Former President Mohamed Nasheed has been found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison for the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
Delivering the verdict at the final hearing of the trial tonight, Judge Abdulla Didi said the prosecution’s evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that Nasheed ordered the chief judge’s arrest or “forceful abduction.”
Nasheed was the “architect” of the “atrocity,” Judge Didi said.
The chief judge’s detention on Girifushi Island was unlawful and unconstitutional, he continued, noting that the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) defied orders from the Criminal Court, High Court and Supreme Court to release the judge.
Judge Didi also said the former president has a criminal record for theft, terrorism, false testimony and disobedience to orders.
While state prosecutors presented closing arguments tonights, Nasheed asked for 20 days to prepare his closing statement, stating he was unable to communicate with lawyers and examine evidence while incarcerated at Dhoonidhoo detention centre.
The former president asked to be transferred to Malé for better access to his lawyers.
He also objected to the hearing taking place on a Friday, noting that it was a public holiday where Muslims were enjoined to worship and spend time with family.
Tonight’s hearing was scheduled to begin at 8:30pm, but started around 9:15pm. After closing arguments, the judges adjourned proceedings and reconvened around 11:00pm.
Nasheed was smiling when the verdict was read out and shook hands with three of his family members while he was escorted out.
The opposition leader’s lawyers have said they intend to appeal the verdict at the High Court. If the lower court ruling is upheld by both the High Court and Supreme Court, Nasheed would not be able to contest the 2018 presidential election.
Home Minister Umar Naseer meanwhile tweeted saying he has “asked police to hold [President] Nasheed in Dhoonidhoo Detention Centre until a special unit is constructed in Maafushi Prison.”
Nasheed was charged with “enforced disappearance” under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1990, which carries a jail term of between 10 to 15 years.
Prior to a hearing on March 9, all four of Nasheed’s lawyers quit in protest of the Criminal Court’s refusal to grant sufficient time to examine the prosecution’s evidence and mount a defence.
The presiding judges had denied the lawyers’ request for adequate time, stating the legal team has had the case documents for three years.
Judges also insisted in tonight’s verdict that Nasheed was offered both enough time to prepare his defence and access to lawyers, claiming he refused the opportunity to appoint new lawyers.
Nasheed was first charged in 2012 with arbitrary detention under article 81 of the penal code, which carries either banishment or a jail term of up to three years.
On February 15, Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin withdrew the charges filed at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court. Nasheed was arrested on February 22 shortly after the PG filed terrorism charges at the Criminal Court.
At the previous hearing, Judges Didi, Abdul Bari Yousuf, and Shujau Usman dismissed the opposition leader’s repeated requests for legal representation. The judges also refused to hear defence witnesses, claiming they could not negate the prosecution’s evidence or witness testimony.
“I want a lawyer. This is not a court of law. This is injustice. This is the biggest circus this country has seen in its constitutional history,” Nasheed said.
Continuing its daily protests since Nasheed’s arrest, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) began a march at the ‘Usfasgandu’ area of Malé around 4:30pm today with thousands of supporters.
After walking down Majeedhee Magu, protesters split into two groups and staged a sit-down behind police barricades at Orchid Magu and Fareedhee Magu. Both roads lead to the Criminal Court building.
Police escorted Nasheed to court around 8:00pm for the last hearing of his trial. The opposition leader attempted to talk to journalists assembled outside the building, but was blocked by police.
Nasheed told the journalists to “stay strong.”
Around 8:40pm, according to a live blog on the police website, police said the Criminal Court complained to police of loud noise from loudspeakers on a pickup used by the protesters.
Police said protesters were repeatedly advised to turn down the volume, but refused to comply.
Specialist Operations (SO) officers confiscated the loudspeakers after “giving a last warning.”
Moreover, police said protesters threw objects at riot police and “some people who obstructed police duty were taken into police custody.”
A Minivan News journalist near the Salsa restaurant on Orchid Magu observed police using pepper spray indiscriminately and arresting at least six protesters.
When SO officers pushed back protesters with their shields and attempted to take over the pickups, protesters threw bottles at the riot police.
Violent clashes erupted between SO officers and protesters.
One protester was seen bleeding from the head after the clashes. However, SO officers took the pickups away, pushed back protesters and withdrew behind barricades.
Meanwhile, a group of about five young men hurled crude oil at a protest pickup at Fareedhee Magu and vandalised equipment. Police have also confirmed the incident.
The five men were reportedly arrested at the scene.
Police also said a protester was taken to hospital after being pepper sprayed and released after treatment. Police did not specify the nature of the injury.
According to an update on the police blog at 11:40pm, two police officers were attacked near Salsa restaurant and their vehicle was damaged during the assault. A cameramen was also injured and protesters threw bottles at journalists, police said.
The sit-in protest was continuing at the time of publication.
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