Government will not seek to speed up Nasheed’s trial, says President Yameen

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President Abdulla Yameen has said that the current government will not try to push the courts to speed up the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was charged for “unlawful arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed’’.

Local media did report, however, that Yameen noted the opposition leader must be sentenced if there is rule of law in the country.

Speaking at a ceremony held to open the campaign office of the Progressive Party of Maldives’ Majlis candidate for the Maafannu-West constituency, Yameen noted that there were things the government could to expedite proceedings, but said that the government did not wish to enter the criminal justice procedure.

Yameen also said that international groups had no concerns over this issue or any other other issues such as the delay in appointment of a new prosecutor general (PG) – which has led to a backlog of over 500 cases.

A UN report on the independence of judges last year did make mention of the Nasheed case, noting that it was “difficult to understand why one former President is being tried for an act he took outside of his prerogative, while another [Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] has not had to answer for any of the alleged human rights violations documented over the years.”

In July 2012, Nasheed and Former Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim were charged with violating 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 of three years or a fine of MVR3000 (US$193.5).

The case was first filed at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court before Nasheed’s legal team argued that it did not have jurisdiction to preside over the case, filing a procedural issue at the High Court.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) appointed a three member panel consisting of judges Shujau Usman, Abdul Nasir Abdul Raheem, and Hussain Mazeed to hear Nasheed’s procedural issue.

Before the court reached a conclusion on the issue, however, the  JSC suspended Chief Judge in the High Court bench Ahmed Shareef before changing Judge Mazeed and Judge Usman to the Civil Court.

Since this time, no hearings of the case have been conducted or scheduled.

Abdulla Mohamed’s arrest

Abdulla Mohamed was a central figure in the downfall of the former president. He was detained by the military in January 2012 after the government accused him of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, having links with organised crime.

The home minister at the time described the judge as “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.

The chief judge was detained after he had opened the court outside normal hours to order the immediate release of the current Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, arrested after the President’s Office requested an investigation into “slanderous” allegations that the administration was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.

Prosecutor general (PG) at that time – the recently resigned Ahmed Muizz – 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, Muizz said, claiming that the MNDF and Nasheed’s administration “haven’t followed the procedures, and the authorities are in breach of law. They could be charged with contempt of the courts.”

Muizz subsequently ordered the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to investigate the matter.

Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked three weeks of anti-government protests, while the government appealed for assistance from the Commonwealth and UN with reform of the judiciary.

As protests escalated, elements of the police and military mutinied on February 7, alleging that Nasheed’s orders to arrest the judge had been unlawful. A Commonwealth legal delegation had landed in the capital only days earlier.

Nasheed publicly resigned the same day, later saying he had been as forced to do so “under duress” in a coup d’état. A Commonwealth led investigation would later rule the transfer to have been legal.

Judge Abdulla was released on the evening of February 7, and the Criminal Court swiftly issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest. Police did not act on the warrant, however, after mounting international concern.