High Court denies request for seizure of Ali Waheed’s passport

Former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed at a press conference on March 8, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

High Court ruled on Wednesday that it is unable to issue an order to confiscate the passport of former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed - who is in the United Kingdom as he stands trial for charges of sexual violence against multiple women in Maldives. 

The court ruled judges do not have the legal prerogative to seize the passport of someone who has travelled out of Maldives, and that motions for seizure of a passport or travel document must be submitted while the person in question remains in a location within the jurisdiction of Maldives. 

Ali Waheed was dismissed as Tourism Minister on July 9, 2020, after allegations that he sexually assaulted and harassed multiple female employees at the Tourism Ministry was brought to the attention of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. He was initially asked to voluntarily resign, but was dismissed after he refused.

He has been pressed with seven charges; attempted rape, inflicting a sexual, indecent exposure, sexual assault, attempt to cause sexual assault, and two counts of unlawful sexual contact.

He initially had a travel ban order against him, but the Criminal Court temporarily released his passport and allowed him to travel overseas for medical treatment on February 9, despite requests by the Prosecutor General's Office not to release his passport and grant him temporary travel papers instead.  He promptly left for the UK.

Ali Waheed failed to return to Maldives despite the fact that the four-month period granted by the court for his travel overseas expired in June. He had been allowed to travel overseas after State Minister for Sports Assad Ali, one of Ali Waheed’s closest allies, signed as the guarantor for his return. However, the Prosecutor General's Office has stated that had travelled out of Maldives before the court released his passport.

Prosecutor General's Office had submitted a motion to seize Ali Waheed's passport in June, but Criminal Court Judge Hassan Saeed rejected the motion in July, citing lack of reason for the seizure of the passport.

The Prosecutor General's Office appealed the decision with the High Court.

Once in the UK, Ali Waheed had filed a motion asking the Criminal Court to allow him to attend his hearings remotely. The motion was allowed by Judge Hassan Saeed despite the objections of the Prosecutor General’s Office, which argued that holding a hearing via video conferencing in a criminal trial with the defendant in a location outside of Maldives’ jurisdiction is in violation of Criminal Procedure Code, and that the court will not have the jurisdiction to penalize the defendant, even if he acts in contempt of the court. 

The decision was contested by the Prosecutor General’s Office with the High Court, which dismissed the appeal in July, citing lack of judicial and legal basis to hear the appeal.

The Prosecutor General’s Office filed a subsequent appeal with the Supreme Court, which issued an interim order instructing the Criminal Court not to hold any remote hearings in the case while Ali Waheed remains overseas until the court makes a decision earlier this week.

The Supreme Court sentenced Ali Waheed to two months and 12 days in prison for contempt of court in August after he failed to appear at the appeal hearing.

He was also recently detained by British authorities for overstaying his visa.