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Opposition MPs protest in parliament over jailing of Mahloof

MDP MPs clamoured for the immediate release of their jailed colleague and called for President Yameen’s resignation. Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed adjourned proceedings shortly after the protest began in the People’s Majlis chamber.



MPs of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party protested in the parliament chamber today over the jailing of MP Ahmed Mahloof on a charge of obstructing police duty.

Shortly after today’s sitting began at 9am, five MDP MPs began clamouring for Mahloof’s immediate release and calling for President Abdulla Yameen’s resignation.

The opposition MPs also yelled into the mic of ruling party MPs Ahmed Nihan and Riyaz Rasheed while they were speaking.

A proposal by the public accounts committee to raise the health insurance provided by the state to ministers, MPs, judges, and members of state institutions was the only item on the agenda up for debate.

Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed adjourned proceedings after the brief debate. He reportedly gestured to Nihan – the majority leader and chair of the public accounts committee – to quickly wrap up his remarks.

Independent MP Mahloof, the spokesperson of the Maldives United Opposition, was sentenced to four months and 24 days in prison yesterday. He was accused of trying to “flee” from the police after a remand hearing in April last year.

Condemning Mahloof’s sentencing in a statement today, the MDP alleged that he was jailed on the orders of President Abdulla Yameen, who wants to “intimidate” and silence critics who spoke out against corruption.

The party also dismissed the notion that Mahloof tried to flee from the police as nonsensical. A sitting MP would not try to escape in the presence of police, journalists and members of the public, it added.

Mahloof had told the judge that he tried to prevent police officers from manhandling his wife outside the court building.

After the incident on April 3 last year, Mahloof’s wife said police officers pinched her, twisted her arm and tore buttons from her top. The police denied the allegations.

The police were escorting Mahloof into a vehicle to take him back to the detention centre.

The MDP also expressed concern with the court’s disregard for provisions in the law and sentencing guidelines that require judges to be lenient for first time offenders.

The charge of obstructing police duty carries either a fine of no more than MVR12,000 (US$778) or a jail sentence of no more than six months.

Appealing for the judge to consider imposing the fine, Mahloof’s lawyer had also noted that opposition MP Ali Azim was fined MVR3,000 (US$195) in February after being found guilty of refusing to obey a police officer’s order to leave a protest area.

Mahloof’s jailing has been roundly condemned by opposition figures.

The MP for Galolhu South was meanwhile brought to Malé from the Maafushi prison this afternoon for a hearing at the criminal court. 

The court concluded Mahloof’s trial on a second count of obstructing police duty today after hearing closing arguments.

Judge Mohamed Ismail Didi reportedly refused to call defence witnesses at a hearing yesterday. The witnesses could not negate the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses, he said.

The second count stems from his arrest from an opposition protest on the night of March 25, 2015. He was accused of scaling barricades set up near the local market and trying to enter the restricted Republic Square.

Three Specialist Operations police officers testified against Mahloof.

Today’s sitting of parliament meanwhile resumed at 1:30pm for voting on the health insurance proposal, which was passed 46-16.

The health insurance package for Supreme Court justices and parliamentarians was doubled to MVR24,000 (US$1,556).

The package was raised from MVR10,000 to MVR14,500 for High Court judges, from MVR7,000 to MVR12,000 for superior court judges, and from MVR7,000 to MVR9,000 for magistrates.

Ministers will now receive a package of MVR19,000, up from MVR12,000. It was also increased from MVR10,000 to MVR14,000 for members of independent commissions.

The health insurance package does not involve any co-payment and officials can seek medical treatment in India, Sri Lanka, and ASEAN countries.

The parliament is tasked by the constitution with determining the salary and allowances for senior state officials.