Ex-tourism minister sentenced for contempt of court

Former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed has been sentenced to two months and twelve days in jail for contempt of court.

An appeal challenging the High Court's decision to allow online hearings in a criminal case against Ali Waheed was scheduled at the Supreme Court for 1300 hrs on Tuesday. However, Waheed, who is currently in the UK, failed to attend the hearing.

During Wednesday's hearing, SC Justice Husnu-al-Suood said court orders were issued to Ali Waheed to attend the hearing, and Ali's failure to attend the hearing obstructs the appeal case filed against him by the State. The justice said while Ali had received the order to present himself before the Supreme Court, his failure to attend the hearing is contempt of court, and his act of defiance must be punished by law. The court, therefore, sentenced him to two months and 12 days in jail. Suood's ruling was supported by Justices Ali Rasheed and Mohamed Ibrahim

Seven charges have been raised against the former tourism minister, who was dismissed from his post over sexual harassment allegations. The charges raised against Ali Waheed include inflicting sexual injury under Article 16 of Sexual Offences Act, attempted rape under Article 15 of the same act, indecent exposure under Section 132 of the Penal Code, sexual assault under Article 18 of the Sexual Offences Act, attempt to cause sexual assault under Article 19 of the Sexual Offences Act, and two counts of unlawful sexual conduct under section 412 and 81 of the Penal Code.

While the Criminal Court imposed a travel ban against Ali in July 2020, the Criminal Court earlier this year lifted the ban after doctors confirmed that Ali Waheed had to travel abroad to seek medical treatment. Ali then left the country in February and has not returned since. The former minister requested the Criminal Court to allow online hearings for his criminal case, and the request was granted by the court. However, the state said the hearings cannot be conducted online as Ali was not present in the Maldives, and the court does not have jurisdiction over Ali's current location. Although the Criminal Court's decision was appealed at the High Court, the upper court did not accept the case, after which the case was taken to the Supreme Court. The first appeal hearing for the case was initially scheduled for August 2, but was later rescheduled to August 11.