MP Faris Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was barred from visiting his dying aunt in Singapore because he might not return to the Maldives, the home ministry claimed Tuesday.
The lawmaker refused to cooperate with the police when he was summoned for questioning, the ministry alleged, and accused the Gayoom family of helping the former president’s personal assistant remain overseas without answering a police summons in connection with the same investigation.
“Given the situation, if Faris Maumoon travels abroad it is likely that he will also stay out of the country to obstruct the investigation,” the home ministry said in a statement, which sought to justify the travel ban without specifying the allegations against the lawmaker.
The statement was released a day after media coverage about the police rejecting repeated pleas from Faris to release his passport as his maternal aunt’s health was deteriorating.
Fareesha Ibrahim, the younger sister of former First Lady Nasreena Ibrahim, passed away in Singapore on Wednesday night. She was reportedly battling cancer.
In a press statement released earlier on Wednesday, Faris said he had asked the police to arrange a travel document in lieu of lifting the travel ban. He also offered to cover the expenses of police officers who could travel with him.
“It should be clear to anyone of sound mind that this is not an offer someone planning to flee an investigation would make,” he said.
He urged the authorities to allow him to travel “out of compassion and consideration of the seriousness of the circumstances” and assured the police that he would return to answer the charges against him.
Faris found out about the travel ban when he was stopped at the airport’s immigration checkpoint on May 14 after he checked in to fly to Bangalore, India to visit his aunt, who was later taken to Singapore.
An immigration official informed him of a travel ban imposed by the criminal court and confiscated his passport. He later found out that the court imposed the three-month ban at the request of the police.
In his statement today, Faris also denied impeding the police from summoning Gayoom’s personal assistant.
“I don’t believe that my family or I have any responsibility or legal obligation for presenting a suspect accused of a criminal offence to the Maldives Police Service,” he said.
The police sought Interpol help to bring Ahmed Sofwan back to the Maldives in late April. His passport was also revoked.
Faris went on to say that barring him from leaving the country as a “punishment” for the failure to summon Sofwan is unconstitutional.
The constitution requires that the application of criminal law or criminal procedure, including the conduct of investigations, must “extend to the accused person only and shall not affect the legal rights or obligations of any other person.”
The MP for the Dhiggaru constituency also insisted that he cooperated with the police investigation and assured cooperation in the future, “despite it being clear to me that the investigation the police say they are conducting was undertaken for political purposes with the government’s influence”.
Faris was questioned by the police in late April on charges of attempting to bribe lawmakers to impeach the speaker of parliament. He was also summoned for questioning five times ahead of the March 27 no-confidence vote against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed.
Faris led the push to remove Maseeh after Gayoom joined forces with the opposition to seize the parliament’s majority from his half-brother President Abdulla Yameen. The new opposition alliance fell short after counting on defections from the divided ruling party.
The Progressive Party of Maldives was split into rival factions led by the estranged Gayoom brothers after the civil court in October controversially stripped the elder Gayoom of his powers as the party’s elected leader.
The police also sought charges against Faris in late April over alleged failure to reimburse the state. But the Prosecutor General’s office rejected the case as the statute of limitations for the illegal expenses charge was eight years.
The charges reportedly stemmed from the misuse of state funds from the former presidential palace Theemuge in 2007 and 2008, the last two years of Gayoom’s 30-year reign.
Faris has also been summoned for questioning at the police headquarters Thursday night over the use of the PPM’s flag at a joint opposition press conference.
Gayoom left for India in early March to visit his ailing sister-in-law. His military bodyguards were prevented from accompanying him during the trip after he declared support for removing the speaker.