The High Court has rejected a request from former President Mohamed Nasheed to delay the hearings of his case challenging the legality of Hulhumalé Magistrate Court’s bench.
The Maldivian Democratic Party leader had asked to delay the hearing, scheduled for Wednesday (January 28), by one and a half months as his legal team requires time for further research.
In the letter written to high court by Nasheed’s lawyer Hassan Latheef, it was noted that no hearings had been scheduled since April 1, 2013, and that during this period significant changes have been brought to the judicial system.
High court spokesman Amin Faisal told Minivan News that the court has informed Nasheed’s legal team it is unable to postpone the trial as requested.
A statement from Nasheed’s office expressed concern that a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for this week, despite the 2011 High Court regulations stating that the court’s registrar has the authority to schedule preliminary hearings only before the commencement of trial hearings.
“It was also requested that the High Court conduct hearings of the trial of the case submitted by President Nasheed instead of the scheduled preliminary hearings”, the statement read.
Full of Surprises
Speaking to Minivan News, Hassan Latheef revealed that although the summons chit specified that a preliminary hearing is scheduled on Wednesday, the court has since said that a meeting was to take place with the presiding judges to discuss how the trial will proceed.
“This is neither a preliminary hearing as stated in the summons nor a hearing but an administrative meeting of sorts,” said Latheef.
Latheef noted that such meeting were unheard of at this stage of proceedings, noting that Nasheed’s trial has been “filled with surprises that the legal history of this country has never seen before”.
The case itself will investigate the manner in which appointments were made to the Hulhulamalé Magistrates Court – a body created to conduct the trial of Nasheed and senior figures in his government for the 2012 detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
Nasheed’s lawyers have previously challenged – unsuccessfully – the establishment of a Magistrates Court in the Malé suburb, arguing that Hulhumalé is considered to be part of Malé City under the Decentralisation Act and therefore does not require a separate Magistrates Court.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul has previously noted that the “appointment of judges to the case, has been set up in an arbitrary manner outside the parameters laid out in the laws”.
Latheef today noted that the legal team required more time to do research on the case due to the changes brought to the Maldivian judiciary after recent amendments to the Judicature Act.
“While major changes have been brought to the judiciary from April 2013 up to this day, the High Court’s ruling on this matter is likely to have significant implications on the case in the lower courts regarding President Nasheed. This is why we need more time”, he said.
Amendments to the Judicature Act passed on December 10, 2014, changed the composition and structure of the High Court by establishing two additional branches in the northern and southern regions of the Maldives.
As per the amendments the two new branches can only adjudicate the rulings of the magistrate courts. The nine-member High Court is to be divided among the three branches with three judges in each branch.
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