Ousted President Mohamed Nasheed last night responded to criminal charges pressed against him by the Prosecutor General (PG), for the arrest of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in the closing days of his presidency.
Speaking to his supporters at the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protest camp Usfasgandu, Nasheed stated that he is “very prepared” to justify the reasons for the arrest of Judge Abdulla, and said he was ready to appear in court and prove his actions were valid.
“Even if [the court] asks me to be present tomorrow, I would be present. The court has to be place where justice should be served. The trial system has to be reformed to ensure that it provides justice,” he said.
Nasheed claimed that his political opponents were of the belief that “destroying” him through the court would “kill” the ideology of the MDP, but challenged that this would never happen in the country.
“You can torture me. You can chain me to a chair. You can put me in solitary confinement. You can isolate me from my family. You can harass me and torture me. You can destroy me through the court. But tell you what: you can never kill the ideology of the Maldivian Democratic Party in this country anymore,” he said, as supporters roared in support.
The ousted president stated that the MDP had sought to reform the country, and that these reforms had been steadily carried out.
He further stated that he was steadfast and confident he could “stand up in the courts of law” and prove that his actions reflected the nation’s best interests.
He also emphasised that he did not wish to see the charges now presented against him withdrawn for any reason.
“I, as the president of this country and as the presidential nominee of the MDP, worked for the benefit of the Maldivian people, for their wellbeing and to fulfill the needs of the people of the Maldives. I have not done anything to further my own interests during my tenure as president,” Nasheed said.
Nasheed also dismissed the accusation made by the High Court, Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General (PG) that he had ordered the military to arrest Judge Abdulla unlawfully.
“I did nothing unlawful during my tenure,” he challenged.
He also called on the population to be present at his trial and witness what happened in the court, alleging that the whole case was politically motivated and that his opponents were seeking to gain an unfair upper hand from the “political scandal”.
“This case is a case that I wanted to see coming. This is a case that I want to face myself. I will not back down from this case,” he said.
Nasheed also added that the charges will not keep him from engaging in the All Party Talks, and said that he would be present.
“Even if they imprison me, I am willing to take part in the talks even while in prison. They will never be able to defeat us,” he said.
Nasheed also maintained that an early election will take place by the end of this year.
“We will continue our peaceful protests. Day by day the protests will increase and intensify,” he said.
“We will not give up. Our determination will not weaken. By the will of god, we will bring the good governance that the people of this country want.”
The controversial detention of Judge Abdulla
The Chief Judge was detained by the military, after he had opened the court outside normal hours to order the immediate release of former Justice Minister and current Home Minister and deputy leader of the Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP), Dr Mohamed Jameel.
Jameel had been arrested on successive occasions for allegedly inciting religious hatred, after he published a pamphlet claiming that the government was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives. The President’s Office called for an investigation into the allegations, and requested Jameel provide evidence to back his claims.
In late 2011 Judge Abdulla was himself under investigation by the judicial watchdog for politically bias comments made to private broadcaster DhiTV. The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) was due to release a report into Judge Abdulla’s ethical misconduct, however the judge approached the Civil Court and successfully filed an injunction against his further investigation by the judicial watchdog.
Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked three weeks of anti-government protests starting in January, while the government appealed for assistance from the Commonwealth and UN to reform the judiciary.
As Judge Abdulla continued to be held, Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz later joined the High Court and Supreme Court in condemning the MNDF’s role in the arrest, requesting that the judge be released.
The police are required to go through the PG’s Office to obtain an arrest warrant from the High Court, the PG said at the time, claiming the MNDF and Nasheed’s administration “haven’t followed the procedures, and the authorities are in breach of the law. They could be charged with contempt of court.”
He then ordered the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to investigate the matter.
As protests escalated, elements of the police and military mutinied on February 7, alleging that Nasheed had given them “unlawful orders”.
Nasheed publicly resigned the same day, but later said he was forced to do so “under duress” in a coup d’état. Nasheed’s MDP have taken to the streets in the months since, calling for an early election.
Judge Abdulla was released on the evening of Nasheed’s resignation, and the Criminal Court swiftly issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest. Police did not act on the warrant, after international concern quickly mounted.
Nasheed became the first president to be summoned before the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) when he was asked to testify regarding his role in the arrest of Judge Abdulla in April. Nasheed used his testimony to claim that he had been informed at the time by the Home Ministry that the judge allegedly posed a “national threat” – prompting his eventual detention.
The former president additionally claimed that the Home Ministry had communicated with the Defence Ministry on the situation, which in turn led to the decision to arrest the judge after watchdog bodies like the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had raised alleged concerns over his ethical conduct.
“I was told that Abdulla Mohamed would not comply with the police’s summons to investigate allegations [against him],” Nasheed later stated at a press conference following the meeting with the HRCM.
“The Home Minister wrote to the Defense Minister that Abdulla Mohamed’s presence in the courts was a threat to national security. And to take necessary steps. And that step, the isolation of Abdulla Mohamed, was what the [Defense] Ministry deemed necessary.”
The HRCM after concluding the investigation sent the case to the prosecutor general.
A second case involving Nasheed has also been sent to the prosecutor general by the police, that involved the confiscation of bottles of alcohol allegedly found at his residence shortly after his presidency ended.
PG Muizz on July 15 filed charges against former President Mohamed Nasheed and the former Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu for their alleged role in detaining Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed in January.
Nasheed and Tholhath stand charged with violation of the Article 81 of the Penal Code, which states that the detention of a government employee who has not been found guilty of a crime is illegal. If found guilty, Nasheed and Tholhath will face a jail sentence or banishment for three years or a Rf 3000 fine (US$193.5).
The case was filed at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court. In a statement today, Muizz said he intended to levy the same charges against former Chief of Defense Forces Moosa Ali Jaleel, Brigadier-General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and Colonel Mohamed Ziyad.
Home Minister Mohamed Jameel in a post on social media Twitter has said the “historic criminal trial” is the “first step towards the national healing process.”
Meanwhile, Spokesperson of the Department of Judicial Administration,Latheefa Gasim, told local media that Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court has accepted the case and the hearings will be held after the first 10 days of Ramadan.
She also said that the magistrate court had space limitations and therefore they have been talking to the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) located in Hulhimale about holding the hearings in the reception hall of the HDC office.
“We have been negotiating with HDC to see if they could give us their reception hall to hold the hearings. After what HDC says, we will decide on a date to hold the hearings,” she said.
President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News at the time that the president will not “interfere with the independent Prosecutor General’s decisions.”
In April, Nasheed told the UK’s Guardian newspaper that he did not want to arrest a judge, but he “just couldn’t let him [Abdulla Mohamed] sit on the bench.”
“There is a huge lack of confidence in the judiciary, and I had to do something, and the constitution called upon me to do that. It’s not a nice thing to do. And it’s not a thing that I would want to do. And it’s not a thing that I liked doing. But it had to be done,” he added.