On June 4th, the Maldives High Court ruled that documents submitted by Maakun Mohamed Falah (cousin of Auditor General Maakun Naeem) in his case against the Maldives Elections Commission had been doctored, and therefore dismissed the case. Maakun Falah’s attorney, Maldivian Democratic Party senior lawyer Husnu Sood, presented the falsified documents at the High Court hearing of the case. Husnu Sood is the incumbent Attorney General, appointed by President Mohamed Nasheed on June 3rd.
Maakun Falah, MDP candidate for Maafannu Dhekunu Constituency, had lodged a case against the EC, demanding that the May 9th parliamentary vote in his constituency be declared void, and a fresh vote be ordered. In the High Court hearing on the case, Falah’s attorney Husnu Sood claimed that the official report of elections officials on the day’s proceedings contained false information. Sood also deposited as evidence of this charge, a copy of what he claimed was the said official report. The High Court found that the document deposited by Sood was a fake. Judge Ali Hameed ruled that Sood’s fake document contained obvious and substantial differences from the original official report of the Elections Commission. It threw the case out of court since Sood had not presented any supporting evidence to justify the charge.
With the High Court ruling that the document submitted by Sood had been doctored, both Sood and his client Maakun Falah have committed crimes under Sections 62, 66 and 67 of the Maldives Penal Code, that is, the crime of willfully presenting false evidence. Section 62 defines the meaning of presenting false evidence under the Penal Code. Section 66 defines the submission of any false certificate or document to a court or legal venue of justice as also presenting false evidence. It prescribes a penalty for the crime as either two years in jail or exile, or a fine of not more than 1,000 Maldivian Rufiyaa. Section 67 deals with willful submission of false certification or documentation. This section defines the submission of a certificate or document to court without verifying its truth as willful presentation of false evidence. Hence, both Sood and Falah have committed crimes under each one of these three sections.
Sources report that Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz has privately warned Husnu Sood that he stands on the brink of being sentenced for contempt of court should the courts so choose to move against him. It is disturbing that PG Muiz has limited himself to a mere private warning. The PG is in actual fact required by law to charge Sood for willfully presenting false evidence, under Sections 62, 66, and 67 of the Penal Code.
By not charging Sood, PG Muiz himself is guilty of aiding and abetting a criminal to evade justice under Section 76 of the Penal Code. Strictly speaking, in the light of their above actions in relation to this case, both Muiz and Sood are liable under Section 80 of the Penal Code for misfeasance in public office by abetting a criminal to escape due punishment. Section 79 states that aiding and abetting a perpetrator of a crime to avoid penalty for the crime is a crime in itself. The only exceptions provided under this section are aiding parents, children and or spouse. PG Muiz is Husnu Sood’s partner in their joint law firm Sood Muiz and Co. PG Muiz and Husnu Sood are both classmates and close cronies of President Mohamed Nasheed.
Last year, PG Muiz has also refrained from pursuing criminal charges against the then President-elect Mohamed Nasheed in the case where Nasheed had violated elections law by campaigning in the voting area while voting was ongoing. In that instance, PG Muiz withdrew the criminal charges against Nasheed.
Unverified sources report that the Falah case lodged by President Nasheed’s party MDP in order for it to create an excuse for public disorder and to intimidate the Judiciary. This was in anticipation of the court ruling in favor of DRP candidate Ghassan Maumoon in his case against the EC. Maakun Falah, infamous for his street gang and criminal activities, is a high profile organizer and gang leader of MDP street riots and intimidation activities targeting political opponents.
Weeks prior to Maakun Falah lodging his case, Ghassan Maumoon, the DRP candidate for Thaa Thimarafushi, had appealed to the High Court to invalidate the May 9th parliamentary vote in his constituency and order a fresh vote. It is reported that, in the even that Ghassan won his case, MDP had planned demonstrations outside the High Court to demand the same ruling for Maakun Falah. The similarity of the High Court appeal in both the Maakun Falah case and Ghassan Maumoon case lends credibility to these reports. However, in contrast to the Maakun Falah case which was pinned on the doctored document, compelling evidence was provided by Ghassan Maumoon to justify his claim that voting in his constituency had proceeded under fear and intimidation, and in violation of election laws and regulations. The High Court on June 11th ruled in his favour and ordered the EC to hold a fresh vote within 30 days of the court order. Following the dismissal of Maakun Falah’s case by the High Court, the MDP did try and organize riots outside the High Court, notably on days of court hearings in the Ghassan Maumoon case. However, these did not get much support.
Husnu Sood has also been indirectly warned of possible contempt of court charges because of his attempts to influence the Judiciary immediately after taking office as Attorney General. In Sood’s first public interview as Attorney General, he accused the Judiciary of purposefully delaying cases and thereby being negligent of its duty to deliver justice. Speaking volubly about the “long arm of the law”, Sood said in a press conference that the Herethere case had been delayed by the Judiciary without any adequate reason, resulting in the loss of rights and justice by several parties. He had promised to ensure that the Judiciary made a ruling on the case soon.
The very next day (June 4th), the Civil Court issued a public statement, warning that it would take action against any person interfering in the jurisdiction of the court. It appealed to all Maldivians to respect the Judiciary, stating that “Every individual should work to diligently discharge his/her responsibilities within his/her mandate, and should see this as the correct course of action, and should, out of respect, not willfully do anything that may diminish the standing of the Judiciary”.
This battle between the courts and Attorney General Sood continued last week, when the state television station Television Maldives broadcast a heavily biased program that repeated the Attorney General’s accusations of the Judiciary. The program “Q & A with Migdhaadh” was broadcast on June 9th. In addition to lambasting the Judiciary, it posed a Yes or No phone-in statement for viewer response. The statement, “Herethere case has been delayed because the Judiciary is drooping in its work”, was a repeat of Sood’s press statement on this issue. In reprisal, on June 10th, the Criminal Court ordered the Maldives Police Service to investigate the broadcast in order to determine whether the program had been broadcast with malicious intent to expressly create public mistrust of the Judiciary. The following day, the TVM repeated this program in defiance of the Court Order. It is not known how far the police have carried out its investigation.
Sood, a former judge, has been dogged by corruption charges since his days as a State Attorney. The most notable report is of a case in which he made a ruling in favor of Ibrahim Waheed of Medhuziyaaraiydhoshuge in return for him signing over half of his property to Sood’s wife.
With Prosecutor General Muiz continue to show his extreme partiality to his cronies and his former party the MDP, and acting in collusion with his partner Husnu Sood, the rights of Maldivians to justice and to equality before the law are likely to be just dreams under the Nasheed Administration.
Members of parliament have been called upon by the public to hold Prosecutor General accountable Muiz for neglecting his legal responsibilities by not pressing criminal charges against Sood. MPs have been requested by several members of the public to question PG Muiz on the issue while in session. The question is whether parliament will show the courage, daily demonstrated by the Judiciary now in protecting citizen rights.