17 February 2016, Male; The Criminal Court in the Maldives sentenced the leader of the Adhaalath Party, Sheikh Imran Abdulla to 12 years in prison for inciting violence at a demonstration organised by his Party on 1 May 2015. In his speech to the crowd at the demonstration, Sheikh Imran incited those present to commit acts of violence. His speech was seized and acted upon by numerous individuals who went on to vandalise public property, and thereafter individuals attacked law enforcement officials who were attempting to ensure the protest passed peacefully.
Such actions will not be tolerated in the Maldives, and any individual shown to have committed such offences will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of their position. Until few days before the demonstration, Sheikh Imran’s party was in coalition with the ruling party, and the Party’s senior figures were at high ranking positions in the Government.
It is essential in any democracy, and particularly in a developing democracy such as the Maldives that fundamental rights and freedoms are encouraged and upheld. However, such freedoms do not grant an individual carte blanche to act in any manner that they see fit, especially when those actions are at the detriment of the safety of others and society as a whole.
Fundamental rights and freedoms such as the right to protest and the right to freedom of expression are essential, and encouraged within the Maldives. However, such rights must only be exercised within the confines of the law.
Sheikh Abdulla as his conviction and sentence shows, has acted outside of the law, and this cannot be tolerated else chaos will reign.
The world faces an existential threat from extremist ideologies and the Maldives is committed to ensuring that such ideologies are not allowed to prosper within these islands.
Extremism does not necessarily take the form of religious extremism; a call by an individual to commit violence in the name of a political ideology is as dangerous, and must be dealt with in the same way.
The Government of the Maldives is steadfast in its campaign against such actions, whilst at the same time allowing citizens to protest, and to criticise where they wish, as it is steadfast in its commitment to justice.