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The Luthfee Letters Part 3
Court administrator sabotages Maldives High Court proceedings
by Ibrahim Luthfee
Male' 1999
translated by Maldives Culture editors

Parts 1 and 2 of the Luthfee Letters explained how Ibrahim Luthfee refused, politely, to rent his home to the Maldives Minister of Health Ahmed Abdullah, who wanted to use the building for the operations of the Miadhu newspaper.
From that time, Luthfee experienced sustained personal and legal harassment from certain members of his family and government officials.

Cancellation of the Building Agreement

ibrahim luthfee 1996
Ibrahim Luthfee 1996

After being released from detention, the first thing I did was deposit the outstanding rent for the building at the Civil Court. Shortly after, a court action for delayed payment of rent was raised against me and there was a trial.

In the court, I read out a detailed statement describing the trap these people had laid for me. The magistrate was pre-occupied in reading a report on some other matter. I am sure he did not follow what I said in court. When I complained to the chief magistrate about this, the trial magistrate hastily made a decision that the agreement had been terminated.

I was unhappy with this decision, and I went to see the Minister for Justice and discussed the matter with him. He expressed regret and said if he was informed prior to the judgment, he would have had another magistrate determine the case. He also advised me to appeal the decision without delay.

The Building Agreement trial proceedings in High Court
I appealed to the High Court because I was completely dissatisfied about the decision of the Civil Court. I made the appeal on 31 December 1998.

On the first day (15 February 1999) of the hearing, the court heard, in a very fair and just manner, the submissions from both sides in the dispute .

Some significant exchanges from the trial:
The Judge to Ismail Manik and myself:
'When this decision was made, was there any outstanding rent money owed by Ibrahim Moosa Luthfee to Ismail Manik that was not deposited at the Civil Court?'

Ismail Manik: 'If the rent was deposited at the Civil Court, I wasn't aware of it.'

Myself: 'I have deposited all the rent money owed. Immediately after I was released from detention, I deposited all outstanding rent. It is not my problem that Ismail Manik was not notified about the deposited money .'

Judge: 'Where is receipt for the deposited rent money?'

Myself: 'All the documentation is there, along with the receipts given for money deposited at the Civil Court.'

Judge: 'Did you take Rf650,000 cash and Rf75,000 to pay a bank loan from Ibrahim?'

Ismail Manik: 'What Ibrahim has done for me as a son-in-law is irrelevant to this court case.'

Myself: 'Ismail Manik took that money from me on the basis of the agreements between us with regard to this building, and those agreements were only verbal.'

In this fair and just environment, the court heard the story from each side, providing time for each party. At the end of the allocated time for the court session, there still remained a great deal to be said on both sides. I had very important issues to raise, and I mentioned this. I was told the court was adjourning and 'the time for today's court is over and you will be notified of the date for the continuation of the trial.'

Early in April 1999, on a day of very heavy rain in Malé, I was summoned to attend the High Court. The notice informed me I was 'to sign the statement'. But due to the heavy rains and other reasons, I did not attend to the court to sign the statement. I attended two days later and refused to sign the statement.

Late in the afternoon of 7 April 1999, a summons arrived by post for me. It said to attend the court on that very day at 8.45 in the morning. When the person who received it pointed this out, the postman checked it and took it back with him. The following day at 8.00 am the assistant secretary of the High Court, Faheema, phoned me and told me that the date on the notice was a mistake, and it had been arranged to hold the trial on that day (8 April 1999) at 8.45 am. She asked me if I could attend the Court. I said usually I write down in point form the things I would like to say in court, before the proceedings. In such a short time, I could not prepare for such a serious trial. So when I asked her what should be done about it, she said she would mention it to the judge and phone back, but I heard nothing on that day and there was no news after that.

The following Saturday, someone phoned me and said there was a public announcement on radio about me being missing. I phoned Ibrahim Sobir, administrator of the High Court, and when I asked him why there was a public radio announcement about me being missing, he said that the government had endless options to achieve its aims, and they are looking for me to keep me in detention so they could finalise the court case.

I told Sobir not to joke, because I have been imprisoned so many times and have been subject to severe punishment. When he mentioned detention, it stressed me immensely. So I told him to stop making fun, and to take me seriously.

Sobir said that he was not joking, and that the next day they would deliver the final decision even if it meant keeping me under detention.

When an official of the High Court said such unlawful things so openly, I was particularly alarmed and I complained about it. I was the person who had appealed to the High Court, and although the court had written down a wrong date on the summons, it had been decided I was the one who had failed to attend to the court and I deserved public humiliation.

Sobir said that when I attend to High Court the next day, all would be clear to me.

I pointed out that, at the back of the court notice, it was stated according to the rules of the High Court that in the event of failure by the appellant (claimant) to attend the court, on the first notice the court would consider the appellant had dropped the claim temporarily. Failure to attend the court, on the second notification, would make the court conclude that the claimant had dropped the claim altogether. Since this was on the back of the court notice, and I was the claimant, and at the same time the High Court had written the wrong date on the notice for attendance, was that also my mistake? And I asked whether it was not a serious mistake to announce my name over the radio?

Sobir's reply was that all would become clear when I attend the court the next day.

The next day, I went to the High Court and asked why my name was broadcast on radio. The court secretary said with surprise, 'Is that so!' Then she asked assistant secretary Faheema, who confirmed it. When Faheema was asked on who's instruction that had been done, I overheard her say that it was on the instructions of Sobir.

On that very day, the trial was held and without saying anything, the judge just gave the verdict upholding the decision of the civil court. Without asking me whether I had anything further to say, or even saying that he was about to pass the judgment, he just gave the verdict. When this happened so suddenly, I was very alarmed.

I requested an appointment about the judgment with the Chief Justice of the High Court, Faleelathul Sheikh Mohamed Rasheed Ibrahim. The reply I received was, 'This is a matter prohibited by the government'. Due to the seriousness of the situation, I wrote a second letter stating how important it was to grant me an appointment, but I have not yet received a reply.

At the time of writing, there was no ongoing case involving me in the High Court. When I requested an appointment, my case had been finalised. So I was very surprised that the government had a prohibition on speaking to me.

State prosecution alleges I assaulted Ismail Zahir
Shortly after the High Court decision on my appeal regarding the termination of the building agreement, the state brought a case against me about the dispute between myself and Ismail Zahir in the Criminal Court.

Earlier, when I had tried to press charges against Ismail Manik for bashing me on the mouth (the evidence of my injuries was clearly available in a doctor's certificate), and at the same time complained about him entering our house and committing assault, both matters were ignored.

When the state prosecution raised its allegations in court, I explained in detail to Magistrate Bakr how Ismail Manik and Ismail Zahir had behaved. The prosecution alleged that I hit Zahir with my hand. There was a medical report saying the blow caused a cut. I acted out how he hit me, to show the magistrate, and I requested that Zahir show the scar of the cut on his leg and that he be questioned in court. Magistrate Bakr said Zahir could be summoned. The magistrate relied heavily on Zahir's medical report. I said that I was arrested less than half an hour after the incident, even though I was the one who made a complaint on the matter. Now the situation has been reversed. I added that if I was allowed to be free, the way he was, I would have been able to produce a medical report like his.

When I was asked if I had admitted to hitting Ismail Zahir on the leg, I replied that when a person is being physically attacked by another, not to react to defend oneself is inconceivable to a reasonable person.

On that very day, the court made the decision that I was guilty, disregarding the facts entirely. The sentence was, 'While Luthfee and his brother-in-law Ismail Zahir were leaving a civil court session, Luthfee lifted up his leg and hit Zahir somewhere on the leg. He has admitted to this during the investigation, and the court finds that this was an act of assault and Luthfee is fined Rf200/- (US$16). The case is concluded.'

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