A mother and son suspected of drug trafficking were arrested for the third time on Wednesday night as the criminal court and police blamed each other for their release on two previous occasions.
The 52-year-old woman and 25-year-old man were first arrested in the early hours of Tuesday. Three kilos of drugs were found in their home in the capital’s suburb Hulhumalé.
But the criminal court in Malé released them when they taken to a remand hearing the following afternoon. The arrest and search warrants granted by the Hulhumalé magistrate court lacked the name of the judge as required by the criminal procedures law, the court said in a statement.
There was “no legal debate” over the illegality of the warrants, it added, accusing police of informing the media “irresponsibly and in a manner that damages the perception of the judiciary.”
The suspects were arrested again on Wednesday with a warrant from the Hulhumalé court.
However, citing procedural violations, the magistrate court ordered their release when police sought to remand them into custody.
According to media reports, the court claimed they were not presented to the remand hearing by the same investigative officer who obtained the arrest warrant. The criminal procedures regulation requires the officer in charge of the investigation to seek extension of remand detention.
But police insisted that due process had been followed. The arrest warrant was sought by the investigator on duty at night and the suspects were taken to court by the investigator on the morning shift, police explained.
Both officers have the authority to investigate the case, police said in a message sent to the media. Under the normal procedure, an investigator is assigned to a case after a suspect is taken before a judge within 24 hours, it added.
“We note that this was followed for drug cases in the past and there was never a procedural problem,” police said.
In its statement, the criminal court also slammed police for seeking a second arrest warrant from the Hulhumalé magistrate court instead of appealing to the High Court.
“Instead of appealing decisions made by a court of first instance, submitting the same case to other courts in the same tier would shatter the legally established order of the criminal justice system,” the criminal court said.
The statement also criticised police over the arrest of the 52-year-old woman. Police officers admitted at court that she was not accused of a crime but had been arrested because her son refused to take responsibility for the drugs, the court claimed.
Although she tested positive for drugs, police told the court that it was because she was taking medication for a mental illness, the court noted.
The police chief meanwhile tweeted on Thursday that the institution would “exercise all its powers to pursue drug trafficking offenders in compliance with procedural law.”
Commissioner Mohamed Hameed pledged to review the case and “if necessary rectify any errors on our part.”
The suspects were arrested for the third time shortly after midnight.
“We obtained the third arrest warrant from the Hulhumalé court. The suspects are now under police custody and will be brought to court for a remand hearing some time today,” a police spokeswoman told the Maldives Independent.
Update at 5:30pm – The Hulhumalé magistrate court has released the mother and remanded the son to 10 days in custody.