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Lawyers file case to free Bodufinolhu detainees from Immigration custody

Shahudha Mohamed
04 August 2020, MVT 20:34
Expatriate workers at Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll. Thulhaadhoo Magistrate Court ordered RIX Pvt Ltd to assume responsibility for the workers and extradite them from the island immediately. PHOTO: MIHAARU FILES
Shahudha Mohamed
04 August 2020, MVT 20:34

The legal representatives of the expatriate workers arrested on Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll, filed a case at Criminal Court applying for a writ of habeas corpus, stating that Maldives Immigration was holding the expats in custody illegally.

A habeas corpus requires the judge to bring the suspect charged with a crime to the courtroom to hear what they have been charged with.

On July 2, 203 expatriate workers in Bodufinolhu protested over six months of unpaid wages and barred 13 local staff from leaving the island. Maldives Police Service arrested 19 individuals amid the operation to de-escalate the hostage situation.

Initially remanded for 15 days by the Eydhafushi Magistrate Court, the expatriates' detention period was extended again for a 15-day period by the Criminal Court on July 18.

The detainees were transferred from police custody to the Hulhumale' Detention Centre under the jurisdiction of Maldives Immigration on Monday.

According to the statement by the expats' legal team, police released them from custody because no charges were filed against the workers within the lawfully allocated time frame.

Moreover, the lawyers accused police of handing over the expats to Immigration for deportation against their will, but asserted that police do not have the power to do so regarding persons who have not violated the Maldives Immigration Act.

Noting that police did the aforementioned without informing the lawyers, the legal team stated that they were denied a meeting with Immigration over the matter.

The statement also highlighted that detaining the suspects in Immigration's Detention Centre is an act of torture under the Anti-Torture Act, as the Prisons and Parole Act does not recognise the facility as one where suspects can be lawfully detained.

Referring to these points, the legal team filed for a writ of habeas corpus, asserting that the expats were being detained illegally.

In 2019, Seal Maldives had contracted the construction work of Bodufinolhu, which is being developed as a luxury resort, to RIX Pvt Ltd, a company owned by the parliamentary representative for Shaviyani Atoll's Milandhoo constituency, Ali Riza.

Following the hostage situation, both companies issued conflicting statements regarding their respective contractual roles concerning the expatriate workers.

The state assumed custody of the migrants remaining on the island after RIX Pvt Ltd refused to claim responsibility for the workers citing misidentification of the company, dodging Thulhaadhoo Magistrate Court‘s order for RIX to extradite the expatriates from Bodufinolhu as per a request from Seal Maldives.

According to Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail, the migrant workers, reportedly extradited from the island on August 1, were transferred to a facility in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale' and will remain there until the salary dispute is resolved.