Former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed’s lawyers submitted a letter to the Criminal Court on Thursday morning, ahead of a hearing in the case against him on multiple charges of sexual violence.
A hearing in the case was scheduled at the court for 09:00 am this Thursday.
An official from Criminal Court told Sun that Ali Waheed’s lawyers have submitted a letter informing the court their client is unable to attend the hearing as he was arrested in the United Kingdom last Wednesday.
“The lawyers have sent a letter to the court. It says he is unable to attend the hearing as he is detained. We have not received any additional information,” said the court official.
Ali Waheed was arrested in the UK on Wednesday shortly before he was scheduled to hold a press conference.
Maldives police said they have not been informed of his arrest.
Ali Waheed was dismissed as Tourism Minister on July 9, 2020, following allegations that he sexually assaulted and harassed multiple female employees at the Tourism Ministry. He was initially asked to voluntarily resign but was dismissed after he refused.
He is on trial for seven charges of sexual violence; attempted rape, inflicting a sexual, indecent exposure, sexual assault, attempted 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. 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 last June.
Once in the UK, Ali Waheed filed a motion asking the Criminal Court to allow him to attend his hearings remotely. The motion was allowed by the court despite the objections of the Prosecutor General’s Office.
The Prosecutor General’s Office appealed the decision with the High Court, citing 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.
However, the appeal was rejected by the High Court, and the Prosecutor General's Office headed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court sentenced Ali Waheed to two months and 12 days in prison for contempt of court on August 11, after he failed to appear at the appeal hearing.