Maldives court denies deportation of Pakistani criminals

Written by: IANS
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Colombo, July 5: A Maldives court has denied ordering the deportation of two Pakistanis caught by police in the biggest drug bust in the history of the country, a statement said on Friday.

Four Maldivians, three Bangladeshis, and 11 Pakistanis were taken into custody on March 10 with 24 kg of heroin, which local media quoted police as saying was "the largest amount of drugs seized in a police operation conducted in the Maldives," Xinhua reported.

The drugs were transported in a vessel named 'Hormooz' registered in Iran, according to the Maldives police.

The 11 Pakistani nationals were the crew and captain of the Iranian boat. Local media reported in April the Iranian vessel was allowed to leave the country while six crew members were also released.

The Criminal Court has clarified ordering the deportation of foreign nationals was outside the court's jurisdiction. Media reports to the contrary were "based on false information," the court said.

The statement explained that a court order extending the remand detention of the Pakistani suspects to 15 days had instructed the police to transfer the pair to the custody of the Department of Immigration.

Police had stated at the remand hearing that the prosecutor general's office had decided to deport the suspects, the statement noted.

Drug smuggling is rampant in the Maldives with some non- governmental organisations estimating that as much as 75 percent of youth are involved in some form of substance abuse.

Heroine is considered to be the most smuggled drug. Research by Women Against Drugs and other non-government organisations suggest 80 percent of prisoners are incarcerated for drugs offences and punitive drug laws mean people are sentenced to extraordinary terms.

Young offenders are regularly ordered to serve decades of jail time. However, tough legal measures have had little effect motivating the Maldives government to reactivate the death penalty in March as a deterrent.


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