Dozen opposition MPs face charges for entering parliament building

Dozen opposition MPs face charges for entering parliament building
August 14 17:27 2017

The police are seeking charges against 12 opposition MPs alleged to have scaled security barricades to enter the People’s Majlis building last month.

Cases against the lawmakers have been sent to the Prosecutor General’s office, which will decide whether to press charges, the police spokesman said.

Nine MPs were summoned for questioning over the dramatic events on July 24 when police officers and soldiers in riot gear dragged out opposition lawmakers from the parliament building. The MPs managed to enter the compound despite the military padlocking the gates and a heavy police presence restricting access to the area amid protests in the capital.

The nine MPs summoned to the police were accused of criminal trespassing, obstructing or restricting police officers, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of the administration of law or other government functions.

MPs Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim, Mohamed Ameeth and Saud Hussain were meanwhile arrested for entering the parliament building after the Majlis had declared that they were no longer members of parliament.

On Sunday, the criminal court extended Waheed’s detention for the third time after instructing the PG office to decide whether to press charges within four days.

The court also detained Ameeth and Saud for four more days on Saturday after their first 15-day remand was up.

The three lawmakers were deemed to have lost their seats after the Supreme Court ruled that MPs who were elected on political party tickets will be disqualified once the electoral body notifies parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties.

The MPs insist that they were expelled from the Progressive Party of Maldives before the July 13 anti-defection ruling – which the apex court later clarified would not apply retroactively – but the Elections Commission declared their seats vacant after informing parliament of their expulsion from the ruling party on July 18.

On Sunday, the apex court concluded hearing appeals filed by the four lawmakers contesting their disqualification.

Apart from the detained three former ruling party lawmakers, the other nine MPs facing trial are Minority Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Abdulla Shahid, Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, Mohamed Falah, Ahmed Abdul Karaeem and Mohamed Aslam from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, MPs Abdulla Riyaz and Ali Hussain from the Jumhooree Party and Independent MP Hussain Areef.

MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, a retired brigadier general, is also standing trial on fresh terrorism charges. A preliminary hearing took place Sunday and the court is due to decide whether to proceed to trial later this week.

Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim’s trial on bribery charges meanwhile resumed in late July but has since been stalled after the 65-year-old business tycoon was hospitalised for the second time in less than a month.

Earlier this month, MP Saud, who represents the Villigili constituency in Gaaf Alif atoll, was also charged with terrorism over an alleged plot to assassinate High Court Judge Shujau Usman.

MPs Waheed, Ameeth and Saud were expelled from the PPM in late March and early April after taking former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s side in an acrimonious leadership dispute with his half-brother President Abdulla Yameen.

The PPM was split into rival factions after the elder Gayoom was stripped of his powers as the party’s elected leader in October last year. The 79-year-old went on to form a broad opposition coalition to secure a majority of the 85-member house with defections from the divided ruling party.

Gayoom’s son, MP Faris Maumoon, who was leading the group of ex-PPM lawmakers, was meanwhile arrested on July 18 on charges of attempting to bribe lawmakers.

The police have also forwarded bribery charges against the Dhiggaru MP to the Prosecutor General’s office.

Following his arrest, the criminal court ordered Faris’s detention for the duration of the bribery trial, a decision that was appealed by his lawyers.

The High Court is due to rule on the legality of the arrest and detention.

Faris is also on trial over an identity fraud charge over the use of the PPM’s flag and logo at a joint opposition press conference.