The criminal court released MP Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim and Jumhooree Party Secretary-General Ahmed Sameer from police custody at remand hearings Thursday afternoon.
Sameer was arrested Wednesday night from the opposition’s nightly protests in Malé against the prosecution, disqualification and detention of lawmakers after the collapse of the pro-government majority in parliament.
The former lawmaker was led away in handcuffs during an interview to Raajje TV’s live coverage of the gathering outside the JP’s main office. But the police accused Sameer and JP member Jaufar Shafeeu of obstructing duty and knocking off an officer’s cap.
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The court released the pair with conditions to share their phone numbers and to refrain from committing any crimes. Sameer was also told to cooperate with the police investigation.
Along with former ruling party lawmakers Mohamed Ameeth and Saud Hussain, Waheed was arrested for entering the People’s Majlis building on July 24 after the Elections Commission and the parliament secretariat declared that he was no longer a member of parliament.
The court extended Waheed’s detention for the third time last Sunday after instructing the Prosecutor General’s office to decide whether to press charges within four days.
The police have since asked the PG office to press charges against 12 opposition MPs – including the three in custody – alleged to have scaled security barricades to enter the People’s Majlis building.
Ameeth and Saud were meanwhile detained for four more days Wednesday. The court also extended their detention by four days on Saturday after the first 15-day remand expired.
Nine MPs were summoned for questioning after the dramatic events on July 24 when police officers and soldiers in riot gear manhandled and dragged out opposition lawmakers from the parliament house. The MPs managed to enter despite a heavy police presence restricting access to the area amid protests in the capital.
They were accused of criminal trespassing, obstructing or restricting police officers, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of the administration of law or other government functions.
On Sunday, the global membership of Parliamentarians for Global Action reiterated its call for the Maldivian authorities to respect obligations under international, legal and democratic norms.
“The situation in the Maldives is escalating. Judicial decisions have become arbitrary, using various legal tools to curtail the opposition’s freedom of speech, in particular when criticizing the judiciary’s lack of independence from the government’s policies,” the PGA said in a statement.
The organisation took note of the effective suspension of parliament since the opposition coalition submitted a no-confidence motion against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed on July 3.
The last scheduled sitting on August 1 was cancelled after a fire broke out at a toilet, an incident opposition lawmakers said was staged for a pretext to suspend proceedings.
The PGA also questioned the quashing of the majority-backed no-confidence motion “because of a questionable anti-defection ruling from the Supreme Court that disqualified four ex-ruling party members who backed the impeachment.”
Six lawmakers were deemed to have lost their seats after the Supreme Court ruled that MPs who were elected on political party tickets will be disqualified once the electoral body notifies parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties.
Waheed, Ameeth and Saud insist that they were expelled from the Progressive Party of Maldives before the July 13 anti-defection ruling – which the apex court later clarified would not apply retroactively – but the Elections Commission declared their seats vacant after informing parliament of their expulsion from the ruling party on July 18.
On Sunday, the apex court concluded hearing appeals filed by the four lawmakers contesting their disqualification.
Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim’s trial on bribery charges meanwhile resumed in late July but has since been stalled after the 65-year-old business tycoon was hospitalised for the second time in less than a month.
Gasim was released from the hospital Thursday morning.
Earlier this month, MP Saud, who represents the Villigili constituency in Gaaf Alif atoll, was charged with terrorism over an alleged plot to assassinate High Court Judge Shujau Usman.
MPs Waheed, Ameeth and Saud were expelled from the PPM in late March and early April after taking former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s side in an acrimonious leadership dispute with his half-brother President Abdulla Yameen.
The PPM was split into rival factions after the elder Gayoom was stripped of his powers as the party’s elected leader in October last year. The 79-year-old went on to form a broad opposition coalition to secure a majority of the 85-member house with defections from the divided ruling party.
Gayoom’s son, MP Faris Maumoon, who was leading the group of ex-PPM lawmakers, was meanwhile arrested on July 18 on charges of attempting to bribe lawmakers.
The police have also forwarded bribery charges against the Dhiggaru MP to the Prosecutor General’s office.
Following his arrest, the criminal court ordered Faris’s detention for the duration of the bribery trial, a decision that was appealed by his lawyers.
The High Court is due to rule on the legality of the arrest and detention.
Faris is also on trial over an identity fraud charge over the use of the PPM’s flag and logo at a joint opposition press conference.
At Thursday’s hearing of the trial, Faris’s lawyer told the court that he used the flag and logo with permission from Gayoom, the party’s leader.