Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim on Friday night repeatedly called for the immediate release of jailed former president Abdulla Yameen.
Speaking at a rally held to launch the campaign of JP candidate Alhan Fahmy, Gasim strongly objected to the criminal court’s order to detain the opposition leader for the duration of his money laundering trial.
“Justice should be served to everyone equally,” he declared. A punishment should only be meted out after an open and fair trial in accordance with the constitution, he said.
The current administration cannot keep Yameen jailed as it came to power campaigning against tyranny, he added.
Yameen was detained after prosecutors alleged attempts to bribe witnesses. The constitution allows defendants to be detained prior to sentencing in order to prevent interference with witnesses. But the practice of detaining politicians based on police intelligence reports was criticised during Yameen’s five-year term.
Gasim said it was “regrettable” that the courts were granting detention orders based on intelligence reports. The culture of jailing former presidents after they leave office was also lamentable, he said.
The business tycoon’s call to release Yameen came after the opposition coalition announced its support for 27 JP candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The JP – which ostensibly remains a part of the four-party ruling coalition with its senior members as vice president, ministers and political appointees – is due to endorse a list of opposition candidates on Saturday night.
Cracks appeared in the coalition after President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party decided to field candidates in all 87 parliamentary constituencies, drawing accusations from the JP of reneging on an agreement to divide seats among the parties.
Gasim has since kept attacks against the MDP and former president Mohamed Nasheed.
At a rally later on Friday night to launch the campaign of JP parliament group leader Abdulla Riyaz, Gasim concurred with the opposition that a bill proposed by the government to grant legal powers to presidential commissions was “unconstitutional.”
The constitution does not allow the powers of independent bodies such as the police, anti-corruption watchdog and prosecutor general’s office to be “duplicated” and granted to members of a commission formed by the president, the speaker of parliament contended.
Last month, Gasim refused to call a vote on the bill after it was tabled in the agenda for the fourth time.
As pledged during his campaign, President Solih formed two inquiry commissions on his first day in office to recover stolen funds and find the truth behind high-profile murders and the abduction of a journalist.
Previous attempts to put the bill to a vote were thwarted by a lack of quorum due to the absence of several JP lawmakers.
MDP MP Eva Abdulla called their absence “an act of deliberate sabotage, by those with something to hide and a vested interest in covering up those past crimes.”