Abdul Aleem, the secretary-general of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s faction of the divided ruling party, has paid an MVR85,000 (US$5,500) fine for contempt of court.
Aleem was fined by the civil court on April 27 after a five-judge panel decided that he contravened a ruling that effectively gave President Abdulla Yameen control of the Progressive Party of Maldives.
The civil court in October stripped Gayoom of his powers as the party’s elected leader and ordered Yameen to resume council meetings under his leadership. The PPM’s governing council promptly put Yameen in charge of the party but Gayoom reacted by reconstituting both the council and disciplinary committee with loyalists.
After two hearings during which he was grilled by Chief Judge Abdulla Ali, Judge Mohamed Haleem, Judge Hassan Fahmy Ibrahim, Judge Ali Naseer and Judge Ali Abdulla, Aleem was found guilty of contempt of court and ordered to settle the fine within 10 days.
Aleem, who also acts as a media official for the Gayoom faction, paid the fine to the civil court in cash on Monday afternoon. The payment also included MVR1,000 (US$65) in MVR1 coins.
During the trial, the judges questioned Aleem in particular about the Gayoom faction’s disciplinary committee expelling two senior PPM lawmakers.
“They also noted in the judgement that I had tried to hide the members of the council. However, when asked about the members I submitted a list of members of the party council and the disciplinary committee,” Aleem previously told the Maldives Independent.
“The decisions [to expel MPs Ahmed Nihan and Ilham Ahmed] were made by the disciplinary committee. However, the court claimed that I informed the press in a Viber group message and that amounts to contempt of court. But the court did not question or summon any members on the list.”
Aleem said the court initiated the case after Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer, MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla and MP Ibrahim Riza sent a letter to judges. Zameer and Abdul Raheem were appointed deputy leaders after Yameen took over the party.
During a hearing of Aleem’s trial last month, lawyers representing the Yameen faction contended that the rival faction “clearly violated the court order by setting up a separate office representing the President of PPM.”
The lawyer added: “They are also conducting separate committee meetings in this office. But the court order has handed over complete control to the chief advisor of the party [President Yameen].”
Gayoom’s faction maintains that the PPM charter prohibits a sitting president, who has a symbolic role as advisor, from managing the party.
Defence counsel for Aleem told the court: “The decision to dismiss MP Nihan and MP Ilham came from a legally appointed disciplinary committee. This committee was appointed by the council.”
Last week, Aleem’s lawyer Husnu Suood told the Maldives Independent that Aleem could not have contravened the ruling as it was aimed at the party.
“The court had not issued an order on Aleem, so there was no order for Aleem to violate or comply with,” he said.
“I told them that if the civil court genuinely wants to solve this dispute, the solution is for them to order the party to hold a congress and appoint new members to the party positions.”
In late March, the Yameen faction’s disciplinary committee expelled Gayoom himself from the PPM after the 79-year-old signed a pact with the opposition and sought to seize Yameen’s parliament’s majority with defections from the ruling party.
The police subsequently took down the PPM flag and its logo from Gayoom’s office.
Aleem has also been placed under investigation, along with Gayoom supporter Ibrahim Afraath, on a charge of bribing lawmakers ahead of the March 27 vote to oust the speaker of the parliament. The police also confiscated their phones and raided their home for hidden cash on April 7.
Aleem is also under investigation over a hard drive that allegedly went missing from the PPM headquarters.
Other key Gayoom loyalists are also under investigation on a variety of charges.
Zaidul Ameen, a PPM Malé City councillor, was arrested on a charge of blackmailing “senior figures” in January. His trial began earlier this month.
Zaid has accused a high-ranking police officer of threatening to keep him detained unless he gave false testimony that could be used as a pretext to arrest Gayoom.
In late April, the police sought Interpol assistance to find Gayoom’s personal assistant, Ahmed Sofwan, in connection with an undisclosed investigation. Sofwan’s passport has also been revoked.
The 38-year-old is reportedly in India along with Gayoom, who left in March to visit a sick relative. Sofwan is also a member of the PPM’s governing council.