Businessman charged over MMPRC scandal seeks order to remove cameras in jail cell

Businessman charged over MMPRC scandal seeks order to remove cameras in jail cell
April 06 16:36 2016

Hamid Ismail, an influential businessmen on trial with former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb over the theft of resort lease payments, asked the criminal court on Tuesday for an order to remove surveillance cameras in his jail cell and toilet.

Hamid’s lawyer Husnu Suood told The Maldives Independent that the four surveillance cameras in the cell and one in the cell toilet represents a “serious human rights violation.”

“Even when he goes to the toilet, his private parts and his body can be seen through these cameras,” he said.

Suood had raised the issue during yesterday’s hearing of Hamid’s relation in relation to the embezzlement of US$5 million paid to the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation as the acquisition fee for the island of Maabinhuraa in Lhaviyani Atoll.

Suood, a former attorney general, said he was concerned that the presiding judge Ibrahim Ali did not find the invasion of Hamid’s privacy alarming or legally problematic.

The spokesperson for the Maldives Correctional Services was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

At yesterday’s hearing, a lawyer from the prisons authority told the court that the MCS is authorised to install cameras in jail cells under regulations on maintaining the safety, security and peace in prisons.

Section 14 of the regulations states, “In every prison with the Maldives Correctional Services, surveillance systems should be established to watch and monitor actions in the prison or in the unit. When this system is established the units, the prison and outside the prison should  monitored and recorded for 24 hours.”

However, a source familiar with the issue told The Maldives Independent that the regulations do not allow cameras to be placed inside jail cells.

“Surveillance can only be done in a way that does not violate a detainee’s dignity, when there are four camera’s in his cell, there is no way that he can move away from them while changing clothes and all,” the source said.

“If they are doing this to detainees, it should be publicly announced. The people and the detainee should know that this would be done to them. Even so it is unacceptable to keep a camera in the toilet.”

Suood also noted that Hamid has not been let out of his cell in two months despite the law stating that detainees should be let out to exercise for one hour every day.

Jeehan Mahmood, a former member of the state human rights watchdog, told The Maldives Independent that detainees are sometimes taken out of their cells once a week due to a staff shortage in prisons as the outdoor area has no barriers.

“However, it is unacceptable to keep a detainee for months without letting them out,” she said.

Suood meanwhile suggested that the MCS is acting with impunity due to the lack of oversight and monitoring from watchdog independent institutions.

 A spokesperson for the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives said that the case was only recently brought to the commission’s attention. The HRCM will look into the allegations, she said.

Hamid, the former president of the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is accused of aiding and abetting the theft of resort lease payments in the Maabinhuraa case. He was arrested and extradited from Malaysia on suspicion of links to the September explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat.

In November, Hamid was released and immediately placed under arrest for alleged money laundering. Public prosecutors later withdrew the charge and filed charges of aiding and abetting theft.

The embezzlment of nearly US$80 million from the MMPRC between November 2013 and October 2015 is the biggest corruption scandal in Maldivian history.

The criminal court briefly transferred Hamid to house arrest, but a second judge overturned the order and returned him to police custody.