The Supreme Court on Monday sought to deflect blame over the escape of former vice president Ahmed Adeeb after the Prosecutor General accused the court of refusing to grant a warrant to keep him in custody.
In the wake of Adeeb’s failed attempt to flee and seek asylum in India, PG Aishath Bisham told the press that he would have been in prison if the Supreme Court had ordered his detention as requested by her office in early June.
Adeeb was freed in mid-July after his 33-year combined sentence on terrorism and corruption charges was wiped out by the appeal courts, which cited political influence and ordered retrials. The PG appealed a High Court ruling that set aside his conviction over the theft of US$5 million paid as a resort acquisition fee.
According to the chief prosecutor, the Supreme Court ordered immigration to hold Adeeb’s passport but did not issue the detention order sought by the PG’s office. The court did not inform prosecutors of any reasons, Bisham told the press.
The Supreme Court defended its decision in a statement on Monday, condemning “false” claims attributed to Bisham in the media. It appealed against misleading reports that incite “anger and hatred towards the courts.”
Adeeb was overseas on medical leave from prison at the time the PG office filed the appeal, the court noted. It would have been contrary to judicial and legal procedures to order his detention without summoning him to a hearing, it added.
A detention order would also have been redundant as Adeeb was serving a jail sentence at the time, the court said.
The top court imposed a travel ban on June 24 “as the only precautionary measure that could be taken at the time.”
The Supreme Court blamed the PG office for failing to seek an order to detain Adeeb upon his release by the Maldives Correctional Service. The court said it was not informed when the sentence was completed.
– ‘Intelligence failure’ –
Adeeb fled the Maldives as a stowaway on a tugboat. The Indian authorities held him for questioning when he arrived last Thursday at the Tuticorin port – where he was denied entry despite seeking asylum – and handed him over to the Maldives police at the maritime border.
The 37-year-old was brought to Malé on Sunday night. After initially ordering his release on the grounds that he was apprehended unlawfully in international waters, the criminal court issued a warrant for his arrest early on Monday morning.
The court ordered Adeeb’s detention for 15 days at a remand hearing on Monday evening.
A motion without notice submitted over Adeeb’s escape was meanwhile debated at Monday’s sitting of parliament.
MP Mickail Naseem blamed a “failure of police intelligence” for allowing Adeeb to elude surveillance and board the tugboat. The ruling party lawmaker called for an investigation of suspected collusion by customs, immigration and police officers, a call that was echoed by other Maldivian Democratic Party MPs.
Opposition lawmaker Ahmed Shiyam called for the resignation of Home Minister Sheikh Imran Abdulla and Police Commissioner Mohamed Hameed. The pair must bear responsibility for Adeeb’s escape, he said.
Ahead of his return, police also raided and searched Adeeb’s apartment in the early hours of Sunday.
According to police, Adeeb fled after he was due to appear for questioning over the theft of US$90 million from state coffers.
“Adeeb was cooperating with us on all cases,” a senior Maldives security official told Al Jazeera. “But maybe somewhere along the way he realised he might have to go back to jail because of the cases before the Supreme Court.”
The official suggested Adeeb might have been “scheming to abscond all along.”
After serving three years in prison over the embezzlement scheme and an alleged plot to assassinate former president Abdulla Yameen, Adeeb was transferred to house arrest in the wake of his former mentor’s defeat in September’s presidential election.
In late May, Adeeb walked out of court an innocent man after the High Court and Supreme Court quashed his terrorism and corruption convictions and ordered retrials.