President Abdulla Yameen has exercised authority granted by the Clemency Act to pardon a convict sentenced to 10 years in prison on drug trafficking charges.
Ismail Shaheem, from Thaa Thimarafushi Karankavilla, was arrested in June 2011 along with alleged drug kingpin Ibrahim Shafaz ‘Shafa’ with more than 800 grams of drugs following a two-year long operation.
Shaheem was greeted at the gate of Maafushi jail yesterday by ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ibrahim Shujau, and Shafaz, who posted a picture on Facebook.
“Dont say we CAN’T.. HE IS OUT…,” Shafaz wrote.
The police claimed Shafaz’s network had smuggled drugs worth MVR1.3 million (US$84,306) to the Maldives between February and April 2011.
The suspects were arrested from a rented apartment in a building owned by PPM MP Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem. MP Shujau is the manager at Saleem’s supermarket chain Redwave
The criminal court found Shaheem guilty of possessing narcotic prescription drugs for sale in November 2013. He was, however, cleared of trafficking narcotics, which carries a higher sentence.
The High Court upheld the verdict earlier this year.
Shafaz was also found guilty of drug trafficking in November 2013 and sentenced to 18 years in jail, but the High Court overturned the conviction in January 2015.
Two months after he was jailed, Shafaz was temporarily released for medical treatment in Sri Lanka in February 2014, but failed to return to the Maldives after an approved period of three months. The Sri Lankan police caught Shafaz in Colombo and extradited him to Maldives in May 2014.
Shaheem had meanwhile been arrested in 2008 during a security operation by the military to curb gang violence in Malé. He was accused of stabbing a watchman at the ADK hospital and fleeing the scene.
A spokesperson for the Maldives Correctional Service confirmed to The Maldives Independent that Shaheem was pardoned along with four others yesterday in accordance with the clemency law.
The clemency law states that the president can pardon convicts if they have served one-fourth of their sentence, and have exhausted all appeal processes or have no further avenue to file an appeal.
The law previously stated convicts must serve one-third of their sentences, but the period was amended to one-fourth in December 2014 by the PPM.
Shaheem was jailed in November 2013 and has served one year eight months in prison. To be eligible for a pardon, he would have to have served 2.5 years. The government may have counted the time spent under pre-trial detention in issuing the pardon, but The Maldives Independent was not able to clarify the facts at the time of going to press.
Shaheem is known as Ippa Ismael on Facebook. His profile appears to show he had access to the internet in jail. On July 22, he wrote: “Congra our new VP Ahmed Adeeb. Zuvaanunge bro [youth’s bro].”
The four others pardoned by Yameen include Hassan Shifau and Mohamed Hameed, who were jailed for seven years after being found guilty of vandalising the VTV office in Malé during an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest in March 2012.
The president also pardoned two other convicts, Hussain Didi and Ilyas Fuad, who were serving six-year prison terms on charges of theft and drug abuse, respectively.
This article was amended at 7pm on August 26 to include a paragraph on Shameem’s internet activity while in jail.