The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called for the international community to be “mindful” of the status of the Maldives judiciary, claiming it to be systematically flawed and biased.
The party’s sentiments were echoed in last night’s (February 16) protest as thousands of supporters of Nasheed once again took to the streets of Male’.
The former President has been inside the Indian High Commission since Wednesday afternoon after he sought refuge from a court warrant ordering police to present him before the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
Nasheed and his party have maintained that the charges – of illegally detaining Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed prior to his controversial resignation on February 7, 2012 – are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent him from contesting presidential elections scheduled for later this year.
In contrast to Friday night’s protest, where 55 people were arrested following clashes with police, demonstrators last night took part in a “seated protest” in the intersection between Majeedhee Magu and Chaandhanee Magu.
Maldives Police Service (MPS) Spokesperson Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that while there had been no arrests made, a vehicle belonging to the Police Family and Child Protection Department was set on fire.
Police also allege that protesters set fire to a police barricade in the early hours of the morning.
However, MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed the circumstances surrounding the barricade fire were suspicious.
“There had been reports that a police barricade was set on fire by protesters. However police tweeted about the fire two minutes before it actually happened,” Hamid claimed.
Minivan News observed around 4,000 demonstrators at last night’s gathering and witnessed multiple charges at the crowds by riot police.
MDP concern over Nasheed’s trial
A statement released by the MDP yesterday expressed concern regarding the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, adding that the status of the judiciary and rule of law in the country was not conducive to ensuring a fair trial for the former president.
The statement accuses judges within the Maldives judiciary as being “under qualified, of dubious moral character, corrupt with political bias, and unduly influenced by members of the former regime”.
“When international actors refer to rule of law and due process, it is only a presumption that rule of law exists in the Maldives,” Ghafoor stated.
“When calling for rule of law in the Maldives our international partners must bare in mind the current state of the judiciary, and its ability to conduct a fair trial.”
Speaking to Minivan News on Thursday, trial observer Stephen Cragg, who compiled a report on Nasheed’s trial, said it was clear the former president was concerned he would not receive a fair trial with the current judges on the case.
Cragg visited the Maldives last year on behalf of the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) to observe the hearings of former President Nasheed’s trial.
“I think it is clear that Mr Nasheed is concerned that he will not get a fair trial if the case goes ahead with the current judges due to hear the case, and his action is likely to highlight those concerns internationally,” Cragg said.
The report compiled by Cragg notes: “BHRC is concerned that a primary motivation behind the present trial is a desire by those in power to exclude Mr Nasheed from standing in the 2013 elections, and notes international opinion that this would not be a positive outcome for the Maldives.”
In the statement, the MDP welcomed calls from India, United Kingdom, United States, the Commonwealth, United Nations and the European Union for a free, fair and inclusive presidential election in the Maldives.
On Friday, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said she was following the latest developments “with concern” and “called on all parties to refrain from actions or statements which are liable to inflame the political climate in the country”.
“I underline the urgent need to resume dialogue between the parties, so as to ensure that the presidential elections set for September 2013 are credible, transparent, inclusive and fully representative of the wishes of all Maldivians, and so that the reforms identified by the Commission of National Inquiry in August 2012 can be rapidly implemented,” she said in a statement.
President of the Maldives, Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik released his own statement yesterday condemning Nasheed’s actions on Wednesday.
“I am dismayed that the former President Nasheed sought refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male’ when he was summoned to the court. The court order which required the Police to arrest Nasheed and have him appear before the court was due to his refusal to attend court hearing. It had expired at 1600 hours on the 13 February 2013, and there is no reason for him to remain in the High Commission and to instigate street violence.
“The court order has nothing to do with my government. Upholding the rule of law means nobody is above the law. I would like to assure the people of Maldives that the law and order will be maintained,” the President’s statement reads.