A hearing in the bribery trial of Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim was cancelled Sunday night after the 65-year-old opposition lawmaker was hospitalised for the second time in less than a month.
The criminal court rescheduled the hearing for 8 pm after being informed of Gasim’s hospitalisation on Sunday morning, defence lawyers told local media. The court threatened to proceed with the trial in absentia but the hearing was cancelled after neither Gasim nor his legal counsel showed up.
Citing the new criminal procedures law, Hussain Shameem, a former deputy prosecutor general and member of Gasim’s legal team, stressed that the court cannot schedule hearings for two days if a defendant is unable to attend due to poor health.
Gasim was rushed to hospital two hours before Sunday morning’s hearing was scheduled to begin.
The JP leader is among 14 opposition leaders facing legal action after the opposition secured a majority in the parliament to impeach Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed.
Last week, the business tycoon’s legal team asked the court to lift a travel ban imposed on Gasim after the government-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital recommended that he undergoes surgery overseas.
“We have requested to revise the criminal court order to withhold Gasim Ibrahim’s passport as his life may be in danger if he is not provided critical medical care for his heart condition,” the legal team said in a statement.
The lawyers presented medical documents and the IGMH doctor’s recommendation at the last closed-door hearing of the bribery trial on Thursday. The court assured that the legal team would be notified of a decision.
Gasim learned of the travel ban when he was stopped by immigration officials at the Velana International Airport in mid-July.
Ahmed Sameer, the JP’s secretary-general, said Gasim’s health has been declining since the weekend.
“He went to the hospital when he could no longer walk consciously. His health is deteriorating rapidly as he is unable to get the medical treatment he needs for his heart condition,” he said.
“The right to healthcare is a right guaranteed to all. But they are restricting this right, this government is not humane towards anyone. Look, MP Saud [Hussain’s] mother just died while she was waiting to go abroad for treatment after his imprisonment.”
The mother of the jailed lawmaker passed away Monday morning. She was reportedly planning to travel overseas for a liver transplant.
A photo of the lawmaker weeping at the funeral before he was taken back to the Dhoonidhoo detention centre has been widely shared on social media.
Gasim’s trial on charges of attempting to bribe lawmakers meanwhile restarted on July 25, a day after he was released from the previous nine-day stay at the hospital.
The Prosecutor General’s office filed the bribery charges for the second time after the criminal court threw out the case when state prosecutors failed to show up at court.
The business tycoon was previously put on trial for declaring that the allied parties would grant tickets for the 2019 parliamentary elections to MPs who vote to impeach Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed. He also offered to help with their re-election campaigns during a speech at an opposition rally.
He was charged with bribery, influencing the official conduct of a public official and intimidating and improperly influencing a voter. The lawmaker was detained for 26 days in the wake of the opposition’s failed bid to remove Maseeh in late March.
Gasim’s arrest prompted the EU and the embassies of Canada, Norway, Switzerland and the US to urge the government to respect fundamental freedoms and to allow opposition politicians “to conduct their activities without fear of intimidation or incarceration”.
The government, however, dismissed allegations of harassing and intimidating opposition leaders, insisting that the police and judiciary are independent.