Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Tuesday condemned the jailing of opposition aligned lawmaker Ahmed Mahloof describing it as another example of judicial perpetuation of the government’s policy of oppression.
The independent MP for South Galolhu who is also the spokesperson for the newly formed Maldives United Opposition (MOU) was sentenced to four months and 24 days in prison after the criminal court found him guilty of of obstructing police officers during an opposition protest in April.
MDP in a statement condemned this sentencing as both yet another act of suppression of free speech and a further attack against the peaceful political opposition in the country.
"We strongly believe that by the jailing of such a prominent figure as MP Mahloof, the Government is sending a message that dissent of any kind will not be tolerated, even by elected officials," the statement read.
Mihaaru has been unable to obtain details of the verdict as the sentencing hearing was held behind closed doors.
However, Mahloof’s lawyer Abdulla Haseen had said the defence had urged the court for a fine instead of a prison sentence. But the prosecution had insisted on jail term, Haseen added.
The charge of obstructing police duty carries either a fine of no more than MVR12,000 or a jail sentence of six months, under the old penal code.
Hours before the verdict, Mahloof had said he expected a prison sentence but insisted he remains steadfast in his efforts against the government.
Speaking to reporters outside the court Mahloof had said he expected a jail sentence which he alleged was on orders of president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
However, Mahloof who has been an outspoken critic of President Yameen since his expulsion from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) last year insisted that he would continue his efforts against the government despite the verdict.
“I would of course be sad if I have to be away from my family. But that would not shake my resolve,” he added.
Mahloof joins the ranks of high-profile politicians and state officials jailed since March last year, which now include a former president, two former defence ministers, a ruling party MP, an opposition party leader, a former vice president, a senior military officer, a former chief prosecutor, and a magistrate.
Mahloof would not however lose his parliamentary seat as a sitting MP would only be stripped of his seat if sentenced to more than one year in prison.