The Criminal Court has sentenced Jumhoory Party leader Qasim Ibrahim to three years and two months in jail, after finding him guilty of attempting to bribe lawmakers.
The court announced the verdict in absentia during the early hours of Friday morning. Maamigili MP Qasim was abruptly summoned around 10:30 p.m. late Thursday to a final hearing that would be held at 11:00 p.m. However, the ailing lawmaker who was hospitalized after fainting at the Criminal Court during a hearing that was held earlier that day, could not attend the abrupt hearing and the verdict was announced in absentia.
With this verdict, Qasim has also lost his seat in parliament as sitting lawmakers that serve jail sentences exceeding 12 months are automatically disqualified.
The verdict also ordered authorities to make arrangements for Qasim to receive the treatments his ailing condition requires from abroad.
The local tycoon is convicted of bribery over his comments during an opposition rally last March 26. Qasim had promised allowances and “all that can be done” to elect the lawmakers, who vote in favour of the opposition-lobbied censure motion against the parliament speaker, for another term in parliament. Promising electoral tickets to such MPs, Qasim had declared that the four united political parties of the joint opposition would aid the lawmakers for their votes, naming the united parties as Jumhoory Party, Maldivian Democratic Party, Adhaalath Party and opposition-aligned members of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives.
Following Qasim’s statements, Police launched the investigation into his bribery case on the night of March 30.
However, Qasim is suffering from a heart disease and his heart condition has been growing worse over the months. His hospitalization on Thursday afternoon after he fainted in court is the third time for the lawmaker to be admitted during his trial, and his doctors have released official documents warning that Qasim is in urgent need of a surgery that is unavailable in the Maldives. In the latest document signed by his doctor on Thursday, the lawmaker was urgently referred to be sent abroad for treatment, warning that further delays may exacerbate his condition to the point of life-threatening.
While Qasim’s family and lawyers have on multiple counts requested permission from authorities to travel abroad to treat his ailment, the state has refused due to his trial. The judiciary had also imposed a travel ban on Qasim on July 16, seizing his passport.
However, with the Criminal Court’s verdict ordering authorities to make arrangements for Qasim to receive treatment abroad, the travel ban has been overturned.
Officers of Maldives Correctional Service took charge of Qasim on Friday afternoon. However, Correctional Service assured that the officers will be looking over Qasim in Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) where he is admitted, as the lawmaker is in no condition to be taken to jail. They added that other decisions will be taken only after the hospital discharges him.
Following the Criminal Court’s verdict, Qasim’s lawyers have also vowed to appeal his verdict as soon as they receive the official documents. Noting that proceeding with a criminal trial in absentia has not been done since the Maldivian Constitution came into effect nine years ago, lawyer Hisaan Hussain said that Qasim’s trial proceedings may have negative repercussions on the Criminal Justice System. She added that criminal trials held in absentia is extremely worrying from the perspective of a lawyer.
Meanwhile, Jumhoory Party’s Secretary General Ahmed Sameer has stated that they are prepared to immediately send Qasim abroad for medication as soon as they receive official permission.