Civil Court declares former police intelligence director’s arrest unlawful

The Civil Court has declared the Maldives Police Services’ arrest of former Director of Police Intelligence Sabra Noordeen on 16 March 2013 unlawful, unwarranted, and an ‘abuse of power’.

The court has also ordered the police to erase the record of the arrest and to issue a written apology.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Sabra said she had filed the case “because I wanted to set a legal precedent which would make the Police think about the wider rights and responsibilities they have to uphold before they exercise their powers.”

The police arrested Sabra upon her arrival at Malé International Airport on 16 March 2013 on the charge of “inciting violence” against a police officer on 5 March 2013 during the arrest of President Mohamed Nasheed. The police also confiscated her passport.

She was then handcuffed in order to be transferred to Dhoonidhoo prison. However, the police took her to Malé instead, and released her after issuing a summons to appear at the police station at a later date for questioning.

Sabra first appealed the Criminal Court warrant at the High Court and asked for compensation for damages. In August 2013, the High Court ruled the warrant valid, but said that Sabra should seek compensation at the Civil Court.

In yesterday’s verdict, the Civil Court noted the Criminal Court had not ordered the police to arrest Sabra, but had provided a warrant authorising her arrest upon the police’s request.

The court said she could only be arrested under such a warrant if there was “a necessity for her arrest”,  and if such a necessity ceases to exist, she should not be arrested “even if the warrant has not expired”.

The Civil Court noted that the High Court judges had deemed Sabra’s quick release on the day of her arrest to have been an indication of the lack of necessity for her arrest.

The Civil Court has also warned that the police’s abuse of power defeats the purpose for which the institution was founded, and would create doubt and fear about the the institution.

The verdict declared that Sabra’s arrest violated her right to protect her reputation and good name as guaranteed by Article 33 of the constitution, and the right to fair administrative action guaranteed by Article 43. The court also found that the police had acted against their primary objectives underlined in Article 244.

Following her arrest in March 2013, Sabra called for police reform in order for the institution to regain public confidence – including the dissolution of Special Operations unit and holding police officers accountable for misconduct and brutality.

“I quit the Maldives Police Service on 8 February 2012 with a profound sense of sadness for the institution and the colleagues I left behind. I do not believe that everyone in the MPS was involved in the mutiny or the coup and I do not believe in blaming everyone in a police uniform,” she wrote in an article detailing the events of her arrest.

Previously, the Criminal Court had declared the police’s arrest of incumbent Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and the arrest of Ghassaan Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as unlawful.

In 2010, the Civil Court also declared the Maldives National Defense Force’s “protective custody” of current President Abdulla Yameen as unconstitutional, while the Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of both Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim (both members of parliament at the time).

Accusations of brutality and misconduct by MPS officers are common and have been confirmed by various independent state institutions. Among them are the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) that looked in to the controversial power transfer of February 2012 and two constitutionally prescribed independent institutions – the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and the Police Integrity Commission.


HRCM to conclude investigation into the arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed before April

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has said the commission will conclude its investigation into the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed before the end of the month, and forward the findings to the Prosecutor General.

HRCM Member Ahmed Abdul Kareem told the press that the case took so long because some of the people involved “did not cooperate with the commission.”

Kareem told the press that all the statements would be finished by the end of next week, and that before the end of this month the case will be sent to the Prosecutor General (PG).

President of HRCM, Mariyam Azra, today told Minivan News that the commission was hoping to conclude the investigation before next month.

She said she could not confirm whether all the persons involved in the case were cooperating or not.

”Its a different team investigating the case and Ahmed Abdul Kareem is the only commission member in the investigating team,” she added.

Meanwhile, Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan News that police investigation in to the case was ongoing as well.

‘’We are still investigating the case and will send the case as soon as the investigation is concluded,’’ Shiyam said.

He also said former President Mohamed Nasheed “has not cooperated with the police.”

Local media Sun Online reported that police have decided to close the case and send the case to the Prosecutor General without including any statement from Nasheed because he had not cooperated with police.

Nasheed had been given the opportunity to give a statement to police at any time he wished, but he had not used the opportunity, Sun reported.

Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested by the MNDF on the evening of Monday, January 16, in compliance with a police request.

The judge’s whereabouts were not revealed until January 18, and the MNDF has acknowledged receipt but not replied to Supreme Court orders to release the judge.

Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz joined the High and Supreme Courts in condemning MNDF’s role in the arrest as unlawful, and requesting that the judge be released.

PG Muizz ordered an investigation by HRCM, and said it would evaluate the situation following the commission’s findings.

The first complaints filed against Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in July 2005 included allegations of misogyny, sexual deviancy, and throwing out an assault case despite the confession of the accused. The complaints were first made by then Attorney General, Dr Hassan Saeed, now President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s political advisor.

Six years of similar complaints later, the judicial crisis leading to President Nasheed’s downfall was triggered after Abdulla Mohamed filed a case in the Civil Court granting him an injunction halting his further investigation by the Judicial Services Commission.

This was following by a High Court ruling against his police summons on January 16, prompting police to request the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) take the judge into custody.

Then Home Minister Hassan Afeef subsequently accused the judge of “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist”, listing 14 cases of obstruction of police duty including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts.

Afeef accused the judge of “deliberately” holding up cases involving opposition figures, barring media from corruption trials, ordering the release of suspects detained for serious crimes “without a single hearing”, and maintaining “suspicious ties” with family members of convicts sentenced for dangerous crimes.

The judge also released a murder suspect “in the name of holding ministers accountable”, who went on to kill another victim.

At the time Vice President of the Maldives, Dr Waheed  opposed the judge’s detention, stating on his blog that “I am ashamed and totally devastated by the fact that this is happening in a government in which I am the elected Vice President.”

Nasheed’s government then requested assistance from the international community to reform the judiciary. Observing that judicial reform “really should come from the Judicial Services Commission (JSC)”, Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem said at the time that the JSC’s shortcoming are “now an issue of national security.”

“We have been working to improve the judiciary since we came to power, but we have not succeeded,” said Naseem. “We have asked the international community to assist us in this effort several times, and we find that they are willing to help at this point,” he explained.

On February 7 Nasheed resigned “under duress”, after police joined opposition protesters in assaulting the main military base in Republic Square, vandalising the MDP headquarters, and taking over the state broadcaster.

A subsequent police crackdown on protesters on February 8, including women and the elderly, hospitalised many and triggered a surge of public and MDP-led animosity against the police and the new government.


Police considering legality of 300 arrests in wake of Criminal Court’s release of Gassan

The Maldives Police Service is reviewing the legality of a number of arrests made under article 46 of the constitution, after the Criminal Court ruled last night that the arrest of Gassan Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was unlawful.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam explained that police were studying the cases to determine whether the arrests were lawful in light of the Criminal Court precedent, and considering releasing the suspects.

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed ruled last night that Gassan was arrested in violation of article 46 of the constitution and a Supreme Court precedent establishing criminal justice procedures.

Article 46 states, “No person shall be arrested or detained for an offence unless the arresting officer observes the offence being committed, or has reasonable and probable grounds or evidence to believe the person has committed an offence or is about to commit an offence, or under the authority of an arrest warrant issued by the court.”

Gassan’s lawyers argued at court that as the former President’s son was taken into custody without an arrest warrant after he was summoned for questioning, the circumstances of his arrest does not fit the exceptions provided for in the constitution where suspects could be arrested without a court order.

Sub-Inspector Shiyam however said there were “dangerous criminals we have arrested following the same procedure for committing offences such as child molestation, drugs and assault and battery.”

Police were currently reviewing the cases of “over 300” suspects to determine if their arrests were constitutional, he said.

Responding to the legal arguments from Gassan’s lawyers at the Criminal Court hearing yesterday, Police Superintendent Mohamed Jinah said if Gassan’s arrest was unlawful, “every one police have arrested and brought before the court [for extension of detention] was arrested in violation of the constitution.”

Jinah insisted that the arrest was lawful as police had reasonable grounds to suspect Gassan had committed a crime and were prepared to submit early evidence for an extension of detention.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahlouf said the police statement was intended to “put the lid on Gassan’s arrest,” which he said had drawn public anger towards the government.

Mahlouf noted that only the Criminal Court, High Court or Supreme Court could order the release of suspects held in remand detention and “not the President’s Office or Home Ministry.”

“And the only way to change a Criminal Court ruling is to appeal it at the High Court,” he said, adding that the Supreme Court precedent in July 2010 established that only the Prosecutor General could file such appeals.

The PPM also filed three complaints at the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) regarding Thursday’s disturbances, Mahlouf said, which involved the police reaction to the MDP protest outside the Supreme Court and police failure to intercede when MDP activists damaged the property of the former President.

The party also filed a complaint about the summons chit sent to Gassan Maumoon, he continued, which he argued was “unlawful” as the former President’s son had exercised his right to remain silent when he was first summoned on Saturday.

The PIC had invited PPM members for a meeting regarding the complaints at 12:00pm tomorrow, he said, adding that the commission had formed three committees to investigate the matter.

Two activists of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) arrested for their involvement in disturbances outside the former President’s residence, Endherimaage, last Thursday were meanwhile released from custody today.

The Criminal Court yesterday approved a five-day extension of detention for MDP activist Ilham. Following his release last night, Ilham’s lawyer Abdulla Haseen said Gassan was arrested on suspicion of endangering a person’s life while Ilham was arrested on suspicion of damaging personal property during Thursday’s protest.

But, said Haseen, while Ilham was handcuffed and had his detention extended by the court, Gassan was treated very differently.

Supporters of the former PPM attacked Housing Ministry’s State Minister Dr Mohamed Shareef yesterday when he arrived from a conference in Bandos while PPM activists were demonstrating outside the police headquarters.

Sub-Inspector Shiyam said today that no arrests had been made yet in connection with the attack, footage of which was shown on Villa Television yesterday. The PPM supporters also stormed into the Home Ministry and met with senior officials to complain of Gassan’s arrest.


President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair meanwhile told Minivan News that in the wake of yesterday’s Criminal Court ruling, “all the arrests made in the past using the same procedure will be unlawful.”

Zuhair revealed that a team of senior police officers met with Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muiz today to discuss the implication of last night’s precedent.

“He did not speak on the issue and rather questioned the police about some past incidents that he asked police to investigate and told the police to leave the PG Office immediately,” Zuhair said.

Following the actions of the PG, said Zuhair, the executive believed the government could no longer work with him.

“We will file a no-confidence motion against him [in parliament] very soon,” he said.

PG Muiz was unavailable for comment today.

PPM Spokesperson Mahlouf said the party would do “everything we can to save the PG” and such targeting of independent institutions the government was displeased with was “unacceptable.”