Police again arrested Jumhoory Party (JP) leader and lawmaker of Maamigili constituency Qasim Ibrahim late Thursday.
According to JP’s spokesperson Ali Solih, a large number of police officers arrested Qasim with a court order around 12:10 a.m. from his residence at Maafannuvilla in capital Male.
The court order again read that Qasim is arrested on charges of bribery and working to illicitly topple the government. However, unlike his previous arrest, the court order expanded the reasons for his arrest and was issued on request of Prosecutor General Aishath Bisham.
The order, issued by Chief Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf of the Criminal Court, accused Qasim Ibrahim of influencing lawmakers to gain 42 signatures for the opposition’s petition to seek a motion of no confidence against Parliament Speaker Abdulla Maseeh soon after the parliament passed a bill that a minimum of 42 signatures are required to submit a no confidence vote against the speaker and deputy speaker. The court order also read that Qasim has been working to influence the armed forces and judicial judges as well as incite fear and discord among the public.
Stating that Qasim’s speeches in the series of opposition rallies being held in JP’s main hub all support the accusations, which are currently under investigation, the court order explained that his freedom would hinder the investigation as well as provide the opportunity for Qasim to tamper with or get rid of evidence. The order added that his presence in the local community is currently considered a danger.
Maldives Police Service in a tweet said that Qasim is arrested again in connection with “an ongoing investigation”.
Meanwhile, Jumhoory Party declared in a statement that Qasim Ibrahim was arrested abruptly while he was at home without any opportunities to meet with his family members or legal team. JP also claimed that Qasim Ibrahim was again being kept in a small cell with little ventilation, an aspect forbidden by the Criminal Court to the police on account of Qasim’s poor health. JP has called on the authorities to correct the problem.
Meanwhile, politicians of the opposition have slammed his second arrest on social media and called on the government to release the lawmaker immediately.
The former Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer declared in a tweet, “No government has ever been re-elected after it arrests Qasim. For them it’s another way of signing their own ‘political death certificate’.”
He was referring to the former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed, during whose regimes Qasim was arrested. Maumoon had failed the Presidential Elections 2008 to Nasheed, and Nasheed had lost the Presidential Elections 2013 to incumbent President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
Former President Nasheed also censured the arrest, saying in a tweet, “Such actions will destabilise Maldives & the Indian Ocean. International community must take action.”
Qasim was previously arrested on April 7 under accusations of attempting to bribe parliamentarians and working to overturn a lawfully elected government. While the Criminal Court had added six days to his remand, his release was ultimately ordered by the High Court as his arrest violated the Parliamentary Privileges Act.
The Parliamentary Privileges Act states that unless a lawmaker is found in the act of a criminal offence, he or she may only be arrested for a criminal charge by an order of a superior court or a court above it. Moreover, such a request may only be made by the Prosecutor General (PG) if a lawmaker’s arrest is required by any investigative forces. Qasim’s arrest order was initially issued on request of the police.
Prior to and between his arrests, Qasim was summoned to Police on numerous occasions for questioning over the accusations against him, including attempted bribery and influencing the armed forces and judiciary. Police had also raided his residence and main company building under a court order to search for evidence to back the allegations but came up empty handed. Police have also confiscated his mobile phone and put a travel ban on the lawmaker.
Meanwhile, the state has pressed three charges against Qasim for attempted bribery, coercion with regards to official duties and undue influence on voters. His trial at the Criminal Court is currently ongoing and Qasim is to provide his defence in the next hearing coming Sunday.