The Civil Court yesterday ( April 8 ) began hearing statements in a defamation case filed by Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz against former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Riyaz is seeking MVR3.75 million (US$243,506) in damages from Nasheed, who is accused of labelling the commissioner a ‘baaghee’ (traitor) following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012, which saw sections of the police and military mutiny against the former government.
Nasheed is accused of continuing to call the commissioner a ‘baaghee’ even after a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) later concluded the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed came to power constitutionally.
A Civil Court spokesperson confirmed to Minivan News that lawyers representing both Riyaz and Nasheed were present yesterday during the first of five hearings anticipated to determine the charges against the former president.
During the hearing, the presiding judge asked the defence to answer the allegations against Nasheed. The next hearing of the case is expected to allow Nadheed’s representatives to present a statement in his defence, according to a spokesperson for the Civil Court.
No date was set for the next hearing, the court claimed.
Riyaz’s defamation case had been scheduled to begin last year, but was later postponed upon request of the commissioner himself.
MDP MP and lawyer Mariya Ahmed Didi said the party has previously issued a statement following the postponement of the hearings, claiming that Nasheed was “anxious to proceed with the case”.
Mariya alleged that Commissioner Riyaz was hesitant to proceed with the defamation case for fear that he would not be able to prove that his standing in society or his wider reputation had suffered as a result of the former president’s comments.
“There are hundreds of witnesses just waiting to give their evidence in court. In addition, senior police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers including [former] commissioner of Police Faseeh and Defence Force chief Moosa Jaleel have testified to the relevant committee of parliament that the events of February 7 and February 8 were indeed a coup,” she claimed. “We are confident that if we get a free and fair trial we will get a judgement in our favour.”
“Undermining” commisioner’s esteem
Riyaz’s lawyers have previously accused Nasheed of undermining the esteem and respect of the police commissioner by labelling him as a “traitor.”
The legal team also argued at the time that Nasheed’s words had compromised the safety of Riyaz, requiring security at his residence to be strengthened.
Commissioner Riyaz and Police Spokesperson Chief Inspetor Hassan Haneef were not responding to calls at time of press.
Meanwhile, MVR3.75 million in damages are being sought from Nasheed by serving Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, who has also accused the former president of damaging his reputation by labelling a traitor during a public address last year.
Newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported at the time that following a speech by Nasheed attacking the defence minister, a group of protesters came outside Nazim’s house, “leaving Nazim’s family in fear”.
Former Youth Minister Dr Hassan Latheef, who defended Nasheed at a Civil Court hearing held in October 2012, told the presiding judge at the time that the former president denied the charges against him.
Nasheed’s legal team has previously contended that Riyaz had filed the defamation case in the civil court at a time when the police were continuously arresting people for calling them ‘baaghee’ on the streets. The same representatives also accused the country’s criminal court of continuing to provide extensions of detention periods for people arrested under the charges.
Nasheed is also currently in the process of being tried on charges that he illegally detained a senior judge during the end of his presidency.
However, all trials concerning the judge’s detention were suspended earlier this month pending a High Court ruling on the legitimacy of the bench of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court conducting Nasheed’s case.