Supreme Court summons lawmaker over tweet
Criticism on social media or television is deemed contempt of court.
MP Imthiyaz Fahmy was summoned by the Supreme Court on Tuesday over a tweet calling for an overhaul of the apex court bench.
Officials asked about his intent and warned that such tweets could have adverse effects, Fahmy told reporters after more than two hours inside the Department of Judicial Administration, which functions directly under the Supreme Court.
“I said we should talk on all platforms about reform. Everyone should have the right to talk whether it’s on Twitter or in the Majlis,” he told Raajje TV.
It was “unacceptable” to summon people who criticise the courts, he added.
The Maldivian Democratic Party lawmaker has long been an outspoken critic of the judiciary and judicial reform was a key pledge of the ruling party’s campaign for the April 6 parliamentary elections. With its landslide victory, the MDP secured well above the two-thirds majority needed to remove judges from the bench.
The MP for Maafannu North – who is due to be sworn in for a third term next month – was questioned about a tweet posted last Wednesday in reference to the removal of former chief justice Abdulla Saeed and justice Ali Hameed.
The top judges were arrested in February last year shortly after former president Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency in response to the court’s order for the release of his jailed opponents.
Yameen reacted to the shock ruling on February 1 by declaring a state of emergency and suspending constitutional rights. A day after the security forces stormed the court and arrested Saeed and Hameed, the full bench order was rescinded by the three remaining justices.
In the offending tweet, Fahmy questioned why the three justices who formed the majority remained on the bench if the order was deemed to have been obtained through bribery.
The tweet was posted in solidarity with former attorney general Husnu Suood after the prominent lawyer was summoned for questioning over alleged contempt of court last week.
Suood, chair of a presidential commission investigating unresolved murders, was questioned about the purpose of his remarks during a Raajje TV interview, in which he had called for sweeping changes to reform the judiciary while stressing that judges should only be removed after due process.
“I told them there was no specific purpose and that I was just using my right to freely express my views. I noted that what I said was my own personal views,” he told reporters after providing a statement to the DJA.
A day after Suood was questioned, Moosa Siraj, a lawyer and MP-elect for Fonadhoo, was also summoned for calling Supreme Court justices “corrupt” on social media.
Calling for the dismissal of judges does not amount to contempt of court, Siraj told the press after he was summoned to the DJA last Thursday.
Several lawyers have been suspended and barred from appearing in court for criticising the Supreme Court.
In October, Suood was suspended over a tweet in which he declared the Supreme Court’s ruling to extend the presidential term in November 2013 was unconstitutional. It followed the suspension of Hussain Shameem, a former deputy prosecutor general, for the third time over a tweet.
Jumhooree Party MP Ali Hussain was also suspended for questioning a court order that quashed an Elections Commission decision to reverse its stand on 12 former ruling party lawmakers.
The suspensions and summons have prompted calls for revising the contempt of court rules, which cover any utterance or action that demeans a court, a judge, or court officer. It prohibits criticising or berating a court or a judge, or committing any act that causes loss of respect and dignity of a court or a judge, or attempting to bring the court into disrepute.