The High Court is expected to rule Monday (February 4) on a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) appeal against the Supreme Court’s decision to back the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed, who is currently facing charges in the Hulhumale’ court over the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, today appealed against the legitimacy of the legal body alongside lawyers from the MDP.
Nasheed’s legal team have claimed that the Supreme Court ruling legitimising the Hulhumale’ court could be ignored by a lower legal body in the country, if oversights were made in the original verdict.
The High Court hearing follows attempts by the MDP to file a Civil Court case against serving Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed over allegations he had sought to influence the judiciary against the former president.
Dr Jameel was himself arrested under the Nasheed administration last year after the President’s Office requested an investigation into so-called “slanderous” allegations he made that the government was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.
Minivan News was awaiting a response from Jameel at time of press.
According to MDP spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, Nasheed’s legal team today invoked the principal of “per incuriam”, whereby an order from a superior court could be ignored in cases where “oversights” where found in the legal body’s ruling.
“In this regard, there are many precedents where the High Court has ruled against the Supreme Court,” he claimed, without specifying examples.
Hamid contended that rather than arguing the appeal hearing on just a legal technicality, the principal of “per incuriam” was relevant to what he claimed were the questionable grounds by which the Hulhumale’-based court was founded.
“The existence of Hulhumale’ magistrate Court is illegal. Our lawyers have submitted proof such as letters by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom showing this,” he claimed.
Nasheed came under international criticism last year after detaining Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed. The arrest followed his successful blocking of investigations into his alleged misconduct by the judicial watchdog and quashing of his own police summons.
The former government also accused the judge of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, having links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.
Nasheed’s government faced ongoing protests following the detention that led to his controversial resignation on February 7, 2012.
The MDP has maintained that the charges against Nasheed, which would potentially see him facing possible imprisonment or being banned from running for office in elections scheduled for later this year, were politically motivated.
Nasheed, who also spoke at the trial, observed that the chief presiding judge at the hearing had formerly served under Home Minister Dr Jameel during his tenure at the now defunct Ministry of Justice, during the autocratic rule of former President Gayoom. The MDP alleged that the judge, having previously reported to directly to Dr Jameel during his time as justice minister, had a conflict of interest.
Hamid claimed that should the appeal be upheld by the High Court, the invalidation of the Hulhumale’ Magistrates Court would also call into question the nature of the charges against former President Nasheed.
He claimed additionally that the state was “on the back foot” in the case, with the Prosecutor General’s (PG’s) Office not contesting the issue today during the hearing.
Hamid added that Attorney General Azima Shukoor and a representative for the court watchdog, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), had also declined to turn up for the hearing.
He was critical however of the chief judge providing the MDP just 20 minutes with which to present the opposition’s case against the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ court.
The three presiding judges are expected to deliver a verdict on the appeal by tomorrow.
Action against home minister
Meanwhile, President of MDP’s Male’ City Branch Mohamed Rasheed Hussain ‘Bigey’ filed a case at the Civil Court Thursday (January 31) concerning Home Minister Dr Jameel’s comments regarding the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
The case, which has been accepted by the court, is currently in the process of registration.
“We are submitting this case to the Civil Court requesting that they order current Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed to stop making remarks to local media that will stand in the way of judges presiding over cases fairly and in a manner free of influence,” Hussain said.
Aishath Leesha, the lawyer representing the MDP in the case, claimed that the home minister’s comments concerning an ongoing case were outlawed not only under the Judicature Act and Judges Act, but by previous Supreme Court rulings and the Maldives constitution.
“Hence, we are asking the court to declare that neither Jameel nor anyone else can make comments of this nature,” Leesha said.
Dr Jameel was reported in local media as stating that it was “crucial to conclude the case against Nasheed before the approaching presidential elections, in the interests of the nation and to maintain peace in it.”
He alleged that delays to the trial were due to “various reasons”, and would very likely have “adverse effects on the political and social fabric of the nation”.
“If things happen this way, people will start believing that it was due to the failure to address some issues in the Maldives’ judicial system, which need to be looked into. And in my opinion, the courts will have to take responsibility for this,” Jameel said in his interview with news website Haveeru.
Expressing concern that it would be an “extremely worrisome matter” if people started speculating that the reason for the delay in prosecuting Nasheed was that the country’s judiciary was not performing to par, Jameel said, “Every single day that goes by without the case being concluded contributes to creating doubt in the Maldivian people’s minds about the judiciary.”