The current administration has released 206 convicts from prison since December, Home Minister Sheikh Imran Abdulla told lawmakers on Thursday.
Imran was summoned to parliament after Independent MP Ibrahim Naseem tabled a question concerning allegations of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih pardoning or granting clemency to prisoners convicted of serious crimes ahead of April’s parliamentary elections. The MP for Thulusdhoo asked for the number of such prisoners released between December 1 and June 20 after their sentences were reduced.
The president did not pardon or commute sentences of prisoners in connection with the polls, the home minister responded. But the Maldives has a tradition of newly-elected presidents granting pardons and commuting sentences, he added.
The 206 prisoners who were released since December included 79 people who were convicted of serious crimes. But none of them were released before the April 6 elections, he stressed.
Offences for which a pardon cannot be granted include murder, acts of terrorism, child sexual abuse, drug trafficking, rape, sodomy and crimes for which punishments are prescribed in Islamic law. However, the clemency law allows for remission of penalties or alteration to a lighter type of penalty.
The 79 individuals who were released due to reduction of sentences included prisoners convicted of theft, drug trafficking, alcohol consumption and crimes with hudud punishments, Imran said.
Before revisions were made to the clemency law in recent years, suspects caught with any amount of drugs could be convicted for trafficking and sentenced to 25 years. But the law now has a possession threshold of 14 grams to count as trafficking, he noted.
Prisoners whose sentences were commuted by President Solih included those arrested with less than one gram, Imran said. Efforts are underway to rehabilitate drug users with assistance from UN agencies, he added.
The home minister also revealed that nearly 400 people remain in remand jails without any convictions. Most of these cases were of individuals held in pre-trial detention or whose trials were ongoing.
Imran said the government was working with the courts to resolve the cases, some of which have been stalled for years.