Former President Mohamed Nasheed failed to attend his scheduled trial hearing at Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court today (February 10), an official from the Judiciary Media Unit has confirmed.
The former president, who is currently out of the country in India, was due to attend the second court hearing regarding the controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
The Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court granted Nasheed permission to leave the country for India on February 5, however the former president is yet to return to the Maldives despite his permitted travel period expiring yesterday (February 9).
According to local media, a letter had been submitted to the Hulhumale’ Court on February 7 by Nasheed, requesting for his travel leave to be extended from 5:00pm today (February 10) until February 28.
However, the travel extension request was today denied by the bench of judges presiding over Nasheed’s case.
An official from the Judiciary Media Unit told Minivan News today that Nasheed’s hearing – scheduled for 4:00pm – had been cancelled after the former president failed to attend.
Asked as to what action the court will take regarding the matter, the official was unable to give a specific response, adding: “The courts will do something, but I do not know what that will be”.
According to the official, a new hearing for the trial is yet to be set by the court.
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today that while the party had “no comment” regarding Nasheed’s lack of attendance at the hearing, the MDP maintains that Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court is “not a legitimate court”.
“The party maintains that [Mohamed Nasheed] should not go to that court, and we have raised the administration issues already,” he added.
Nasheed’s Spokesperson Mariya Didi was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
Supreme Court appeal
Earlier today, the legal team of former President Mohamed Nasheed appealed to the Supreme Court regarding the High Court’s ruling in favour of the legitimacy of Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
Nasheed had previously appealed to the High Court in order to contest the Hulhumale’-based court’s ruling in regard to his trial on three procedural issues raised during an initial hearing of his case in October 2012.
Despite the former president’s appeal, a three-member judges panel at the High Court ruled on February 4 that there were no “legal grounds” to declare Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court and its decisions illegitimate.
Following the High Court’s ruling, an official from the Judiciary Media Unit confirmed to Minivan News that Nasheed’s legal team have now appealed to the Supreme Court.
Local media reported that Nasheed’s legal team had tried to file the appeal at the Supreme Court on Thursday (February 7), but that this was refused due to insufficient documentation.
Former President’s legal team had argued that the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court could not hold hearings on a nearby island, therefore ruling out Male’.
Furthermore, a summoning order issued to Nasheed by the court on September 26, 2012, was inconsistent with existing laws, according to his lawyers.
Finally, Nasheed’s representatives claimed the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was formed in contradiction to the Judicature Act.
In a statement following the High Court’s verdict throwing out these procedural points, Nasheed said the decision “clearly means I will not be allowed a fair trial.”
Former MDP Chairperson MP Mariya Didi noted that the High Court concluded the case after only two successive hearings, adding that it seemed the Hulhumale’ Court “had prepared summons before the High Court judgement was even delivered.”
Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel – formerly Justice Minister during President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30 year government – has meanwhile told local media that swift prosecution of Nasheed before the Presidential Election was necessary to protect the “political and social fabric of the Maldives”.
“Every single day that passes without a verdict will raise questions over the justice system of the Maldives in the minds of the people,” Jameel told newspaper Haveeru.
The Prosecutor General (PG) pressed charges against the former President in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court on the grounds that holding the trial in Male’ at the Criminal Court represented a conflict of interest on behalf of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, whom the case concerned.
The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) appointed the three-member panel of judges to oversee the trial of the former president.
The Commission’s members include two of Nasheed’s direct political opponents, including Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid – Deputy of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) – and Gasim Ibrahim, a resort tycoon, media owner, MP and leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP), also a member of the governing coalition.