Prosecutor General resigns ahead of impeachment vote
Bisham was accused of lying to parliament’s judiciary committee.
Prosecutor General Aishath Bisham resigned on Thursday shortly before she was due to appear at parliament’s judiciary committee for an impeachment inquiry.
The resignation was announced on social media by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
This morning, I have received the resignation of Prosecutor General Aishath Bisham. I thank Bisham for her services during her tenure as Prosecutor General and wish her every success in the future.
— Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (@ibusolih) November 28, 2019
Speaking at the judiciary committee after the resignation, MP Moosa Siraj accused Bisham of lying to the committee in July about visiting the president’s office in February last year. Bisham claimed she only went to attend meetings of the Drug Control Council, of which she was a member by virtue of office. But there were no council meetings during the period, the Fonadhoo MP said, citing information provided by the president’s office.
Bisham also claimed to have appealed the acquittal of two suspects over the abduction of journalist Ahmed Rilwan. But the criminal court’s registrar confirmed to the committee that the PG office did not appeal, Siraj said.
In a statement issued earlier on Thursday morning, Bisham accused the oversight committee of carrying out the impeachment process in violation of parliamentary rules and the spirit of the constitution. A notice to appear at 11am to speak in her defence did not specify accusations or grounds for impeachment, she said, contending that this was contrary to the constitutional right to fair administrative action.
During the committee in July, Bisham denied facing political influence despite the widely condemned jailing of former president Abdulla Yameen’s opponents. She denied raising charges on Yameen’s orders and defended the reversal of the prosecution’s stand in several cases after the former president lost the September 2018 election.
Prior to her appointment as the independent chief prosecutor in November 2015, Bisham was Yameen’s legal affairs secretary at the president’s office. She went on to oversee the prosecution of her predecessor, Muhthaz Muhsin, and Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla on terrorism charges.
Imran and Muhthaz joined the ranks of high-profile figures jailed or exiled during Yameen’s five-year term, which included two former presidents, two Supreme Court justices, two vice presidents, two defence ministers, leaders of opposition parties and several lawmakers.
According to the constitution, a Prosecutor General could only be removed “on the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence” after a finding to that effect by a parliamentary committee is approved by a majority of MPs present and voting.
The ruling party-dominated judiciary committee previously decided to impeach Bisham last month but the decision was revoked a day later.
In the wake of Yameen’s defeat, lawmakers accused the chief prosecutor of failing to perform her duties but a no-confidence motion was later withdrawn. Despite winning a nearly three-quarters majority in April’s parliamentary elections, the Maldivian Democratic Party did not move to remove Bisham until last week.