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Defamation charges sought against president’s spokesman

Ibrahim Muaz Ali called EC members “thieves” at the ruling party’s nightly protest.



The Elections Commission has filed a defamation complaint with the police against the president’s spokesman for calling its members “thieves” at a protest by the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives.

At Monday night’s protest, Ibrahim Muaz Ali led chants of ‘Stolen Vote’ and called EC chief Ahmed Shareef and member Ahmed Akram thieves, accusing the pair of rigging the September 23 presidential election.

The electoral body has asked the police to investigate Muaz for slander, EC’s chief Ahmed Shareef told the Maldives Independent after filing the case on Tuesday.

A complaint was also filed with the broadcasting regulator over the pro-government Channel 13‘s live coverage of the PPM’s nightly protests.

Shareef said he will file a lawsuit at the civil court on Wednesday to seek compensation for damages.

While civil remedies were kept in place, the widely-condemned 2016 anti-defamation law authorised police to investigate complaints against individuals and forward cases for prosecution. Failure to pay fines of up to MVR2 million (US$130,000) if found guilty could lead to a jail term of three to six months.

The broadcasting regulator, which was authorised to take action against TV and radio stations, has imposed crippling fines worth MVR3.7 million (US$240,000) on Raajje TV, mostly for airing speeches deemed defamatory towards President Abdulla Yameen.

The PPM has been staging nightly protests since October 1, demanding a fresh election and the arrest of EC chief Shareef.

Muaz has been a constant fixture at the protests outside the PPM headquarters on Malé’s outer ring road, leading chants and making speeches from the doorway.

On Monday night, he read out a “resolution” declaring Yameen won the election with 69.77 percent of the vote. Some 50 protestors gathered outside the office raised their hands pass the resolution.

When the protests began a week after the president conceded defeat, the EC dismissed the PPM’s “unsubstantiated allegations” and stressed there were no official complaints that could affect the outcome of the election, which the joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won decisively with a record 38,000-vote margin.

But Yameen claimed at the first PPM protest that he should have received more than 96,000 votes (42 percent).

The 14-day period for petitioning the High Court to annul the election expires at the end of the week.