The Prosecutor General’s office has withdrawn a case seeking to detain a ruling party candidate for the Malé city council on an assault charge.
Ganim Abdul Ghafoor, the Progressive Party of Maldives candidate for the Machangoalhi north constituency, was arrested on March 12 and released after the criminal court turned down a request by the police to keep him in remand detention.
The PG office appealed the criminal court’s order at the high court to bring Ganim back into custody. However, the state prosecutor withdrew the case shortly before the first hearing of the appeal on Wednesday.
The PG office spokesman told the Maldives Independent that the police informed prosecutors that they no longer needed to hold Ganim in custody.
Ganim was accused of being part of a group that assaulted a man at Malé’s carnival area. Ganim was previously prosecuted on charges of assaulting a soldier but he was found not guilty by the criminal court.
In early February, the PPM-dominated parliament amended the electoral law to allow individuals with criminal records to contest in the local council elections. The eligibility criteria were changed to allow individuals convicted of graft, bribery, drug abuse, and offences with punishments prescribed in Islamic shariah to contest three years after being pardoned or completing their jail sentence.
The law previously barred individuals convicted of these crimes from contesting even if they had been pardoned or released.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had condemned the last-minute change in the eligibility criteria as “contrary to every principle of democracy and justice”.
In late April, the MDP also accused the government of using the police “to frame opposition candidates to invalidate their candidacy” after two candidates were arrested on drug charges.
“We see this as an organised and planned attempt by the government to stop rival candidates from contesting in the election,” the party said in a statement at the time.
The statement came a day after an MDP candidate for the Alif Alif Rasdhoo island council was reportedly arrested in connection with a drug-related case.
Abdulla Anil was reportedly arrested with a court warrant on charges of selling and using drugs.
An MDP candidate for the island council of Thaa Vilufushi was also arrested in March on similar charges but he was later released.
In early April, Hussain Jabeen, an MDP candidate and member of the Vilufushi island council, was sentenced to six months house arrest by the island’s magistrate court, stripping him of the council seat and invalidating his candidacy.
Jabeen was found guilty on a charge of disobedience to an order for allegedly uprooting a metal rod planted by the state-owned Maldives Roads Development Corporation for a road project in 2015.