Top lawyers resign amid ‘discontent’ in chief prosecutor’s office
Following the resignation of two top prosecutors, sources from the Prosecutor General’s office have alleged that Bisham’s “abrasive” demeanour and short temper have contributed to growing discontent among her staff.
Two public prosecutors who have represented the state in high-profile cases have quit amidst reports of discontent within the Prosecutor General’s office.
Ahmed Hisham Wajeeh and Noorussalam Abubakur resigned in December and February, respectively. The opposition-aligned Raajje TV reported last week that both resigned due to conflicts with Prosecutor General Aishath Bisham, but Hisham said the station “was not accurate about my reason for quitting”.
“I have worked in criminal prosecution for about three years. Due to some personal beliefs, I have decided to step away for now,” said Hisham, who was part of the prosecuting teams on former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s terrorism trials.
Noorussalam declined to comment on the reasons for his resignation after four years of service.
But a credible source from the PG office told the Maldives Independent on the condition of anonymity that Noorussalam quit on February 7 due to displeasure with Bisham.
Prosecutors face routine difficulties in the office environment, the source said, alleging that Bisham’s prosecution decisions are politically motivated.
“Bisham’s legal decisions are increasingly becoming irrational,” the source said.
“We may even have to go to court and try someone for terrorism, without there being sufficient evidence, only based on Bisham’s decision.”
The prosecutor general was not responding to phone calls and a text message at the time of publication.
Since her appointment to the post in November 2015, Bisham has overseen the prosecution of her predecessor, Muhthaz Muhsin, and Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla on terrorism charges.
In a widely condemned verdict, Imran was sentenced to 12 years in prison for inciting violence in his speech at a 20,000-strong protest march in May 2015. The former prosecutor general was meanwhile found guilty of conspiring to kidnap President Abdulla Yameen.
Imran and Muhthaz joined the ranks of high-profile politicians and state officials jailed since the current administration came to power, which include a former president, two former defence ministers, a ruling party lawmaker, a former vice president, a senior military officer, and a magistrate.
The PG office source went on to say: “Bisham’s professional demeanour tends to be relatively more abrasive compared to other prosecutors general. There’s a general lack of consultation, where prosecutors are made to do things they do not agree with professionally.”
Bisham’s alleged forcing of staff to work on weekends and other small but systematic issues have contributed to a general feeling of discontent at the office, the source added.
“The way the system is structured, we already have a few lawyers. This is a sign of what is wrong,” the source suggested.
But another prosecutor told the Maldives Independent that he personally did not have any complaints with the chief prosecutor.
“I find her to be very nice,” he said.
However, he conceded that some prosecutors were unhappy with the boss: “Some have voiced their concerns regarding Bisham to me personally. I have heard them say they wanted to resign because of her short temper and lack of consultation, and that the working environment did not suit them.”
But he insisted that accusations of bias were unfair.
“She never entertained MPs or political figures and would turn them away if they wanted to meet her. I believe she is independent, and don’t think she has outside influence,” he said.
Bisham was President Yameen’s legal affairs secretary prior to her appointment to the post. She also briefly served as attorney general in former President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration, but failed to secure parliamentary approval and was later appointed special advisor to the president.