The High Court has brought forward former President Mohamed Nasheed’s appeal case, now scheduled for Sunday.
Nasheed is being tried in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court for the controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
The former President’s legal team lodged the appeal challenging the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court’s ruling on three procedural issues raised during the court’s first hearing held October 9.
Speaking to Minivan News, MP Mariya Ahmed Didi confirmed the legal team had been informed of the decision to move the hearing.
“I understand from President Nasheed’s lawyers that they have received summons for February 3, as Nasheed had requested to depart the country the afternoon after the hearing. As far as I understand no particular reason was cited,” she said.
Didi however expressed concern over the High Court taking decisions on such short notice, stating that as Nasheed received legal council from abroad, such sudden changes in scheduling were inconvenient.
“These are Queens Counciler’s and their schedules are set in advance. It is not possible to reschedule at such short notice. We have requested the High Court to bear with us on that,” she said.
Didi contended it was imperative that Nasheed be given “all opportunities to defend himself as a defendant in a criminal trial”. Nasheed “should not be an exception to that,” she said.
Spokesperson for the Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) Latheefa Gasim was not responding.
Meanwhile, Nasheed’s legal team has also sought an opportunity to highlight in court the Supreme Court’s ruling concerning the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
The Supreme Court has declared that Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court is legitimate and can operate as a court of law, following the Judicial Service Commission (JSC)’s request that it clarify the court’s legality.
MP Mariya said Nasheed’s legal team was of the opinion that the issue decided in the Supreme Court was different from the issue put before the High Court by the legal team.
“We hope the High Court will give our lawyers the opportunity to explain the distinction and consider all issues before they give a judgment on the matter,” she said.
Following the Prosecutor General (PG)’s decision to press charges against Nasheed in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court instead of Criminal Court, Nasheed’s legal team initially challenged the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ court arguing that it was created in violation of the Judicature Act.
The team raised the issue during the first hearings of the trial, along with other procedural inconsistencies, but all were rejected. They later appealed the case in the High Court along with other procedural issues.
Despite its initial rejection of the procedural points, the High Court later accepted all points made by Nasheed’s legal team except that concerning the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court. It later issued an injunction ordering the magistrate court to suspend Nasheed’s trial until a decision on the procedural points raised by Nasheed’s legal team was reached.
The case has been subject to controversy after Nasheed’s party claimed the trial was a politically motivated attempt to bar Nasheed from contesting in the next presidential elections.
The UK Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) in a recent report concluded that the charges against Nasheed appeared to be a politically motivated attempt to bar the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate from the 2013 presidential elections.
“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,” the report stated.
The report observed that the detention of the judge was “not a simple case of abuse of power”.
“Rather, the underlying narrative of the situation is that of a president desperate to bring change to a new democracy after decades of oppression, and finding himself thwarted by the inability of the organs of state set up by the constitution to deliver much needed reform,” the report stated.
Referring to “the large number of international reports” that have found the Maldivian judiciary to be flawed, the BHRC noted that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) “failed in its twin tasks of ensuring that the judiciary has the appropriate experience and qualifications, and in bringing to book the judges who fail to fully and fairly implement the rule of law”.
“Implicit in these criticisms is that Mr Nasheed cannot be guaranteed a fair trial,” the report concluded.
Arrest of the judge
Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed was taken into military detention of January 16, 2012 at the request of then Home Minister Hassan Afeef on the grounds that the judge posed a threat to national security.
The judge had successfully blocked investigation of his misconduct by the judicial watchdog and quashed his own police summons.
Abdulla Mohamed had “taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist,” Afeef said, accusing him of obstructing high-profile corruption cases, releasing murder suspects, colluding with drug traffickers, and barring media from corruption trials.
The arrest triggered series of anti-governmental protests that eventually led to the sudden resignation of then President Nasheed on February 7, 2012.