The epitome of injustice: Journalist Ali Rasheed sentenced to life in absentia in a 'record' 29 days
Dhivehi Observer, 11 June 2008
"Obstruction of justice can take many forms," said Hameed, representative of jailed writer and ardent critic of Dictator Gayyoom of the Maldives. Alii Rasheed was taken to Maafushi Jail on November 29, 2007, where he continues to bide time until he can get his name cleared in the High Court. His trial and sentencing can only stand as testimony to the continued failure of the Maldives justice system which is heavily influenced by the dictator.
It took exactly 29 days, a record up until now, for the Gayyoom regime to decide that the former columnist of Minivan News and correspondent for Dhivehi Observer and Sandhaanu was guilty of possession of drugs.
Ali Rasheed was arrested on June 5, 2007, a month after his interview to the TV channel Al-Jazeera, during which he accused the Maldives Police Services of running a drugs-Mafia in the country.
The police does not have his statement and neither did the criminal court ask him to answer the allegations made against him by the Maldives Police Services. Yet they have found it just to sentence him in absentia merely on the ‘say so’ of the police, which is not only iron but quite simply beyond comprehension in a civilised society.
After several requests for an appeal, his first hearing was held on March 11, 2008 in the High Court. The judge agreed to admit into evidence the one document [the police statement advising Ali Rasheed the reason for his arrest] that the police had up until now refused to disclose despite repeated requests by Ali Rasheed as it would help clear the confusion surrounding the case
Ali Rasheed contends that the government is purposely obstructing a fair hearing and refusing to adhere to the rule of law. For one thing, he was given less than 24 hours notice before the first court hearing and because of this he was unable to study the documents relating to the case. He was also denied access his lawyer prior to the hearing. He was taken straight from the jail to the High Court in prison uniform, deprived of any opportunity to prepare for his case.
Ali has appealed to the Home Ministry to grant him his rights but the ministry could not care less as it’s headed by one of the staunch allies of the Maldives Dictator
The Maldivian justice system is such that there are many ways. In the past they would just lock their opponents and critics. This changed when the secret dictatorship in the Maldives was exposed by the democracy movement which began in the aftermath of the murder of Evan Naseem and his cell-mates in Maafushi jail by Maldives police in September 2003. Since then, the internet and other media has exposed this regime for who they really are and they were unable to arrest, detain and torture political opponents and critics because of pressure from the people as well as the international community. However, they kept using other methods to apprehend and lockup reformists and journalists, like Ali Rasheed and Fahala Saeed, both of whom were well known journalists who were working with reformist media.
It is a shame on the regime of Dictator Gayyoom to claim that he has brought changes to the system, when these unjust acts remain brushed aside from the public media whilst reformists and journalists like Ali and Saeed remain locked up in prison cells for life.
© Dhivehi Observer 2004