Adam Azim, a senior opposition figure arrested on charges of encouraging the government’s overthrow, has been interrogated over remarks made during an appearance on a television talk show.
According to his lawyer Ali Zahir, Azim was questioned by the police for nearly five hours Sunday about his appearance Wednesday night on the private broadcaster Sangu TV.
“He talked about the things politicians are speaking about. He said the government and the courts have lost the confidence of the public,” the defence lawyer told the Maldives Independent.
Azim was accused of resisting or obstructing police or custodial officers (section 532 of the penal code), obstructing the administration of law and government function (section 533) and inciting rioting and forceful overthrow of the government (section 610).
Zahir, who is also the spokesman of the opposition Adhaalath Party, previously told local media that the police would have “nothing else to do every day if they mean to investigate every politician over what they say on TV programmes”.
Azim was arrested on Thursday morning, hours after his appearance on Sangu TV. The criminal court’s chief judge, Abdul Bari Yousuf, issued the arrest warrant at 2 am.
According to the warrant, Azim was accused of speaking in a manner that encouraged the illegal overthrow of the government. He was also accused of undermining public trust and inciting hatred toward the judiciary with false claims.
The warrant stated that Azim might attempt to influence witnesses and tamper with evidence. He also poses a threat to society, it added. The only evidence police submitted to obtain the warrant was a secret intelligence report.
Azim also appeared on the opposition-aligned Raajje TV last week and called for President Abdulla Yameen’s impeachment by the parliament.
The arrest came a day after more than 30 countries at the UN Human Rights Council urged the Maldives to allow space for political opposition and to restore constitutional rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Azim, the brother of jailed former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and shadow minister of the Maldives United Opposition, was appointed managing director of the State Trading Organisation after Yameen came to power in November 2013.
He resigned in the wake of Nazim’s arrest on weapons smuggling charges in early 2015 and has since been campaigning for his brother’s freedom as an active member of the opposition alliance.
Azim was also part of an opposition delegation that visited Belgium and Germany last month to brief officials, lawmakers and NGOs about the political situation in the Maldives.
“Adam Azim’s arrest on blatantly trumped-up charges demonstrates once again President Yameen’s refusal to return to the path of democracy and good governance and his obstinacy in the face of international criticism,” the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said in a statement.
Nazim was meanwhile transferred from prison to house arrest for Ramadan last month.
After almost a year under house arrest, he was taken back to jail on March 29 amid a “ramped up crackdown” in the wake of the opposition alliance’s failed bid to remove the speaker of parliament.
Nazim is serving an 11-year jail sentence. In January, a UN rights panel found that he was not afforded a fair trial and backed the retired colonel’s assertion that he was framed by the police.