Joint Statement: President Yameen Steps Up Intimidation of Opposition Leaders

18 July 2017, Male’: President Yameen has instigated a renewed campaign of intimidation and coercion of opposition leaders and lawmakers, days before a second impeachment is to be scheduled for the Speaker of Parliament.

On 16 July, authorities barred opposition Jumhooree Party Leader Qasim Ibrahim from travelling abroad for medical care, following his hospitalisation. The lawmaker is in critical condition and remains hospitalised under intensive care.

Hon. Qasim faces a fresh trial on bribery charges, after the Criminal Court threw out his former case on 11 July. Hon. Qasim was accused of “attempted bribery of lawmakers” following a public speech inviting other MPs to join the opposition’s efforts to impeach the parliament Speaker. The State’s sole evidence submitted to court is a video recording of Hon. Qasim’s speech.

The authorities also seized Hon. Qasim’s passport, and the opposition leader has been blacklisted from traveling abroad. Hon. Qasim was unaware of the travel ban until immigration officials stopped him at the airport.

Today, police entered MP Faris Maumoon’s residence. A court warrant authorised the search, accusing the lawmaker of bribery. MP Faris, who has been leading efforts from within the ruling party on the cross-party impeachment motion against the Speaker, is also on trial for “identity fraud” for using the ruling party’s flag and logo at a joint opposition press conference in March.

The Joint Opposition has received reports of a second court warrant, authorising the arrest of MP Faris Maumoon.

A third lawmaker, MDP MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, a retired brigadier general, is also on trial on renewed terrorism charges. In 2015, the Prosecutor General withdrew terrorism charges against the MP. However, following the submission of the no-confidence motion, the state has charged the MP a second time on the same terror charges.

On 3 July, the opposition alliance submitted a no-confidence motion against the Speaker of Parliament, a Yameen crony, with 45 signatures from 85-member house. Impeachment requires 43 votes.

The opposition fears the imminent arrest of more Members of Parliament who signed the impeachment motion.

14 Government MPs who signed the motion have since left the ruling party after the Attorney General sought an anti-defection ruling from the Supreme Court.

The anti-defection ruling, with the Supreme Court passed last week, has been condemned as unconstitutional and viewed as further evidence of President Yameen’s manipulation of other branches of the state to maintain his grip on Parliament. President Yameen had lost his majority in Parliament, with the defection of the ruling party MPs.

Despite the Supreme Court ruling, all 14 MPs who defected from the ruling party have restated their commitment to the motion against the Speaker, and have vowed not to relent despite President Yameen’s efforts to coerce and intimidate them.

The Joint Opposition reiterates its call on President Yameen to allow MPs to carry out their lawful mandate, and to cease the intimidation of lawmakers. Parliamentarians must be allowed to vote unimpeded on the upcoming no confidence motion against the Speaker of Parliament.