Jailed former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s offer to testify in court to prove former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s innocence has fueled calls for the retired colonel’s freedom.
Adeeb – who Nazim has maintained ordered rogue policemen to plant a pistol in his apartment – told the Supreme Court in a letter late last month that the weapon did not belong to the then-defence minister, assuring the chief justice “as someone who knows very well the reasons why the incident occurred the way it did, how the planning began, the people involved, and how it ended”.
Adeeb’s letter was leaked on social media last week, prompting renewed criticism of Nazim’s 11-year jail sentence and calls from opposition figures for his release.
In a statement on Saturday, the opposition Adhaalath Party stressed that the police admitted last year that Adeeb’s DNA was found on the pistol.
“Adeeb has in his letter cleared Nazim of any links to the weapon. We do not see any basis for Nazim’s imprisonment as the letter has cleared the doubts surrounding the case,” the party contended.
The religious conservative Islamist party noted that Nazim’s jailing in March 2015 was the main reason the party joined forces with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party. The party stood up to defend Nazim as “the imprisonment of an innocent man is bound to create disunity and social injustice, which would greatly harm the common good of the society”.
Nazim was found guilty of weapons smuggling after the pistol and three bullets were found in his apartment during a late night raid in January 2015.
In January this year, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Nazim was not afforded a fair trial and backed his assertion that the police framed him.
The authorities have yet to respond to Adeeb’s claims in the letter to the supreme court. The police spokesman declined to comment when contacted by the Maldives Independent.
Nazim was taken back to jail on Friday after spending Ramadan under house arrest.
The letter has meanwhile caused differences of opinion among lawmakers of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives over Nazim’s continued imprisonment.
According to leaked conversations among PPM MPs on an official Viber group, MP Abdul Latheef Mohamed told his colleagues that he saw no reason to defend Speaker Abdulla Maseeh from a second no-confidence vote if Nazim remains unfairly imprisoned.
The opposition has been trying to challenge Yameen’s previously unassailable parliament majority since former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom signed a pact with opposition leaders.
The new alliance failed to remove Maseeh with defections from the divided ruling party in late March, but senior opposition figures have been claiming that the balance of power in the 85-member house will shift once the People’s Majlis reopens after the Eid holidays.
Latheef meanwhile told newspaper Mihaaru that Nazim had campaigned to elect both President Abdulla Yameen and PPM parliamentary candidates.
“My vote is guaranteed for Maseeh when I get a green signal for Nazim’s release or for the improvement of his current condition. But if I do not get a green signal, I will be forced to have second thoughts over the vote. There are other MPs with the same opinion,” he was quoted as saying.
Latheef’s remarks provoked a heated debate in the Viber group with MPs Jaufar Dawood and Dr Abdulla Khaleel questioning the legal grounds for Nazim’s release. s
“I request honorable Latheef to state the grounds to release Nazim based on the statements made by a corrupt traitor,” MP Khaleel said in reference to Adeeb’s letter.
Adeeb is serving a 33-year jail sentence on multiple counts of terrorism and corruption. In addition to a conviction for the theft of US$5 million from state coffers, he was found guilty of masterminding a bomb attack on Yameen’s speedboat and of plotting to use a firearm during an opposition protest.
Responding to Khaleel, MP Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem argued that Islam accepts the repentance of the worst criminals.
“The convicted corrupt traitor who confesses, offers a public apology and repents for his crimes is the most courageous man,” he wrote.
Saleem and MP Ibrahim Shujau had taken former President Gayoom’s side in the leadership dispute that split the PPM into rival factions last year. But both lawmakers abruptly reversed their stand in November and renewed support for Yameen when a state-owned company threatened to seize a plot of land leased to Saleem’s grocery chain.