Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed testified in a terrorism trial against former President Mohamed Nasheed tonight, stating the former Commander in Chief must bear responsibility for his “unlawful arrest” in January 2012.
“I was not afforded the rights of the accused. My basic human rights were violated. I had no access to a lawyer,” Judge Abdulla told the court.
He claimed he is still unclear as to why he was kept detained from January 16 to February 7.
Nasheed is accused of abducting Judge Abdulla and is standing trial for terrorism. He has denied charges. If convicted, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.
The opposition leader once again reiterated a request for legal counsel and adequate time to mount a defence, pointing out that he had difficulty in appointing a lawyer while detained in Dhoonidhoo.
All four of Nasheed’s lawyers quit yesterday over the Criminal Court’s alleged failure to provide sufficient time to examine the prosecution’s evidence and prepare to defend the former president against new terror charges pressed two weeks ago on February 22.
Nasheed has previously called the Criminal Court’s rushed trial an “injustice” and “the biggest circus the Maldives has seen in constitutional history.”
But presiding Judge Abdulla Didi insisted there was no obstruction to Nasheed appointing a lawyer, and said the former president had been given ample opportunity to obtain legal counsel.
Judge Didi adjourned the hearing after scheduling the next hearing for Friday night (March 13), where the defence and prosecution are to present concluding statements.
Judges could issue a verdict at their discretion afterwards.
“This is what the President wants…”
Recounting his arrest, Judge Abdulla said he had gone home from work late on January 16, and was having dinner with his wife when masked men in military uniform entered his home without a court warrant and “dragged me off to Girifushi.”
In the process, his arm was hurt, he said. Since he had been arrested at 12am, he did not know where he was being taken, and only found out he was in Girifushi much later, Judge Abdulla said.
Senior government officials including former Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, then-Minister of Youth Hassan Latheef and former Presidential Envoy Ibrahim Hussein Zaki visited Judge Abdulla in Girifushi, he said.
Judge Abdulla said the meetings with government officials made it clear to him they did not have authority to make a decision on his detention.
Their use of phrases such as “this is what the President wants,” made it clear the then-Commander In Chief was responsible for his detention on Girifushi, Judge Abdulla said.
Government officials offered him four options, to step down as the Criminal Court Chief Judge, to transfer to another job, to leave Malé or leave the country, he continued.
Judge Abdulla was summoned to court tonight by presiding Judges Abdulla Didi, Abdul Bari Yoosuf and Sujau Usman. He was not listed among the prosecution’s witnesses and neither the state prosecutors nor Nasheed posed any questioned to the judge tonight.
Mount a defence
Nasheed requested ten additional days to appoint new lawyers stating: “You have to give a detainee the opportunity. You know very well the laws and rules you have to follow.”
But Judge Didi said the Criminal Court would not give the former president special access or privileges and said he could appoint new lawyers whenever he wishes.
Nasheed’s legal team had been given access to Dhoonidhoo Island even today, Judge Didi noted.
However, the opposition leader argued the four lawyers had dropped the case due to the Criminal Court’s denial of due process and adequate time to prepare defence, and said he required time to appoint a new lawyer of his choosing.
“Lawyers don’t grow on trees,” he said.
The office of the former President Mohamed Nasheed issued a statement tonight, pointing out defendants in other high profile cases had been given over a month to find legal representation, and the court proceedings last more than a year.
The statement also expressed concern over the Criminal Court’s decision not to hear the witnesses Nashed had submitted in his defence.
The judges said they did not believe the witnesses would negate the testimony of witnesses produced by the state, and were therefore unnecessary.
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