Nasheed’s sentence was commuted to house arrest before state decision to appeal

Questioning the state’s decision to appeal a terrorism conviction against former President Mohamed Nasheed, lawyers revealed today that the opposition leader’s 13-year jail sentence was commuted to house arrest on July 19.

“The government of the Maldives has permanently moved President Nasheed to house arrest for the balance of his 13-year term in prison,” the opposition leader international lawyer Jared Genser told reporters in Colombo this afternoon.

The Maldivian high commission in Sri Lanka confirmed the move to AFP. Nasheed’s domestic legal team told Minivan News the decision had been communicated in writing.

The PG office announced the decision to appeal the guilty verdict yesterday amidst rumours that President Abdulla Yameen will pardon Nasheed in exchange for the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) backing for several crucial votes in parliament.

Speaking at a press conference in Malé today, lawyer Hassan Latheef said the legal team believes the government has exerted undue influence over the PG to appeal the case in a bid to appease growing international pressure.

The European parliament, the British prime minister, the US secretary of state, the UN Human Rights Council and various international organisations have called for Nasheed’s release, Latheef noted, adding that the legal team had expected the former president to be pardoned as a result of talks.

But President Yameen could now “tell the international community that President Nasheed’s case is out of his hands,” Latheef suggested.

“We believe that there is intense foreign pressure on the government to release President Nasheed and the case was on President Yameen’s table. But we now believe that the government has sent the case to the prosecutor general’s table,” he said.

The government will be able to tell the numerous foreign diplomats expected to arrive in the Maldives to attend an official function to celebrate 50 years of independence on July 26 that Nasheed’s case has been appealed by the state, Latheef said.

Some diplomats would accept that the president could not intervene in the judicial process or grant clemency before the appeal process is exhausted, he added.

Latheef said the legal team will decide whether or not to participate in the “charade” following consultations with Nasheed’s international lawyers. The state’s sudden reversal of stance may affect ongoing talks between the opposition and the government, lawyers suggested.

Genser meanwhile told reporters today that he was denied a business visa to work in the Maldives last week and was told that he needed further authorisation from the Supreme Court certifying that he was licensed to practise law internationally.

“There is no Maldivian law, regulation, or rule that imposes such a requirement on applicants for business visas who are lawyers – it appears the Supreme Court specially designed this requirement just for me,” he said.

Genser is representing Nasheed along with Amal Clooney, the wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, and Ben Emmerson, a UN rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights. The international lawyers have filed an appeal at the UN working group on arbitrary detention seeking a judgment declaring Nasheed’s imprisonment illegal.

Appeal

In a brief statement yesterday, the PG office said the decision to appeal the conviction was made based on concerns raised over due process in the trial and Nasheed’s request for the PG to appeal the conviction as well as his contentions over procedural violations, insufficient time to mount a defence, and inability to appeal due to the criminal court’s failure to provide a full report and transcripts of the trial within a 10-day period for filing appeals.

Lawyer Hisaan Hussain noted that Muhsin had repeatedly rejected requests for the state to appeal the conviction, insisting that Nasheed could file an appeal despite the lapse of a 10-day period and that the PG would not appeal a verdict in his favour.

The PG’s sudden reversal of stance while talks seeking Nasheed’s release were ongoing “raises questions about his purpose and intent,” Hisaan said.

Muhsin told the press in May that he believed Nasheed’s appeal had “a high possibility of being accepted at the high court since Nasheed is a former president, since it is related to a judge and since it is a terrorism charge.”

The Supreme Court had shortened the appeal period  from 90 days to 10 by striking down provisions in the Judicature Act a month before Nasheed’s arrest on February 22.

Last month, the High Court, citing lateness, rejected an appeal filed by the Prosecutor General over the acquittal of a defendant on murder charges.

On June 20, President Yameen rejected Nasheed’s appeal for clemency, urging him to exhaust all appeal processes first. The opposition leader’s lawyers say that the Clemency Act grants the president the discretion, on the president’s own initiative, to commute the sentence of any individual convicted of a criminal offence.

The next day, Nasheed was transferred to house arrest for eight weeks.

Shortly thereafter, the MDP and the government began talks on clemency for Nasheed and other jailed politicians as well as the withdrawal of charges against some 1,400 opposition supporters.

Opposition MPs subsequently backed the impeachment of vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel and a constitutional amendment setting new age limits for the presidency and vice presidency. The amendment allowed President Yameen to replace Jameel with the influential tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

The MDP also issued a free whip on a second constitutional amendment to allow foreign freeholds in the Maldives. Some 19 opposition MPs, including ten MDP MPs, voted to pass the amendment.

At the fourth meeting of talks last week, MDP representative Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had suggested that Nasheed may be released before July 26.

The UN working group on arbitrary detention is meanwhile expected to rule on Nasheed’s imprisonment in September or October. In a response to the UN, the government insisted Nasheed must appeal the sentence.

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Government tight-lipped over rumors of a pardon for Nasheed

Attorney General Mohamed Anil today dampened talk of an imminent pardon for former president Mohamed Nasheed and the commutation of ex defense minister Mohamed Nazim’s jail sentence to house arrest, saying he is yet to receive any information on the matter.

“Such matters will be dealt with through established procedures in the criminal justice system… It will not happen without my knowledge. I have not received any information yet,” he told the press.

Newly appointed vice president Ahmed Adeeb meanwhile dodged answering repeated questions on Nasheed’s pardon at a press conference held on the ratification of a second constitutional amendment that will allow foreigners to own land in the Maldives.

“Our administration will bring about economic reforms and will show generosity and compassion to the public. And God willing, in the instance we have to issue pardons, we will do so,” he said.

At a separate press conference, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon dismissed rumors that Nasheed had been invited to the official function to celebrate 50 years of independence on July 26.

“Former president Nasheed is currently serving a sentence after being found guilty in court of law so I don’t think an invitation will be sent to attend a ceremony,” she said.

Nasheed was transferred to house arrest in late June. His trial was widely criticised by foreign governments and international bodies including the UN over lack of due process.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the European Union parliament and influential U.S. Senators have called for his immediate release.

The government and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) are engaged in negotiations over Nasheed’s freedom, clemency for jailed politicians and withdrawal of charges against some 1400 opposition supporters including the president of Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla.

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the MDP’s parliamentary group leader, suggested last week that Nasheed may be released by July 26. His remarks came following a third meeting of talks between the MDP and the government.

However, at the same press conference, home minister Umar Naseer said the government had made no commitments to release jailed politicians, but reiterated that the government stands ready to make compromises for long-term stability.

The opposition has backed several government proposals this week in the hope of freedom for Nasheed. These include a first amendment to the constitution, which sets new age limits of 30-65 years for the presidency and vice presidency, and the impeachment of vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

The age limits allowed President Yameen to replace Jameel with influential tourism minister Adeeb. Some 70 MPs of the 85-member house approved Adeeb’s nomination yesterday.

The backing of some 19 opposition MPs yesterday was crucial to pass the second constitutional amendment on foreign freeholds. The MDP had issued a free whip for the vote.

The fourth meeting of talks between the MDP and the government was scheduled for Tuesday. But it did not take place due to the extraordinary parliament session on foreign freeholds.

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‘Drug trafficker’ acquitted on lapses highlighted in former president’s trial

Citing severe procedural irregularities, the Supreme Court on Thursday acquitted a man sentenced to life in prison over drug trafficking charges.

The unprecedented ruling deals with similar lapses noted by former president Mohamed Nasheed and former defense minister Mohamed Nazim, who were sentenced to jail on terrorism and weapons smuggling charges, respectively.

In acquitting Abdulla Unais, the Supreme Court said he was not given access to a lawyer or the opportunity to call defense witnesses.

Unais was arrested in Addu City in May 2012. Police officers found more than 46 grams of heroin in envelopes on the ground at the time of his arrest and in his trouser pockets.

Unais had denied charges and claims he was framed by police officers.

The Supreme Court said the lower courts should have investigated Unais’ claims of a police set-up by verifying if the accused police officer had left any fingerprints on the envelope. The ruling went onto question the validity of the police officer’s testimony.

The criminal court’s sentencing of Unais without providing access to legal counsel contravenes the constitution, which states that the government must set lawyers for individuals accused in serious crimes, the ruling said.

Unais, who had remained in police custody throughout the duration of his trial, had repeatedly told the criminal court he was unable to hire a lawyer, the Supreme Court said.

Nasheed, in a petition to the UN working group on arbitrary detention, noted that he was denied legal counsel at a first hearing. Then, when his lawyers recused themselves in protest over the criminal court’s refusal to provide sufficient time to prepare defense, judges proceeded with hearings, despite Nasheed’s repeated request to hire new lawyers.

The government maintains due process was followed. A ruling is expected in September or October.

Nasheed’s 19-day trial was criticized by foreign governments and UN rights experts. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the EU parliament and high profile US senators have called for his immediate release.

Nazim, meanwhile, contends rogue police officers had framed him by planting weapons during a midnight raid. The criminal court, however, did not allow the former defense minister to call witnesses to prove his case.

Nazim’s lawyers also contend anonymized statements provided by the police officers involved in the raid are inadmissible in court.

Appeal hearings in Nazim’s case have been stalled after the Supreme Court transferred two of the five judges on the panel to a newly created branch in Addu City.

Nasheed and Nazim’s imprisonment triggered a political crisis with daily protests and historic antigovernment marches. The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party is now negotiating with the government for the pair’s release. Nasheed is currently under house arrest.

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Comment: Special laws must not pre-empt general criminal law

On 6 July 2015, a new anti-terrorism bill was submitted to the People’s Majlis that aims to replace the existing Anti-Terrorism Act 1990. Drafted by the Attorney General’s office, the bill was submitted by the President’s Office and is yet to come up for discussion in the parliament.

According to media reports, the bill defines offences and actions that constitute an act of terrorism and bestows additional investigative powers to state authorities. If passed, the bill will expand the legal framework to deal with terrorism.

This gives rise to several concerns. First, any new anti-terrorism law must abide by the 2008 Constitution. At present, Maldives is working to finalize its Penal Code, Evidence Act and Criminal Procedure Code to revise basic criminal law to align with the 2008 Constitution. Special laws are based on an assumption that a distinct legal framework, beyond general criminal procedures and standards, is needed. There is no basis as yet for this assumption in the Maldives. Laws like on anti-terror are legitimised under the pretext that “special circumstances require special procedures” but are often an excuse to let the inefficiencies of the state continue at the expense of civil liberties. Across the world, they have been used to reduce the rigor required by the standards of fair trial and have made it easier to put away dissidents and other people inconvenient to the ruling regime of the day. Once a specialized security regime is put in place, it is very difficult to rollback powers vested with the authorities as well as mitigate impact on civil liberties.

The government must, therefore, clearly articulate reasons behind introducing this bill. What is the level of terrorism threat in the country? What are the factors including socio-economic causes leading to its purported spread, and why is general criminal law (as being finalized) considered ill-equipped to address the threat? These concerns must be addressed now if Maldives is to avoid a legal regime where exceptionalism prevails over constitutional principles and accepted legal standards of criminal justice as embodied in general laws.

Moreover, the definition of terrorism provided in the bill, as indicated through media reports, is likely to be misused particularly in the absence of a penal code. The definition, for instance, includes activities carried out with the intent of promoting ‘unlawful’ political ideologies among others but what constitutes unlawful is not defined anywhere. This leaves space for subjective interpretation. Who gets to define an ideology or what is unlawful, or at what stage an ideology becomes unlawful?

Such drafting appears designed to curtail rights of Maldivians to freely associate and to establish and participate in the activities of political parties guaranteed under Article 30 of the Constitution. It also has the potential of being used arbitrarily to target and suppress political opposition, particularly when seen in light of additional powers of surveillance vested with the authorities. Even if left unused the very presence of such laws lying on the books creates a chill that shrivels the democratic impulse.

These concerns are amplified in light of the continued attempt to restrict constitutional rights through legislative action. Under the bill, those suspected of terrorism can have their right to remain silent and access to lawyers restricted. In November 2014, the Majlis amended the Law Prohibiting Threatening and Possession of Dangerous Weapons and Sharp Objects which restricts the same rights for arrested persons in case of violent assault. These rights are fundamental features of a fair trial and need to be protected for proper administration of justice.

Given the serious ramifications of the bill, a process of public engagement on the subject matter is crucial. The government must use this as an opportunity to galvanize a national debate on whether an anti-terror law is needed at all in the Maldives, and if so, how best to ground it within the framework of democratic freedoms, human rights and international norms. Parliamentary committee review, which is likely to follow once the bill is accepted at the floor of parliament, is important but not sufficient.

The government is urged to make the bill public at this stage, invite public comments and hold wide-range consultations, as is now the accepted practice in several democracies. The benefits of such an engagement are manifold, from building public confidence, creating a more informed citizenry to generating a sense of ownership among the public. It is also imperative that legal experts are involved to ensure that any new legislation is necessary and if so, that it is drafted in strict accordance with the 2008 Constitution.

Ultimately, unless the government makes sincere efforts to inform and involve the public before laws are enacted, restrictions being proposed through such laws are likely to lead to unrest and deep dissatisfaction among the public. The process of democratisation which began in 2008 is ill-served by processes which take no account of public opinion when drafting legislation; it is time this gap is addressed and this seems a good moment to make a new beginning.

Devyani Srivastava is a Senior Program Officer (South Asia) at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. She can be reached at devyani@humanrightsinitiative.org.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to editorial@minivannewsarchive.com

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Freedom for ex president on the horizon, suggests MDP

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has raised hope of freedom for convicted opposition leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed by July 26, the day Maldives marks 50 years of independence from the British.

Speaking at a press conference after a third meeting of talks between the MDP and the government, MP Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said: “When we celebrate the golden jubilee of independence on July 26, our aim, our hope is that everyone is able to celebrate the day happily and in freedom.”

Nasheed’s jailing on terrorism charges, relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure, sparked months of daily protests and historic anti-government marches. Diplomatic pressure has been mounting on President Abdulla Yameen to release Nasheed and other political prisoners, including two former defence ministers and ruling party MP.

While Ibu struck a hopeful tone, the government representative, home minister Umar Naseer was more cautious. He said the government had made no commitments on releasing jailed politicians, but reiterated that the government stands ready to make compromises for long-term stability.

Nasheed was transferred to house arrest in late June after the opposition backed a constitutional amendment that will allow President Abdulla Yameen to replace his deputy.

Naseer tonight hailed slow and steady progress in talks and said: “I now believe there is nothing we cannot resolve.”

“On whether political leaders will be released, we did not give any commitments. But we did give one commitment, that is to make concessions, to make compromises where possible. We want to ease political tensions. For there to be engagement and dialogue between the MDP and the government. If such an environment is created, it will be easier for us to make concessions. I cannot directly state that the government will make a specific compromise. But I will say if such an environment is created, the government stands ready to make all compromises. In the past three weeks, we have made compromises, and we have seen progress. This does not happen with just one meeting. This is the third official meeting between MDP and the government. In other countries, it can take 100 meetings,” he said.

Since Nasheed’s transfer to house arrest, the government has removed a freeze on Jumhooree Party leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim’s tourism businesses. Gasim, who had spent nearly three months abroad amidst rumors of impending arrest, returned to the Maldives on Sunday morning.

Gasim’s JP had also backed the constitutional amendment. The parliament is due to vote to impeach vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed by July 26. Many believe the president is seeking to replace Jameel because he wants a more loyal deputy ahead of a major surgery for a life-threatening condition.

Ibu said: “Even if we do not say a specific action will be taken on a specific date, you will see actions from both parties… You will see results. We are not able to share some of the discussion points with the media yet, so we have not shared them, but we are on a good foundation. I am certain of that. Now we have to proceed. And I received that certainty tonight as well.”

The MDP has repeatedly said Nasheed’s freedom is the party’s highest priority.

The two representatives also said they have established a hotline to facilitate communication and to resolve any issues that may come up.

“There’s been progress, You will be able to see this in the future. Talks are proceeding in a friendly and conciliatory environment. I note we are already seeing results. The public will see even more progress when we sit for a next meeting,” Ibu said.

The fourth meeting of talks has been scheduled for July 21.

Naseer meanwhile said the government, at the ongoing talks, is not pressuring Nasheed to appeal his 13-year jail term at a domestic appellate court. The foreign ministry this weekend urged the opposition leader to appeal in a response to the UN working group on arbitrary detention.

Naseer also said the government will look at provisions in the Clemency Act and the Parole Act in reducing jail terms or releasing other jailed politicians, but only after they exhaust appeal processes.

“We can only take measures through the law. We have the Clemency Act, and the Parole Act. We will review that when it gets to that stage. This government wants to calm political tensions, to establish stability and to establish a conducive environment by which we can provide the public with the services and the development they seek. As I said before, these talks are not about the present, but also the political future of the Maldives.”

The MDP has proposed six measures for political reconciliation at the ongoing talks. In addition to asking for the release of politicians and withdrawing “politically motivated charges” against some 1400 opposition supporters, the party has also called for an independent inquiry into the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali and the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

Discussions have not progressed on the latter demand yet.

Naseer meanwhile said the government is reviewing the charges against the 1493 people. “This government does not want to charge and punish those who have committed minor offences in political activities. President Yameen has given me a special instruction on this,” he said.

However, the government does not want to be lenient on individuals who may be pretending to be political prisoners, especially those with criminal records, he said.

The government has also committed to speeding up progress in the separate talks with the JP and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

Another major demand by the MDP in the ongoing talks is a change from the Maldives’ presidential system of government to a parliamentary system. Discussions on the system of governance will take place at a second stage of talks, the representatives said at an earlier press conference.

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Comment: Did former Maldives leader receive a fair trial?

This comment piece by Toby Cadman was first published on Al-Jazeera. Republished with permission.

Cadman is an international lawyer and is currently advising the government of the Republic of Maldives on legal and constitutional reform. In particular, he is assisting the government in responding to the allegations made to the UN by former President Mohamed Nasheed concerning his conviction for an offence of terrorism.  

On March 13, the former president of the Republic of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, was convicted of terrorism. He was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for ordering the army to arrest and detain the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdullah Mohamed. It was alleged that Abdullah was abducted by the army without any lawful order, held incommunicado for 72 hours, and then detained for a further 21 days in a military establishment.

There was national and international outcry at such an unprecedented attack on the judiciary, including statements from the United Nations terming the detention of the judge as arbitrary and in breach of international law.

It has been argued that Nasheed’s actions don’t qualify as terrorist acts. However, if similar actions had been conducted in the United Kingdom, the former president could have been charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment – an offence which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Political turmoil

Regardless of whether or not he was at one point a head of state, all persons – irrespective of political office or other affiliation – should be brought to justice where there is credible evidence to demonstrate that a criminal offence has been committed.

Mohamed Nasheed was elected as president in 2008. While in office, political turmoil erupted. It is believed that he ordered the locking-up of the Supreme Court and ordered Judge Abdullah to be placed under arrest by the army.

Nasheed resigned live on national television, but less than 24 hours later, alleged that he had resigned under duress. An independent inquiry carried out by the Commonwealth, and observed by the UN, concluded that he had resigned voluntarily and that the transfer of power was lawful and constitutional. Therefore, his fall from power cannot be characterised as a coup.

During the former president’s trial, it was alleged that he had ordered the the abduction of a senior judge to prevent him from carrying out his judicial function.

In a BBC Hardtalk interview after his resignation, Nasheed stated in very clear terms that the judge had to be removed and that as president, in the absence of anyone else acting, he had to do it. The judge, in the former president’s words, was becoming a nuisance.

The targeting of the judiciary in such a way by the Executive cannot be accepted in any democracy and such an attack can only be construed as an attack on the constitution.

Allegations of flaws in trial  

It has been argued by the former president and his legal team that there were significant flaws during his terrorism trial and that, as a result, his detention is arbitrary and in breach of international law.

However, rather than appeal the verdict, his legal team filed a communication with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The government has been given until July 11 to respond to the allegations and a decision is expected in September.

The former president is arguing that arrest was unlawful, his trial rushed, and the composition of the panel of judges lacked the requisite independence and impartiality. There have also been allegations that the conditions of his detention breach his human rights.

Ordinarily, many of these matters would be subject to legal challenge through the national courts. However, the former president has elected not to appeal. Contrary to statements issued to date, it is the government’s position that the former president has not been prevented from appealing – he has chosen not to do so.

It is clear that in a politically charged case such as this, the media reporting can take a sensationalist and selective approach. It is essential that what is reported is accurate and balanced as the stakes are extremely high.

Prevention of an appeal 

Much has been made of the fact that Maldivian legislation was amended so as to reduce the time period for the lodging of an appeal from 90 to 10 days, thus alleging that Nasheed has been prevented from appealing.

He has not. The Maldivian authorities have repeatedly maintained that the former president is still able to submit an application for appeal and that it will be for the courts to consider. It is also important to note that the deadline for submitting an appeal within 10 days relates to a notice of appeal, not the full appeal.

It has been further alleged that the former president has been prevented from appealing through the court’s wilfully withholding of documents which are necessary for filing an appeal notice. However, the court records will clearly demonstrate that the judgement of the court and the trial record was provided to the former president and his legal team.

He refused to sign the court record. Notwithstanding this refusal and the expiration of the 10-day deadline, there is a provision in the law for a defendant to submit a late appeal if the delay has been caused by the authorities. Furthermore, there is a provision in the law for the courts to accept a late appeal “in the interests of justice”.

The conditions the former president was purportedly being forced to endure have been called into question. Again, these accusations of unfair or unlawful treatment are wholly false.

Underlying risk  

He was held, up until his recent release on house arrest, away from the general population. However, he is not and has never been in solitary confinement, and was detained in a facility that would not only meet international standards of practise, but arguably far exceed any acceptable level.

As a former president, he is entitled to VIP treatment in custody, which he received up until his release under house arrest.

There is an underlying risk underlining this entire court process – the potential of a trial by media. As with all cases, there are two sides to any argument, but the government’s position has not been given any attention and the offence for which the former president was convicted has been unnecessarily trivialized.

There is a clear obligation on all, be it members of the media, or members of the international community, to acknowledge both positions in relation to any case, and not seek to favour one when the issue is yet to be fully considered and determined by the appropriate tribunal.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to editorial@minivannewsarchive.com

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Government responds to UN on ex-president’s terrorism trial

The Maldivian government, responding to the UN working group on arbitrary detention today, contended that a terrorism conviction against former president Mohamed Nasheed was not politically motivated and said allegations over lack of due process are factually incorrect.

Nasheed’s family had lodged a petition with the UN in April requesting a judgment declaring the opposition leader’s detention illegal and arbitrary. The government was asked to respond before the first week of July.

“Mr Nasheed has not been a victim of a politicised process. He has been properly charged and faced trial for an extremely serious offence, one that was aimed at interfering with an independent judiciary and circumventing the rule of law. The law cannot be applied selectively,” said Ahmed Shiaan, the ambassador of the Maldives to Belgium.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail over the military’s detention of the criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Shiaan and Toby Cadman, a barrister and partner at London-based Omnia Strategy, delivered the response to the UN in Geneva today.

Cadman said any lapses in due process were not “so serious individually or collectively so as to render the entirety of the proceedings a flagrant denial of justice. And thus render the former president’s detention arbitrary. Moreover, it is important to note that any of the irregularities, actual or perceived, are capable of being addressed on appeal.”

The 19-day trial was criticized by foreign governments and UN rights experts. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the EU parliament and high profile US senators have called for his immediate release.

Omnia Strategy, a London-based law firm chaired by Cherie Blair, the wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, was employed for an undisclosed fee to write the response.

Nasheed was transferred to house arrest in late-June in exchange for opposition backing on a constitutional amendment that will allow President Abdulla Yameen to replace his deputy. Talks are now ongoing between the Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party and the government.

Abduction

Speaking to the press in Geneva, Shiaan contended Nasheed’s petition to the UN was an attempt to divert attention from his “abduction” of a sitting criminal court judge.

Nasheed’s lawyers have argued that the trial was rushed and that the criminal court had withheld trial records to block an appeal. Lawyers have also raised concern over the denial of legal counsel at some hearings.

Shiaan, however, said the allegations are factually incorrect and a mischaracterization of reality.

Cadman stressed the trial was “conducted under a process recognized under national and international law” and “not arbitrary by any standards.”

“We are confident they will dismiss the communication by the former president in its entirety,” he said.

Cadman insisted Nasheed could still appeal his conviction at the High Court and denied that the criminal court had deliberately withheld trial records to block an appeal. Nasheed and his lawyers had refused to sign the records, he contended.

Admitting that Nasheed was not given legal representation at the first trial, Cadman claimed the process was legal under Maldivian law. The former president’s lawyers had later boycotted hearings, he said and suggested Nasheed refused to make use of opportunities provided by the criminal court to appoint new counsel.

Nasheed was brought to trial a day after his arrest. He wasn’t allowed legal counsel at first hearing with the criminal court saying it’s regulations requires three days to register lawyers for defendants. Nasheed’s lawyers later recused themselves claiming they could not mount a proper defense with the criminal court rushing the process.

Hearings were often held late at night. The verdict was delivered at 11:15pm.

But Cadman today insisted the trial was not rushed as no new evidence had been submitted against Nasheed.

All the materials had been provided in 2012 when Nasheed was first charged with ordering an arbitrary detention of the judge. “The only difference was the qualification of the offence under national law,” Cadman argued.

While the first offence only carries a few months in prison, the latter charges of terrorism carry at least ten years in prison. Nasheed’s lawyers argued they required more time to weigh the evidence in light of the harsher charges.

The opposition leader contends the criminal court had blocked him from filing an appeal within the shortened 10-day appeal period. The new provisions, dictated by the Supreme Court shortly before Nasheed’s trial commenced, are silent on accepting late appeals, his lawyers have said.

The appellate court, citing lateness, refused to accept an appeal of a murder acquittal filed by the Prosecutor General’s Office in June. The PG office told Minivan News the delay was caused by the criminal court’s failure to provide a record of trial proceedings within the 10-day appeal period.

A ruling by the UN working group is expected in September or October, Nasheed’s lawyers have said.

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Ex-president’s wife continues high-profile campaign in Europe

Former president Mohamed Nasheed’s wife, Laila Ali, is continuing a high-profile campaign in Europe to free her husband.

The former first lady met with the president of the European Union parliament Martin Schulz in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday and met the UN high commissioner on human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

Nasheed’s trial on terrorism charges was widely criticized for apparent lack of due process.

The UK prime minister David Cameron, the European Parliament, and US Senators John McCain and Jack Reed have called for his immediate release.

The opposition leader was transferred to house arrest in late June amidst mounting diplomatic pressure.

“We are hopeful, but cautious,” said Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, the spokesperson of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“President Nasheed is not free, he could be returned to house arrest any minute. There are some 1400 opposition supporters and politicians facing charges. So we must continue our campaign.”

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail over the military detention a judge during his tenure.

The MDP and the government recently commenced talks, but a third meeting was cancelled tonight as some ministers are out of the country. The opposition has also backed a constitutional amendment that would allow President Abdulla Yameen to replace his deputy as a confidence building measure.

An aide who had accompanied Laila on her Europe trip said she had discussed Nasheed’s imprisonment and the human rights situation in the Maldives during her visits. She met with EU MEPs in Brussels on Monday before calling on Schulz and Al-Hussein.

“The government needs to demonstrate its sincerity by freeing all political prisoners, including Nasheed, and ensuring they can fully return to public life,” the aide said.

In April, the EU parliament adopted a resolution calling for Nasheed’s freedom, and requested member countries to warn travelers on the human rights situation in the Maldives.

Shortly after Nasheed was sentenced, Zeid said the trial was rushed and “appears to contravene the Maldives’ own laws and practices and international fair trial standards in a number of respects.”

Heavyweight international human rights lawyers including Amal Clooney, the wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney, have taken up Nasheed’s case at the UN working group on arbitrary detention.

A ruling is expected in September or October. The government has hired a law firm chaired by Cherie Blair, the wife of UK’s former prime minister Tony Blair, to respond to the petition.

Meanwhile, Cameron has called for political dialogue in the Maldives and Nasheed’s release following a meeting with Laila on June 25. The former first lady had also met UK MPs and Hugo Swire, the minister of state, foreign and commonwealth office in her visit to London in late-June.

US Senators McCain and Reed, who chair the Senate Armed Forces Committee, on June 2 urged the US government to press for the opposition leader’s release and warned that the Maldives’ decisions are “having serious adverse consequences on its relationships abroad.”

 

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Nasheed’s appeal for clemency rejected

Rejecting jailed ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s appeal for clemency, President Abdulla Yameen has urged him to first exhaust all appeal processes in his terrorism conviction.

“President Yameen responded to Nasheed’s letter with the same answer he’s always maintained – to complete all appeal processes,” said the president’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali.

Nasheed is serving a 13-year-jailterm on a terrorism charge relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure. The rushed trial was widely criticized for its apparent lack of due process.

President Yameen’s letter was sent to Maafushi Jail.

Nasheed’s lawyers maintain they have been blocked from filing an appeal after the criminal court failed to release a report into case proceedings within the shortened 10-day appeal period.

The Supreme Court has removed discretionary powers granted to high court judges to accept late appeals, in the same ruling that had shortened the 90-day appeal period to 10 days, lawyers have said.

The government, however, insists Nasheed can still appeal.

Meanwhile, two judges who sentenced Nasheed were promoted to the high court last week.

The opposition leader has previously said he does not trust the Maldivian judiciary to accord him justice unless recommendations of judicial reform are fully implemented.

Nasheed’s imprisonment has triggered a political crisis with daily protests for three months, two historic mass marches, and the arrest of hundreds of protesters. Three more opposition leaders have been charged with terrorism.

In the appeal for clemency, Nasheed’s lawyers noted that the Clemency Act grants the president the discretion, on the president’s own initiative, to commute the sentence of any individual convicted of a criminal offence.

Calls for Nasheed’s release are growing. Amnesty International called Nasheed’s conviction a “travesty of justice” while the UN human rights chief said Nasheed was sentenced after a “hasty and apparently unfair trial” and noted “flagrant irregularities.”

The UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers noted “serious due process violations” such as denial of the opportunity to present defence witnesses, which led her to believe “the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”

The European parliament in April adopted a resolution condemning the “serious irregularities” of Nasheed’s terrorism trial and called for his immediate release.

The US secretary of state John Kerry said during a visit to Sri Lanka that Nasheed was “imprisoned without due process”.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon,” he said.

US senators John McCain and Jack Reed have urged their government to press for the release Nasheed and all other political prisoners in the Maldives.

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