Return to the Old Days?

Former Regime Using Article 88(a) of Criminal Code to Attack
Political Opponents

Tuesday 25th October 2011, Male

The acting Chairperson of the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), Reeko Moosa MP, today sent out a message to the international community warning of the threat posed to the Maldives’ fragile democratic transition posed by the return of the former autocratic President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and his use of the old Criminal Code to attack opponents.

“It is perhaps easy for the Maldives’ friends in the wider world to forget that only five years ago, the country was still in the grip of a man who had monopolized power and wealth for thirty years and who was widely accused by Western governments and international human rights groups of serious human rights abuses” said Moosa. “What we are seeing today is, quite simply, a concerted attempt by the Old Guard to reassert itself. Having lost the presidency, and having recently lost control of the parliament, Gayoom and his allies are trying to win back power through the last non-violent channel open to them: the courts”.

“Last week the Supreme Court moved forward with a clearly-politicized case against an MDP MP who had dared to stand against and defeat Gayoom’s son during the parliamentary elections. After having failed to beat him on two occasions at the ballot box, they are now using sympathetic judges in the courts to eject him from his Seat”.

“This week, we are seeing a continuation of this pattern. Worse, Gayoom’s allies and the courts are using the notorious Article 88(a) of the Criminal Code – a broad catch-all provision on “disobedience to order” used by Gayoom when he was President to attack and imprison political opponents. Mohamed Nasheed, now President, was arrested and prosecuted dozens of times under Article 88(a), as were many other pro-democracy activists”.

“In recent days, an MDP Counselor, Aboo Bakr Fulhu, was unexpectedly called to the High Court for sentencing in a case originally brought in 2009 under Article 88(a) which contended that he had encouraged his brother to argue with a magistrate. The Criminal Court originally acquitted him, however, the local MP (an ally of Gayoom) has been pressing for a review by the High Court. Today, two years after the last hearing on the case, the High Court has suddenly summoned Aboo Bakr Fulhu for sentencing”.

“This is clearly part of a concerted campaign, and we thus call on the international community to be vigilant. For example, senior members of Gayoom’s party, such as Umar Naseer, are informing the public about the outcome of cases against MDP supporters – before the verdicts have even been handed down, and are publicly predicting that many more MDP MPs will be brought before the courts and will be stripped of their Seats”.