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Maldives lawmaker Mahloof freed from house arrest

It was a ‘good sign’ the courts were freeing people, the president-elect’s spokeswoman said.



The Criminal Court on Tuesday ordered the release of MP Ahmed Mahloof, who was under house arrest for the duration of a terrorism trial.

He was kept under house arrest because he might influence witnesses, but prosecutors said he had not done this.

Judge Ali Adam ordered his release without any conditions when prosecutors did not object to the motion filed by defence attorney Mohamed Hassaan.

Adam scheduled a hearing for Thursday to decide on a second motion to cancel the charge, on the grounds that procedures had not been followed.

Lawyers allege the state violated the criminal procedures law and rules on conducting trials. They also believe the investigation procedure was unlawful.

Mahloof was arrested during a controversial state of emergency earlier this year, following a Supreme Court order to release detained politicians.

He was later transferred to house arrest for the duration of the trial.

The Galolhu-South MP also faces charges for tweeting about an alleged plan to kill jailed former vice president Ahmed Adeeb and for distributing masks at a protest to protect people from the effects of tear gas.

Mahloof tweeted ahead of the hearing that it was the first time he was going to court with some hope.

– ‘Right direction’ –

Five political prisoners who were arrested earlier this year were also freed Monday night, following President Abdulla Yameen conceding defeat to Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the election.

But former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his son Faris Maumoon, former chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, former justice Ali Hameed, and former judicial administrator Hassan Saeed remain in prison.

The court postponed decisions on previous remand orders issued to hold them in custody for a terrorism trial, as they were convicted on other charges and are serving jail sentences.

Lawyer Maumoon Hameed told the Maldives Independent there were no updates over applications to free the high-profile figures.

“We are still trying to expedite the applications lodged at the High Court yesterday. Gayoom’s appeal (filed earlier) is still not registered there. So we asked to release him on bail.

“Faris’ appeal has already been registered, which is why we asked to release him until the court decides on the appeal,” he said.

“We also don’t know how the order for [Ahmed] Nadheem’s (Gayoom’s son-in-law) release was initiated. We don’t know whether it was initiated by the court or the Prosecutor General’s office. The order reads that the PG office has no objection for the release. And by coincidence, this has happened after President Yameen conceded defeat,” Hameed added.

A spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s office, Ahmed Thaufeeq, told the Maldives Independent that only one case was initiated by them and that the others were initiated by the court.

[MP Abdulla] Riyaz case was initiated by the PG following an application lodged in May for his release. We don’t have information on the other cases. As far as we know, they were initiated by the court,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, 18 people arrested from Gaaf Alif Kolamaafushi island for allegedly vandalising a ruling party campaign were also freed.

They were freed after police sent a letter to court asking for their release. The 18, all members of the Maldivian Democratic Party, were under investigation for terrorism.

Applications were also filed for the release of eight ex-police officers, who were under house arrest on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

The spokeswoman for the president-elect Mariya Ahmed Didi told reporters it was a good sign the courts were deciding to free prisoners.

“We have been appealing to President Yameen to free everyone not found guilty of a crime. Some people were freed yesterday [Monday]. They were freed through the court… It is a sign that the Maldives is headed in the right direction.”

She may have spoken too soon, however.

Lawyer and former attorney general Husnu Suood was suspended for tweeting that the chief justice should resign and is being investigated by the Department of Judicial Administration.