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Maldives chief prosecutor denies political influence

Prosecutor General Bisham defended her track record during the previous administration.



Prosecutor General Aishath Bisham on Monday defended her track record and denied facing political influence despite the widely condemned jailing of former president Abdulla Yameen’s opponents.

The chief prosecutor was questioned at parliament’s judiciary committee over charges raised against opposition politicians and top state officials during Yameen’s administration.

Bisham denied raising charges on Yameen’s orders and defended the reversal of the prosecution’s stand in several cases after last year’s presidential election.

“I never told any prosecutor to raise this charge against that person,” she said, claiming to have refused to comply with police effort’s to arrest opposition lawmakers.

There were instances where “very junior-level investigators” from the police wrote to her and sought a warrant to arrest opposition lawmakers, she revealed, adding that she had also declined to prosecute several cases sent to her office.

Bisham said she was never summoned to the president’s office or provided with instructions. “I assure all of you honourable MPs that nothing of the sort ever happened,” she added.

Referring to a photo of her outside the president’s office, Bisham said she only went to the office to attend meetings of the Drug Control Council, of which she is a member by virtue of office.

She also defended her decision to charge 12 opposition lawmakers alleged to have scaled security barricades to enter parliament in July 2017. It was based on the Elections Commission’s disqualification of three of the lawmakers, she contended, adding that the obstruction charges were withdrawn after they were reinstated by the Supreme Court.

The opposition lawmakers had been manhandled and dragged out by police officers and soldiers in riot gear when they tried to enter the parliament building.

The dropping of charges followed the release of political prisoners and the return of exiled opposition leaders in the wake of Yameen’s heavy defeat in September’s presidential election.

But Bisham insisted that charges had been raised in accordance with legal procedures and based solely on evidence. In cases where the PG office reversed its stand, she said it was prompted by valid reasons and not political considerations.

Prior to her appointment as the independent chief prosecutor in November 2015, Bisham was Yameen’s legal affairs secretary at the president’s office.

She went on to oversee the prosecution of her predecessor, Muhthaz Muhsin, and Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla on terrorism charges.

In a widely condemned verdict, Imran was sentenced to 12 years in prison for inciting violence in his speech at a 20,000-strong protest march in May 2015. It was the first terrorism sentence passed in the Maldives over a speech made at a political gathering.

The former prosecutor general was found guilty of conspiring to kidnap Yameen.

Imran and Muhthaz joined the ranks of high-profile figures jailed or exiled during Yameen’s five-year term, which included two former presidents, two Supreme Court justices, two vice presidents, two defence ministers, leaders of opposition parties and several lawmakers.