President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has appointed Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim’s lawyer Mohamed Saleem (G. Raynis, Malé) to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) on Monday.
The JSC is the watchdog body entrusted with the power to appoint, promote and transfer judges, and to investigate complaints against the judiciary.
Ousted President Mohamed Nasheed’s former JSC appointee, Aishath Velezinee, said Saleem’s appointment constituted a “conflict of interest,” as he was a practicing lawyer defending high profile politicians.
Saleem had defended Nazim against charges of defrauding the now defunct Ministry of Atolls Development. The Criminal Court dismissed all four counts of fraud against Nazim in February shortly after Nasheed resigned “under duress” on February 7.
Saleem has denied conflict of interest allegations, saying he would no longer continue to practice as a lawyer, except to complete ongoing cases that do not involve any conflict of interest.
Saleem had previously served for eight years in the Police Courts, and seventeen years in the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) under former President Gayoom. He started off in the AGO as an assistant state attorney. When he resigned in 2008, he was the head of prosecution at the AGO.
He also served as North Huvadhoo atoll MP in the constitutional assembly from 2004- 2008.
Saleem is also prominent businessmen and Jumhooree Party (JP) Kaashidhoo MP Candidate Abdulla Jabir’s brother-in-law.
“It is public knowledge that Gasim (JP leader) and Jabir win by their pockets and what we are seeing is the judiciary going to the pockets of a few influential businessmen and politicians. We lost the independent judiciary to high treason of the JSC in 2010, and this move by Dr Waheed guarantees nothing but further degradation of the judiciary,” Velezinee told Minivan News.
Saleem refuted Velezinee’s allegations saying, “Even when I worked in the government, I was not one to favor friends or family members. I am certain I can be of honest service”.
Velezinee has alleged the JSC was complicit in protecting judges appointed during Gayoom’s regime, and was colluding with parliament to ensure legal impunity for senior then-opposition supporters.
In addition to Saleem, the JSC now consists of Speaker and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Abdulla Shahid, Jumhooree Party leader and Gayoom’s Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim, Gayoom’s ex-lawyer and current Attorney General Azima Shukoor, Civil Service Commission President Mohamed Fahmy Hassan, Supreme Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, High Court Judge Abdulla Hameed, Civil Court Judge Abdulla Didi, Lawyer Ahmed Rasheed, and public member Shuaib Abdulrahman.