April 21, Male’: President Yameen has arrested opposition Jumhooree Party leader and MP, Qasim Ibrahim, for the second time in as many weeks. Hon. Qasim was dragged from his home around 2 am on Friday morning by the Special Operations unit of the Police. He was not granted access to his lawyers at time of arrest. Hon. Qasim’s re-arrest means that, once again, every opposition leader in the Maldives is either in some form of detention, or on trial.
Hon. Qasim was first arrested on 6 April on charges of “bribing lawmakers and attempting to influence lawmakers ahead of a no-confidence motion on the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament,” and “encouraging the overthrow of the Maldives government.” Hon. Qasim was released after 6 days in detention, after the appellate court ruled that his arrest was illegal as it violated the parliamentary privileges law, which requires the Prosecutor General to seek a warrant if a sitting MP is to be detained for a criminal investigation.
As the High Court had ruled the previous arrest unlawful and the investigation inadmissible, President Yameen has instigated fresh charges. Today’s court warrant cited “bribery, and misuse of Public Office,” “attempt to influence Judges and national security services,” “might attempt to unduly influence witnesses,” and “abetting the overthrow of the Maldives government.” Hon. Qasim is accused of these charges for anti- Government remarks made at public speeches in opposition rallies, and is accused of “leading these rallies and therefore encouraging ‘instigation’.”
The first hearing of Hon. Qasim’s trial, on 13 April, was closed to the media and the public, without explanation. At the hearing, the Court declined the request by the state prosecutors to detain the opposition leader until the end of his trial.
Although the trial against him was already underway, Hon. Qasim’s residence, and offices belonging to his family business, were raided on April 16, his personal mobile phone was also confiscated on the same day.
The MP for the Maamigili constituency will lose his seat if he is found guilty on any of the charges.
Hon. Qasim’s arrest follows an intensified crackdown by President Yameen on the political opposition, which has seen a number of lawmakers put on trial.
One of the lawmakers recently put on trial, Jumhooree Party Parliamentary Deputy Leader Abdulla Riyaz MP, saw his trial inexplicably brought forward by 4 days on Thursday. MP Riyaz’s trial was also closed to the media and public for undisclosed reasons. The JP deputy leader is accused of obstructing the duty of a law enforcement officer, a charge that carries a maximum jail term of one year, and therefore could cause the loss of his parliamentary seat.
On 21 April, the Prosecutor General also pressed charges against ruling party MP, Faris Maumoon. MP Faris who has been working with the opposition movement, leading efforts from within the ruling party, is accused of over an audit report about the misuse of funds at the former presidential palace during the final years of his father’s presidency – nearly ten years ago. MP Faris was not serving under any official capacity at the time, and therefore the charges are utterly baseless.
Yameen has also ensured that former President Nasheed, who is currently in political exile, faces a new trial for terrorism. Yameen has also prevented former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom from running his own party, the ruling PPM. On 21 March, the High Court completed the appeal process for Sheikh Imran Abdulla, leader of the Adhaalath Party, and is expected to uphold the 2016 terror sentence.
The fabricated charges and illegal arrests of opposition leaders and lawmakers are panic measures by President Yameen, as he desperately attempts to hold off the opposition’s growing challenge to his parliamentary majority. The increasingly flagrant and nefarious actions follow the newly formed opposition alliance’s announcement of commanding sufficient parliamentary votes to impeach the Speaker of Parliament.