Following imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed’s decision not to seek an appeal, the Maldivian Democracy Network has called on President Abdulla Yameen to intervene and resolve Maldives’ deepening political crisis.
Nasheed, convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in jail, said he desired a political solution, claiming the judiciary is under executive control and could not assure a fair appeal process.
Hence, “the only state power with the capacity to act equitably on the matter is the President,” MDN said in a statement today.
“We believe President Yameen must take immediate action in light of the manner in which the criminal proceedings were held, with a view to bring an end to the continued civil unrest in the country,” the human rights advocacy group said.
Hundreds have been arrested in opposition protests and police have threatened a crackdown claiming protesters were disrupting local businesses and inciting violence against the police.
Meanwhile, the Elections Commission has fined Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and its ally Adhaalath Party (AP) with MVR 47,000 and MVR 33,000, respectively.
The MDP and former ruling coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) first began daily protests on February 10, against President Yameen’s alleged constitutional breaches. Former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Nasheed were subsequently arrested and brought swiftly to trial over weapons smuggling and terrorism, respectively.
Over 10,000 protesters took to the streets on February 27 calling for President Yameen’s resignation.
The government meanwhile ordered JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group to pay US$100 million in unpaid rents and fines by March 30 on properties leased for resort development.
On March 17, AP withdrew support for Yameen’s administration and joined the MDP in an alliance against brutality. Opposition protests are now entering a seventh consecutive week.
Nasheed was sentenced on March 13 and Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail on March 26.
Explaining Nasheed’s decision not to seek an appeal, lawyer Hisaan Hussein on March 26 said: “As a former President, he is certain the judiciary is not independent, that President Yameen has full control over the judiciary. He is certain he will not gain a fair appeal.”
The Criminal Court’s decision to deny Nasheed legal representation, refusal to call defence witnesses, and refusal to provide adequate time to prepare defence demonstrates the former president would not be assured a fair appeal at the High Court, lawyers said.
High Court judges are “under pressure,” Hisaan said, noting the judiciary had not yet decided which judges were to be relocated to the regional courts in the north and south.
According to a December 2014 amendment to the Judicature Act, pushed through by the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), the nine-judge High Court bench is to be divided into three branches. Only the central branch in Malé could hear matters relating to the interpretation of laws or elections. The regional branches are to only hear appeals.
Hisaan said Nasheed believed the allocation of judges depended on the outcome of his appeal.
“There will be no justice in any of the appeal processes,” she said.
MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed on Thursday called on Yameen to show leadership as head of state and pardon Nasheed.
“I call on you, President Abdulla Yameen to use your presidential powers and pardon the opposition leader, pardon him and end this political turmoil,” he said.
Article 29(c) of the Clemency Act states that the President has the discretion, on his own initiative, to commute a sentence of a person convicted on a criminal offence, with regards to their age, health, their status or circumstances or based on a humanitarian perspective.
The President’s Office spokesperson, the Attorney General and the PPM parliamentary group leader were not responding to calls.
President Yameen has previously said the government could neither interfere nor influence the decisions of the judiciary.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul said the trial made a “mockery” of the Maldives Constitution and said: “The speed of proceedings combined with the lack of fairness in the procedures lead me to believe the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the trial was “hasty and apparently unfair” and urged Nasheed be given adequate time to prepare and present his defence during the appeal process.
Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has since invited the United Nations Secretary General, the Commonwealth, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the EU to send experts to observe Nasheed’s appeal process.