A judge at the Thinadhoo magistrate court who was arrested on a drug charge last month told the Supreme Court today that he was framed by the police.
Magistrate Ali Rasheed was arrested on May 28 “in a state of intoxication,” according to the police, who also said a rubber packet containing a substance thought to be drugs was found on the ground.
However, the High Court ordered his release the following day, citing unspecified due process violations. According to the Judges Act, a sitting judge can only be arrested if a police officer observes him committing a crime.
Rasheed had been brought to Malé and taken before the appellate court for an extension of remand detention.
A day after his release, the judicial watchdog suspended Rasheed pending the outcome of a disciplinary investigation whilst the state appealed his release at the Supreme Court.
At today’s hearing, Rasheed that the police had previously attempted to frame him for drug abuse in 2013 and 2015.
“Both the times I was brought under police custody in Malé. On a return from a trip abroad, I was pat-searched, and released,” he said.
He alleged that “some police officers” had said he was subject to the searches to force his dismissal from the magistrate court.
Rasheed also questioned why the police had not sought an arrest warrant from the High Court through the prosecutor general as required by the Judges Act.
The police said at the time that the 38-year-old was taken into custody in an operation conducted by the Thinadhoo police station on an intelligence tip-off.
Lawyers representing the state argued today that the police in Thinadhoo did not have time to seek a warrant from the High Court in Malé.
The intelligence information suggested the alleged crime was in progress, the lawyer added.
Describing his arrest, Rasheed meanwhile said that a group of policemen, who were waiting for him in hiding, “jumped on me like a hungry lion would chase and attack a group of rats” while he was walking towards his parked motorcycle.
Despite three policemen claiming to have seen him throwing away a packet of drugs, Rasheed contended that it took police approximately 11 minutes after searching with flashlights to locate the packet.
Rasheed also claimed the rubber packet was 11 feet away from him where he was arrested. A cellophane packet cannot be flung that far, he told the court.
All five Supreme Court justices presided over today’s appeal hearing. Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed concluded proceedings without announcing a date for the next hearing.
Before the High Court released the magistrate, Home Minister Umar Naseer had praised the police, saying in a tweet that “no one is above the law.”
Naseer later said the home ministry will appeal Rasheed’s release before the Supreme Court and thanked the JSC for its decision to suspend the magistrate.
Along with former Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin – himself a former criminal court judge – a judge at the Maamigili magistrate court is meanwhile on trial on charges of terrorism, abuse of authority, official misconduct, and forgery.
Ahmed Nihan, 30, was arrested last February on a charge of forging a warrant for the arrest of President Abdulla Yameen over the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal.
Nihan’s arrest drew condemnation from the International Commission of Jurists, which called it “another blow to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.”
Additional writing by Ahmed Naish