A government official on Friday defended the decision to mitigate the life sentence imposed on a drug trafficker, citing good behaviour.
Abdulla Sofwath was sentenced to 25 years in jail on March 27, 2017, over trafficking 24kg of drugs into the country via sea in March 2014.
His sentence was mitigated and he was released on July 29 this year, a decision that largely drew public criticism.
Regarding the issue, the government official stated that Sofwath’s sentence was lessened as per the Clemency Act over his good behaviour during incarceration.
Noting that the Act gave the president absolute authority to grant clemency, the official highlighted that the law allowed convicts to request for clemency after serving a quarter of their sentence.
“For a person serving 25 years, that amounts to six years and two months”, they said, explaining that the period of incarceration is counted not from the day of conviction, but from their detention during the criminal investigation.
Furthermore, the official emphasized that several factors are taken into account before granting clemency, such as their records, good behaviour, and the counsel of Maldives Correctional Services’ regarding their rehabilitation.
“The report filed by Sofwath’s director of corrections is the best one I’ve seen so far”, they said.
“Everyone at Corrections, including the whole management, were of the opinion that Sofwath has turned over a new leaf and was fit to be released. At the time, I recall he was the imam (leader of Islamic prayer congregations) at the prison”.
The official did not clarify the exact length of Sofwath’s sentence that was mitigated.
Moreover, they noted that Ismail Moosa, who was arrested and sentenced for life in the same case, was not released unlike Sofwath.
“He was the mastermind. We won’t release him. As I said, we consider a lot of details before taking the decision [to grant clemency]”.
A number of other inmates convicted of drug trafficking have also received mitigated sentences and been released, per the latest drug act.
According to the official, several such individuals were sentenced to 25 years or received long sentences despite their crime not constituting drug trafficking. The official stated that 50-60 such persons received mitigated sentences under the new act and were released, during the current administration.
The official reiterated that convicts serving life sentences could receive clemency under the law, further refuting public criticism. They stated that should it be otherwise, it would be reflected as such in the law.
Under the current Clemency Act, drug traffickers cannot be granted full pardons although they may receive mitigated sentences and other leniencies.