Friday, January 26, 2007

Prosecution and trial of Sandhaanu writers

This BBC report sheds some light about the lies Maldivian government spread to the media and internaional community about the prosecution, trial and sentencing of the Sandhaanu writers.

The charges against them were “purely criminal and not motivated by any other reason except to enforce the penal laws” of the Maldives, a statement sent to the BBC by its High Commission in London said.

The four had been working on an electronic newsletter, Sandhaanu.

Sandhaanu “was not a newsletter registered anywhere with any authority”, the statement said. Its authors were anonymous, “proving the nature of the activities they were engaged in”.

The statement said they had been found guilty of inciting people “to violence and violent and illegal acts against a lawfully elected government and its officials”.

The biggest lie that was sold to the world was that Sandhaanu writers received legal representation.

However, RSF’s Vincent Brossel insisted that the Maldives authorities should review the sentences.

“We found no call to violence in their newsletters,” he told BBC News Online on Wednesday.

“It’s a group of people that has always been critical of the government.

“It’s a very harsh sentence for people who have just expressed their opinions on the government policy.”

But the Maldives Government says the four were “tried in open court, and like anyone else, had the right to be represented and assisted by a lawyer and had the right and opportunity to appeal their cases”.

A letter sent by Sandhaanu writer Mohamed Zaki to Maldives Human Rights Commission was translated and published in Maldives Culture, and it also gives some more information about what happened in a totally unfair trial held in 2001. You should visit the website and read the letter as soon as possible because it may be removed from the website to become politically correct.

Previous Maldives Attorney- General conjured treason charge for Sandhaanu trial

translated by Maldives Culture editors 14 April 2004

Corruption is a criminal offence. If people commit this offence, then to accuse them of corruption is not defamation. In the time I have been in custody, most of the allegations made in Sandhaanu have been proven true. Among these allegations were that the police (NSS) torture people in prisons. This fact has now been exposed to the world.

For years, the brutality of the prison has been widely known in Maldives. Although it has come to the notice of the world, the reality has not been recognised by the Maldive government.

For a long time, the person in charge of the prisons, the present executive director of the defence ministry Isthafa Ibrahim Manik, has been renowned for his brutal treatment of Maldivians. According to many people, Isthafa Ibrahim Manik was the 'executive director' of Abdul Hannan the former Safety Minister [during President Nasir's rule]. Many people believe it is Isthafa Ibrahim Manik who actually runs the Defence ministry now.

It is widely believed that the brutality of the current government is even worse than it was during Abdul Hannan’s time.

Anyway, during the first week that Isthafa Ibrahim Manik was replaced as the director of the corrections department by Muizzu Adnan of Gulfaamuge house, most of the torture in the prison came to an end. Also the food in the prison improved one thousand percent. Prisoners were able to meet the chief and discuss their concerns. This is a fact that the 1300 prison inmates would testify to be true.

People will not accept to that, overall, the claims made in Sandhaanu were acts of treason. Sandhaanu was an expression of thoughts - a guide along the path of reform.

In relation to Sandhaanu, the state prosecutor’s allegation against me was made under article 29, alleging the offence of conspiracy to commit treason. According the prevailing customs of Maldives, the judge found me guilty of the charges brought by the government. In addition to this, I received a sentence of one year's exile for defamation, under articles 150 and 152.

I was denied my basic human rights during the investigation and the court procedure .

Matters for the consideration of the Human Rights commission
1. I was arrested on 30 January 2002, and kept in isolation in a room eight feet square . There was no sign of any other human being. When I repeatedly called out, a person on duty would come. Food was given to me through a slot in the door. light came halfway into the room through the bars of the door. (I am stating these details because none of the members of the commission would have had the misfortune of spending time in a Dhoonidhoo cell). At night, the toilet was kept in darkness.

On 28 March, I was made to sign four copies of a document, thus completing the investigation. I had been taken for interrogation late at night. I was confined to the cell, in constant fear of being called out at anytime. Words were added and subtracted from my statement, just as the NSS officers wished. The sentences in the statement were re-arranged as these officers desired. On 28 March, I was informed officially that the investigation had been completed. During the days of interrogation, I behaved as appropriately as I could.

Regardless of how hard I try, I cannot understand why I was then kept in a tormented state that would make any human being suicidal and on the verge of a mental breakdown, until 26 June 2002 when I was summoned to the court for trial.

2. In this state of despair and heartache, I was informed that I had to go temporarily to Male’. It was early June. I was taken to the welfare room at police headquarters. I was then put in the back of a van with no window or ventilation, and driven to another place. They stopped and told me to get down. I climbed down and found myself standing in front of the justice building. I had been held in solitary confinement in a tiny cell for nearly 5 months. In this psychologically weakened state, I was barely able to speak in court.

I felt exhausted and weak. The police did not allow me to meet anyone present there. I repeatedly asked in vain for the judge Abdullah Areef to allow me the help of a lawyer. This act of the judge is proof the desire of the government to find me guilty was so strong, that I was even denied the opportunity for legal help. The judge's actions cannot be interpreted any other way.

What other reason could there be for summoning me to the court for trial, except to put on record that the trial was conducted by a judge in my presence.

3. Under Chapter 2 article 15(b) of the constitution, when a person is being arrested the person should be informed of the reason for arrest. In accordance with this, at the time of my arrest I was informed it was on suspicion of spreading false information in a way that would cause loss of public peace. The police informed me of this in writing, and made me sign and fingerprint the document. But in court, the prosecuting lawyer from the Attorney General’s office presented a completely different accusation to the court. Yes, it was a charge of committing high treason!

It was surprising to see that, in reality, the government has little respect for the constitution of the country. I do not believe these are merely mistakes. After keeping me locked up in a cell in Dhoonidhoo without any access to the outside world, the only charge the state prosecutor could think of bringing against me was high treason, punishable by life imprisonment. This charge had no connection with the reason for my arrest.

I claim that these actions indicate a personal grudge against me. Please look through all the Sandahhanu issues (attached with our case's court report). As I said before, the four of us were officially informed on 28 March 2002 that the investigation had been completed. So the Defence Ministry was well aware of the nature and seriousness of our offence. Since the investigation had been completed, my mother Hawwa Ibrahim Fulhu from M. Ahmedi-abad house in Maafannu ward Male', sent a letter dated 9 April 2002 to the Ministry of Defence and National Security, pleading to have me transferred home or for her to be allowed to see me at home.

On 10 April 2002, she received the reply to this plea as follows: 'Hawwa Fulhu's son Mohamed Zaki was arrested on suspicion of spreading false information in a manner that would cause the loss of public peace, and for this reason he cannot be transferred home as yet. He also cannot be sent home to see you.' Attached to this letter is a photocopy of the reply. I had never even dreamed that a lawful government would mislead people to this extent.


ahsan said...

I am very new to this stuff. I was in school when the sandhaanu people were put in prison. By the way, who was that previous Attorney-General who 'conjured up treason charges' against sandhaanu people. How unfair!

Report Credit Fraud said...

Those were darker days. The Constitution existed only as a name while its pages were in Maumoon's heart! His wish was the judgment!