Dhiggaru MP Faris Maumoon’s attorneys on Thursday claimed that the MP had used ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)’s flag and logo with permission of the party’s then-leader.
MP Faris currently has two on-going cases at the court – he is charged with attempted bribery for allegedly bribing lawmakers before the historic censure motion against the parliament’s speaker Abdullah Maseeh in late March, and for unlawfully using the ruling party’s flag and logo at a press conference held with the opposition coalition.
During Thursday’s trial at the Criminal Court for the latter charge, the Dhiggaru MP’s attorney Ibrahim Shameel said that he had used the party’s flag with the permission of the party’s then-leader, and MP Faris’s father, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Further, his attorney had claimed that there was not enough grounds to move forward with the case as it is in relation to the regulations of the Political Parties Act, and that the act does not criminalise misuse of a party’s insignia.
State prosecution had responded by stating that the Civil Court had conferred all authority and decision-making rights to the party’s premier President Abdulla Yameen at the time MP Faris used the flag, and that only the president - or the party's premier - has the authority to decide who will be representing the party on various platforms.
The prosecution presented the Civil Court’s order, which was backed by the High Court and the Supreme Court, as evidence to the Criminal Court on Thursday.
In response to the state’s claim, MP Faris’ attorney Maumoon Hameed asked the prosecution to refer to the ruling party’s regulation as it would state that the party’s premier does not hold any decision-making authority within the party.
Further, Hameed raised questions about the process in which the MP was kicked off the parliament’s Petition Committee. Hameed noted how MP Faris was kicked out of the committee on the request of PPM’s parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan, when MP Faris had already been ousted from the party.
“When the state wants to implicate MP Faris, he isn’t regarded as a member of PPM; but if it wants to deny the MP of his constitutional rights as a parliamentarian, he is conveniently regarded as a PPM member,” Hameed said at the court.
During Thursday’s trial, both sides had presented their arguments and evidence to the court. MP Faris submitted six appeals to the court, which include a request to withdraw the charge, claiming that he is being denied his fundamental rights. He is also requesting the state to reveal any evidence supporting his defence, and for a temporary halt to the trial. The defence also claims that the investigation into his case was conducted unlawfully
The MP’s attorneys requested a temporary halt on the trial as the regulations for the newly formed Criminal Procedure Act have not been compiled yet.
However, the prosecution reiterated how the state has three months to compile the regulations, and if they halt MP Faris’ trial, it would set a precedent to temporarily halt all other criminal cases at the court, the prosecution claimed. Therefore, this request was denied.
Judge Ibrahim Ali, who is overseeing the case, ended Thursday’s hearing by saying that they would respond to the appeals filed by MP Faris next Sunday.
PPM had heavily condemned MP Faris’ use of the party’s flag alongside opposition flags and claimed that he had tainted the party’s “good name.”
MP Faris still remains in police custody at Dhoonidhoo prison.