Contraband found in ex-defence ministers’ prison cell

Contraband found in ex-defence ministers’ prison cell
October 08 13:52 2015

Prison guards have found contraband items from an apartment cell block occupied by former Defence Ministers Mohamed Nazim and Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu as well as Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Abdulla Imran and former MP Ahmed Nazim.

Commissioner of Prisons Mohamed Husham told The Maldives Independent that the “contraband was found during a routine check” at the ‘Asseryi’ jail on the island of Himmafushi, but did not reveal exactly what was found.

Husham downplayed the discovery and suggested that the prohibited item was not necessarily a mobile phone as reported by local media.

“We would consider an extra pillow as contraband as well. An item might be allowed inside the jail but it could not be permitted inside the cell. Prison guards search the cells every day and remove a lot of items which are not allowed inside a cell,” he said.

‘Asseyri’ is a low-security jail, but the high-profile inmates are held at a special unit located away from other cell blocks. The former defence ministers, ruling party MP, and the religious conservative party leader were all jailed amidst a political crisis triggered in February this year.

The contraband discovery was widely reported by local media last night. The news followed revelations that a blast on the president’s speedboat last week was an assassination attempt and fuelled speculation on social media.

Three soldiers were arrested in the ongoing investigation into the explosion on the “Finifenma” speedboat, which was carrying President Abdulla Yameen from the airport to Malé upon his return from the hajj pilgrimage. Yameen escaped unhurt, but First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim, a presidential aide, and a bodyguard sustained injuries in the blast.

Drugs and mobile phones are routinely smuggled into prisons. In May, the Maldives Correctional Service found a large number of mobile phones, SIM cards and chargers in an operation using police sniffer dogs. Prison guards also confiscated 200 packets of illicit narcotics during a search operation in November last year.

Ex-Defence Minister Nazim was found guilty of weapons smuggling in March and sentenced to 11 years in prison. The retired colonel maintains he was framed by rogue police officers who planted a pistol in his apartment.

Tholhath was found guilty of terrorism along with former President Mohamed Nasheed over the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Former MP Ahmed Nazim was sentenced to 25 years in jail by the Supreme Court in April. The former ruling party MP was found guilty of defrauding the now-defunct atolls ministry.

Sheikh Imran is meanwhile awaiting trial on a terrorism charge. He was accused of inciting violence against the government at a historic 20,000-strong anti-government protest on May 1.

Imran has been under state custody for more than 150 days. His trial at the criminal court has been stalled since June.

Correction: October 17, 2015: This article previously said two soldiers and an immigration official were arrested in connection to the boat blast. This is incorrect. All three arrested over the explosion are MNDF officers. An immigration official was never arrested in this case. 

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