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#Maldives: Murder for "justice"? MDP's Velezinee vs. murdered MP Dr. Afraasheem

#Maldives: Over a week after the brutal murder of MP and moderate Muslim scholar Dr. Afraasheem Ali, authorities have yet to reveal details of the murder and subsequent arrests. Police confirmed three days ago that a fifth arrest had been made in relation to the murder. Social media report that all five are activists from former President Mohamed Nasheed's party Maldivian Democratic Party. Dr. Afraasheem was a public target of Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party, which went so far as to call him "Dr. Ibilis" (translation, "Dr. Devil). The MDP's hate speech against Dr. Afraasheem was part of their campaign against the country's Judiciary and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

The murder victim, at one time the JSC's Vice-President, was accused by Nasheed and his party as a "traitor" who violated the Constitution and appointed a "corrupt" Judiciary consisting of "his friends". The campaign against Dr. Afraasheem was led by Nasheed's close friend, his appointee to the JSC, Aishath Velezinee. Days before Dr. Afraasheem's murder, Nasheed launched a book by Velezinee, a compilation of vitriolic and defamatory accusations against Dr. Afraasheem and key members of the JSC, including Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid. These allegations have also been published in print, online papers and social media, led by Minivan News, a paper owned by Nasheed's college friend, Christian missionary David Hardingham.

Although Dr. Afraasheem is not alive today to defend himself against his accuser Aishath Velezinee, what the general public does not know is that the Judicial Services Commission had done so long ago, by way of a Press Release on August 3, 2010 which very specifically addressed Velezinee's allegations against the JSC and its actions.

Velezinee's book, titled "The Failed Silent Coup: In Defeat, They Reached for the Gun", is said to be an account of "what really happened" within the JSC in implementing the provisions relating to the Judiciary under the 2008 Constitution. Her narrative has been called by some an apologist's excuse for her mentor former President Mohamed Nasheed's military arrest and detention of this same Judge Abdulla Mohamed. Nasheed's criminal trial for these acts began yesterday amidst much international media exposure but very little local furor. Velezinee was Nasheed's Deputy Minister of Home Affairs from October 2011.

In summary, Velezinee's very long narrative accused both the JSC and Parliament of failing "to carry out [their] constitutional responsibilities", of violating the Constitution and "rendering it powerless". The sole reason for her allegations are given as failure to sack the "infamous" Judge Abdulla Mohamed, a man Velezinee says was "a threat to national security and social harmony". The acts of the JSC are condemned for its appointment of Judge Abdulla Mohamed to the Criminal Court bench. The JSC, she says, "committed major atrocities" and "hijacked the country’s judiciary and rendered its Constitution powerless".

Velezinee accuses three individuals of committing her alleged crimes: the then President of the JSC Judge Mujthaz Fahmy, representative of Parliament on the JSC and its Vice-President Dr. Afraasheem Ali, and Speaker of Parliament Abdull Shahid, also a JSC member by virtue of of his position as Speaker. Having condemned the three individuals for a number of instances in which they did not agree with her viewpoint on the qualifications of Judges to the bench, Velezinee then argues that the only recourse left to stop the "national security threat" of Judge Abdulla Mohamed was then President Nasheed.

In her book, Velezinee accuses murder victim Dr. Afraasheem obstructing the JSC's investigation of her allegations against Judge Abdulla. Noting that Dr. Afraasheem was a member of the the 3 member JSC Investigative Committee to investigate allegations against Judgee Abdulla Mohamed, Velezinee alleges, "Whenever a problem related to Abdulla Mohamed is raised at the Commission, Dr Afrasheem jumps to his defence. In several meetings, he has expressed the opinion that complaints against Abdulla Mohamed cannot be investigated. And, according to reliable information I have received, he has expressed the same view during meetings of the Investigative Committee itself".

Velezinee's book includes the text of one of her letter's to Parliament (8 March 2011) in which she accuses Dr. Afraasheem and Speaker Shahid of "putting the country into a dangerous situation". Her letter concludes the conduct of Speaker Shahid "and Dr Afrasheem Ali, who represents the Majlis at the Commission, obstructs the Commission’s efforts to fulfil its Constitutional obligations, putting the country into a dangerous situation ".

Dr. Afraasheem is further accused by Velezinee in her book of dismissing Article 285 of the Constitution, and by doing so compromising the independence of the Judiciary.

In a letter to Commissioner of Police Ahmed Faseeh, reproduced in her book and dated 13 January 2011, Velezinee makes the following "allegations of criminal wrongdoing": "Using the Judicial Service Commission to exert undue influence over judges; Making defamatory statements against me [Velezinee]; Obstructing the work of an independent commission established by the Constitution; Using the Judicial Service Commission to conduct, and attempt to conduct anti-State activities". Her list of "The Accused" in the letter includes Dr. Afraasheem Ali.

The JSC, in its Press Release of August 3, 2010, points out that the Standards for Judges, one cause of Velezinee's anger, was approved on 11 May 2010 by a majority decision of its 10 members who attended the session that day. It notes that the vote was taken after several discussions on the topic. It further notes that, on the day that the Standards were passed, the sole objection raised by "a few members" was towards approving the Standard's fourth criteria in the form that it was at the time.

The JSC reports that, subsequent to this, the JSC held another session on 27 July 2010, together with the "few members" who had queried on Criteria 4, to discuss the issues relating to this criteria. Nine members attended this meeting, including the few who had raised objections to it. The JSC reports that, after discussion amongst members Criteria 4 was modified, and Criteria 4 together with the amended Standards was again passed by vote at this session. All nine members in attendance voted in favour of the amended Standards, including the "two members" who had previously objected to the earlier version of Criteria 4.

Most importantly, the JSC notes that President's Nasheed's representative on the JSC Aishath Velezinee attended the meeting on the 27th of July (2010) and voted in favor of passing the amendment to Criteria 4 and in favor of passing the Standards as amended thus. The JSC reported that its Minutes of meeting and audio recordings of these minutes will testify to these statements.

The JSC's press release goes on to demolish Velezinee's charges of its actions as illegal and unconstitutional by stating several legal arguments defending the right of the JSC to make and implement the Standards and the unanimouse decision of the JSC in approving the amended Standards. Its core arguments are the Standards meet all the legal requirements in the Constitution and in the relevant laws and regulations, including the Law on the Judicial Services Commission. A further argument is that the Constitution states that the lack of law on a particular subject should not be an impediment to fulfilling a legal right enshrined in the Constitution.

The JSC further points out that, under the Constitution, every individual has the right to work and that an individual is deemed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. On this and other legal bases, the JSC notes that a judge, as any other individual, cannot be deemed guilty based on allegations but that guilt, if any, must be determined by a court of law. As such, it argues that a Judge cannot be sacked nor prevented from right to work merely on the basis of an allegation of a crime.

In defending its decisions on judges, the JSC cites Article 14 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights which states ""Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law”. It further cites Article 11 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which states that "“Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has all the guarantees necessary for his defence”.

Dr. Afraasheem's murder has raised concerns in the media as to the role of gangs in increasing violence in the country. It has also raised concerns about the links between political parties and gangs. Politicians have called for strengthening laws on gang violence, increased policing and for implementing current laws. However, little has been said about the role of hate speech such as Velezinee's in inciting violence against a particular individual or group of people. It cannot be denied that Velezinee's highly defamatory attacks on Dr. Afraasheem and other members of the Judicial Services Commission and Judge Abdulla Mohamed are an incitement to vigilante justice by those who may not be aware of the truth. Or who do not even care about the truth.

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