MP Faris Maumoon placed under arrest

MP Faris Maumoon placed under arrest
July 18 13:59 2017

MP Faris Maumoon has been arrested after the police raided his home looking for evidence of the alleged bribery of lawmakers to back the opposition’s bid to unseat the speaker of parliament.

According to the arrest warrant granted by Judge Adam Arif, Faris is accused of “unduly influencing lawmakers and acting illegally” to secure 42 signatures for the no-confidence motion against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed.

Faris was taken to the detention centre on the nearby island of Dhoonidhoo after police officers searched his residence in Malé for four hours Tuesday morning. Police officers entered the Snow Rose house in the Maafanu ward of the capital around 9 am and cordoned off the area.

Judge Ibrahim Ali authorised the police to search Faris’s apartment and seize his laptop, cheque book, bank documents, storage devices, and other documents related to the case. The police submitted a secret intelligence report, a witness statement, text messages, and the transcript from a video footage as evidence to obtain both the search and arrest warrants from the criminal court.

The arrest comes amid heightened political tension ahead of next week’s no-confidence vote against the speaker and has drawn concern from the ambassadors of the United States and the United Kingdom.

Faris has been leading the push for Maseeh’s impeachment after his father, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, joined forces with the opposition to seize the parliament’s majority with defections from the divided ruling party.

On July 3, the opposition alliance submitted the no-confidence motion for the second time with 45 signatures from the 85-member house. Ten MPs of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives who signed the motion have since left the party after the Attorney General sought an anti-defection ruling from the Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, the police claimed to have evidence of Faris bribing lawmakers to vote in favour of the previous no-confidence motion against Maseeh in late March, prompting President Abdulla Yameen and senior lawmakers to accuse the opposition of bribing MPs and plotting to overthrow the government.

But Faris categorically denied the bribery allegations and expressed confidence that the police would not possess “legitimate” video or audio evidence.

The MP for Dhiggaru is also on trial over the alleged unauthorised use of the PPM’s flag and logo. He pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing on Monday.

Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim and MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi from the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party are also standing trial respectively on charges of bribery and terrorism.

In addition to bribery, Faris could also face the same charges as Gasim, which includes influencing the official conduct of a public official and intimidating and improperly influencing a voter.

Faris’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed told the press that his arrest and fresh charges might have been prompted by the slow pace of the identity fraud trial.

“Faris does not believe there is any basis for what the police are saying,” he said.

Faris was summoned to the police five times ahead of the March 27 no-confidence vote. He was also questioned by police in late April over the bribery allegations and barred from travelling overseas. In late May, he was prevented from visiting his dying aunt because the authorities refused to lift the travel ban.