Watchdog suspends judge after arrest on drug charge

Watchdog suspends judge after arrest on drug charge
May 31 15:20 2016

The judicial watchdog body has suspended a judge at the Thinadhoo magistrate court after he was arrested on a drug charge last Saturday.

Magistrate Ali Rasheed, 38, was asked not to report to work pending the outcome of a disciplinary investigation, the Judicial Service Commission said in a statement on Monday.

Rasheed was reportedly “in a state of intoxication” when he was arrested and a rubber packet containing a substance thought to be drugs was found on the ground.

The high court however ordered his release on Sunday morning citing due process violations. The court declined to publicise the ruling today.

According to article 12 of the Judges Act, a sitting judge can only be arrested if a police officer observes the judge committing an offence. In other circumstances, the Prosecutor General’s office must seek an arrest warrant from the High Court.

Rasheed was brought to Malé and taken before the appellate court for an extension of remand detention.

Before the High Court released the magistrate, Home Minister Umar Naseer had praised the police, saying in a tweet that “no one is above the law.”

Naseer later said the home ministry will appeal Rasheed’s release before the Supreme Court and thanked the JSC for its decision to suspend the magistrate.

The JSC meanwhile announced yesterday the transfer of seven judges to different courts.

Judge Saeed Ibrahim was transferred from the criminal court to the juvenile. He was replaced by Judge Ahmed Shakeel from the juvenile court. Saeed is the sixth criminal court judge to be transferred in the past year.

Judge Mohamed Naeem, former chief judge of the civil court, was transferred from the juvenile court to drug court and replaced by Judge Mohamed Easa Fulhu from the drug court.

In the atolls, the chief magistrate of the Gaaf Dhaal Gahdhoo court was meanwhile transferred to the Vaavu Keyodhoo court, whose former chief magistrate was transferred to the Kaafu atoll magistrate court.

The transfers add to what appears to be a major shuffle of judges between courts by the apex court in the past year.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Nihan, a senior judge at the Maamigili magistrate court, was arrested last February on a charge of forging a warrant for the arrest of President Abdulla Yameen over the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal.

Along with former Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin – himself a former criminal court judge – the 30-year-old magistrate is presently on trial on charges of terrorism, abuse of authority, official misconduct, and forgery.

Nihan’s arrest drew condemnation from the International Commission of Jurists, which called it “another blow to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.”