The police force set today new restrictions on family and lawyer visits to detainees held at the remand facility on Dhoonidhoo Island.
Detainees can now meet their lawyers for 90 minutes, twice a week between 9:00am to 10:00pm on working days.
Family visits are meanwhile limited to one hour every two weeks.
The police said that new rules will facilitate “more family visits” and more opportunities for lawyer visits. The “reforms” set standard procedures that police are obliged to follow.
However, lawyers have alleged that the new regulations were set following complaints by high-profile political detainees over discriminatory treatment in custody.
Lawyers were allowed to meet detainees on a daily basis, for long periods of time prior to former President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest in February last year, they said.
At the time, a detainee could appoint any number of lawyers the wanted. But with the opposition leader’s arrest, the number of lawyers was limited to five.
Family visits meanwhile were also afforded every week. Detainees were also allowed to speak with family members privately, but following former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s arrest in October, family members were only allowed to speak on a telephone from behind a glass panel, lawyers said.
Nasheed’s lawyer Ibrahim Riffath said the new regulations were unconstitutional.
“The constitution may not specify the exact arrangement for detainees to have access to lawyers. But this access is a fundamental right and restrictions to such rights can only be brought by the Majlis in the form of a constitutional amendment,” he said.
Limiting visits by lawyers affects the accused’s right to mount a defence, he added, a right that the state is obliged to facilitate.
“When the same handful of lawyers are representing all high profile cases, these restrictions will make it quite difficult, which could possibly be the motive behind these restrictions,” he said.
Lawyers must be able to meet their clients every day if required, he said.
Another lawyer, who represents Adeeb, said 90 minutes every week was not adequate to discuss and evaluate hundreds of pages of case documents.
Adeeb is standing trial on corruption and terror charges. He is accused of plotting to kill President Abdulla Yameen.
Adeeb lodged a complaint at the civil court over what he called surveillance during state visits. The case is ongoing.