAT officers were previously under investigation for criminal activities.

They would also have been able to prove the pistol was in fact imported by the state for the protection of foreign dignitaries, they added.

Lawyers urged judges not to accept the testimony of police officers, claiming they had lied in court. Lawyers pointed to what they called serious contradictions in testimony, as one claimed the search team had checked the ceiling and above a cupboard in the bedroom, while the others denied doing so.

Some witnesses claimed secret information indicated the weapons were located on either the seventh or eight floor while others said it was just the eighth floor, lawyers said.

The panel overseeing Nazim’s case are the same judges who sentenced former President Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in jail on March 13.


Evidence against Nazim consists only of 13 anonymised police statements

Evidence against former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim consists only of statements by 13 anonymised police officers, defence lawyers claimed last night.

At a second hearing into an illegal weapons charge, Nazim’s lawyers insisted evidence had been fabricated, and asked the Criminal Court’s three-judge panel to examine the legality of the means used to obtain evidence.

Nazim was charged with illegal weapons possession after police raided the then-defence minister’s apartment on January 18 and discovered a pistol and three bullets in a bedside drawer. Nazim was subsequently dismissed from the cabinet and arrested on additional charges of treason and terrorism.

Nazim’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed said some of the police statements were dated a year back, and argued anonymised witnesses would obstruct Nazim’s right to a free and fair trial as it would be impossible for the defence to determine if the officer had in fact been present on the scene during the raid.

But presiding Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf told Hameed to focus on the content of the statements, and suggested judges would determine the authenticity of the witnesses.

Meanwhile, state prosecutors claimed it was necessary to anonymise witnesses to ensure their safety.

Major blunders

Hameed also pointed to what he called major blunders by state prosecutors, including a decision to withdraw charges against Nazim’s wife during the first hearing, allegedly in light of new information found in a pen drive confiscated during the raid.

According to prosecutors, the documents show Nazim was conspiring with opposition Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa group to harm senior government officials.

State prosecutors were also forced to change charges from illegal weapons possession to importing and possessing illegal weapons midway through yesterday’s hearing due to an error in the charge sheet.

Noting that evidence obtained by unlawful means is inadmissible in court, Hameed contended the search warrant issued by Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed was unlawful.

Station Inspector Ahmed Azmath Abdulla had obtained the warrant on his superior’s orders, not on information he had received, Hameed said.

Further, there had been no police intelligence reports on the presence of illegal weapons at Nazim’s apartment, he alleged.

Police must scrutinise and verify information before obtaining a warrant that violates a citizen’s privacy, he added.

The bench, however, pointed to a High Court ruling in which the appellate court said it could not rule on the legality of the search warrant as the case was ongoing at the Criminal Court.

Hameed noted the High Court’s ruling ordered the Criminal Court to rule on the warrant’s legality during the trial. Judge Yoosuf said the defence’s request had been noted and asked Hameed to speak on the evidence itself.

Hameed also asked for an open and public trial in a larger hall, saying Nazim had no confidence in Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin.

But judges said the trial was already public as media and members of the public were allowed to observe hearings. Ten reporters and ten members of the public were allowed into the courtroom.


Hameed asked the state to provide additional information, including a video recording of the raid, forensic analysis reports, copies of data obtained from the pen drive, copies of the forms submitted to the Criminal Court to obtain the search warrant, statements by all police officers during the investigation, video recordings of interviews with Nazim, his family and his security officers, and lists of police officers on duty on the night of the raid.

The extensive list was necessary to determine if the evidence had been fabricated, he said.

State prosecutors said they would issue the requested documents upon further review.

Nazim’s family in a statement last week urged the international community to step up pressure on President Yameen’s administration, claiming “there is no hope that Nazim can expect a fair trial” due to a “notoriously politicised judiciary.”

“Nazim never expected to be where he is now. But he has fallen foul of a political conspiracy, one in which powerful forces within the Maldivian government have sought to destroy him and thus prevent him from challenging for the leadership of the ruling party,” Nazim’s family explained in a letter to the international community.

The Maldives Police Services have denied planting evidence and framing the former minister, insisting officers had acted professionally during the midnight raid.

The government has maintained the arrests and charges against Nazim demonstrate “no one is above the law,” and says it has no influence over the trial, claiming charges were initiated by an independent Prosecutor General and tried through an impartial judiciary.

Related to this story:

Ex-Defence Minister calls for an open, public trial

No hope for fair trial, says former defense minister’s family

Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials

Ex defense minister’s wife charged with illegal weapons possession

Nazim remains in custody as High Court rejects appeal

Former Defence Minister Nazim remanded for 15 days

Police deny framing Nazim as former Commissioner alleges politicisation

No forensic evidence against Nazim, says legal team


Majlis members in voice recordings identified by Maldives media

The Maldives print, television and Internet media have identified the voices and names in three voice recordings made available on the Internet yesterday.

The voices were those of Kuludufushi-South MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed, Dhiggaru MP and Majlis deputy speaker Ahmed Nazim, Mulaku MP and leader of the People’s Alliance party Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, and Maamigili MP and Jumhooree party leader Gasim ‘Buruma’ Ibrahim, says the Maldives media.

Gasim Ibrahim is chairperson of the permanent Majlis committee for economic affairs, and chairperson of the Majlis sub-committee considering the Tourism Goods and Services bill and the Business Profit Tax bill. Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom is the younger brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and heads the permanent Majlis committee for national security. Both Gasim and Yameen were arrested and charged with bribery and treason last week.

Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed admits that he took part in the conversations in his personal Internet blog where he says a conversation he had with Gasim Ibrahim was not about raising money to bribe Majlis members.


Police confirm charges against Yameen and Gasim include bribery, treason

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has revealed that charges against People’s Alliance (PA) leader Abdulla Yameen and Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim include treason and bribery.

The court ruled just before midnight on Wednesday that both MPs would be confined to house arrest for three days while the investigation continues, and would be free to attend any parliamentary meetings.

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the case was being heard this evening, and confirmed the charge sheet included bribery and “attempting to topple the government illegally.”

This afternoon police appealed in the High Court against a warrant issued by the criminal court shortly after midnight on Tuesday evening, requiring that Yameen and Gasim be brought to court in one hour.

Yameen’s legal team, led former attorney general Azima Shukoor, filed in the criminal court to determine on what grounds Yameen was arrested.

The prosecution claimed the court warrant issued by the criminal court was unlawful and against judicial procedure.

”Maldives Police Services understand that the court warrant which ordered police to summon Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom was against the law,” the prosecution stated. ”The criminal court unlawfully ordered police to summon Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.”

She said that there was no law forbidding police from arresting Yameen as there were criminal charges against him.

”Everyone is equal in front of the law,” the prosecution stated. “The court order does not mention that the police abused any of the rights on arrest guaranteed by the constitution.”

She said the time limit on the court warrant was also an issue.

The Chief Judge queried the prosecution lawyer as to whether there was a law specifying a time limit to conduct trials.

”Arrests made abruptly should be brought before judges between 7:30pm to 9:30pm on working days and from 4pm to 9:30pm on other days,” she replied.

Yameen’s defence lawyer Azima Shukoor, said police had no reasonable grounds on which to arrest Yameen.

”Yameen was not told what charges he was being arrested for at the time of  him arrest,” Shukoor said, noting that this was a legal right as guaranteed by article number 48(a) of the Constitution.

The article states that everyone has the right on arrest or detention to (a) be informed immediately of the reasons therefore, and in writing within at least twenty four hours.

”He was arrested at 6:30pm and at 9:45pm he knew the cause of his arrest – that is three hours after he was arrested.” she said.

Azmia said that the Maldives Police Service entered Yameen’s house without his permission, and claimed this violated article 47(b) of the constitution, which states that ‘residential property shall be inviolable, and shall not be entered without the consent of the resident, except to prevent immediate and serious harm to life or property, or under the express authorisation of an order of the Court.’

Addressing the High Court, Yameen explained how he was arrested.

”Police officers came to my house at around 630pm, I do not remember the exact time, and they said they had something to tell me,” Yameen recounted. ”They ordered me to go to the police station immediately.”

Yameen said he asked the police officers whether they had a court warrant and why he was being arrested.

”They said that when I arrived at the police station I would know why,” Yameen said. ”I asked whether they had a document from the Maldives Police Service (MPS), and they did not have that.”

Yameen said he then refused to accompany the officers.

”A police star force squad came and cruelly and without any respect tried to take me [forcibly],” he said. ”I then said I would go.”

Yameen said he asked the police officers to show him a court warrant authorising his arrest.

”They replied that I did not have that opportunity,” he said. ”I said I would go in my own vehicle, and they replied that I did not have that opportunity also.”

Yameen said when the police vehicle went near the police headquaters, they pretended to wait and then drove at high speed.

”I asked them what they were doing,” he said. ”They replied that they were taking me to Dhoonidhoo [police custodial], and said they also had a police station there.”

Gasim’s hearing followed Yameen’s. The MP was defended by Dhivehi Qaumy Party (DQP) leader Dr Hassan Saeed, who also claimed that Gasim was arrested unlawfully.

The High Court will rule on the case tomorrow.