Saeed, known as Fahala, was among several journalists employed by the opposition Minivan News Group who were targeted with legal action in 2006. Saeed, a reporter for the Dhivehi-language newspaper Minivan Daily, was initially sentenced to a two-month term for refusing to take a urine test after he was first detained in October 2005. In April 2006, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges that he intended to sell drugs. His colleagues said they believed the charges were fabricated and that he was targeted to silence coverage that was critical of the government.
In the trial against Saeed, his lawyer argued that police planted drugs in the journalist’s clothing after calling him to the station for unspecified reasons. The lawyer said that police found no drugs during an initial search of the journalist’s pockets–while the lawyer was present–only to discover 1.1 grams of heroin after isolating Saeed and removing his clothes from view.
Minivan Daily, affiliated with the Maldivian Democracy Party, was established in July 2005 as the first daily newspaper not aligned with the government of Maldivian President Maumoon Gayoom. Gayoom ruled unchallenged from 1978 to October 2008, when he was unseated in the country’s first democratic presidential election by former political prisoner Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed.
Saeed was being held at high-security Maafushi Prison. Nazim Sattar, editor of the English-language Web site Minivan News, which is affiliated with the newspaper but has a separate editorial staff, told CPJ in October that the High Court hearings in the case were delayed for reasons that were not clear. Minivan means “independence” in Dhivehi.