Deputy Prosecutor General (PG) Hussein Shameem has said that Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court does have the jurisdiction to hear the case of former President Mohamed Nasheed over his role in the detention of a Criminal Court Chief Judge.
Shameem contended that should the court maintain its decision against hearing the case, there were few other judicial alternatives in trying to ensure a “fair trial”.
The comments were made as the PG’s office called on the Hulhumale’-based court to review its decision to send back the case to authorities on the grounds that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the former president’s trial as written under the Judicature Act.
Nasheed, along with three Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers, face charges over the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chef Judge Abdullah Mohamed – a decision the former president claimed was taken over national security concerns.
Chief Judge abdulla was detained by the military, after he had opened the court outside normal hours to order the immediate release of former Justice Minister and current Home Minister and Deputy Leader of the Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP), Dr Mohamed Jameel.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), of which Nasheed is the presidential candidate, has claimed it expects the trial – whether in Hulhumale’ or another court – to go ahead regardless of legality. The party has alleged the case serves solely as a means to convict the former president and potentially prevent him from contesting in the next general election.
However, Shameem claimed today the PG’s office had opted to hold the case against the former president in Hulhumale’ as it believed a fair trial could not be held at the country’s Criminal Court, an institution Judge Abdulla continues to oversee.
“We believe the Hulhumale’-based court does have the jurisdiction to hear this case under provisions outlined in the Judicature Act. We do not believe a fair trial could be held at the Criminal Court in this particular case,” he said.
Shameem claimed that there was a seemingly limited number of alternatives for hearing the case should Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court maintain it does not have the mandate to host such a trial.
“We would not be sending the case [to the Criminal Court],” he said. “So if the Hulhumale’ magistrate feels uncomfortable with the case or maintains it does not have the jurisdiction, we would have to appeal at the High Court about this.”
A statement sent to local media yesterday by the PG’s office claimed that despite Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court’s initial reservations, it could hold the case as the island was under the same judicial constituent as nearby Male’ and Villimale.
The statement also contended that judicial regulations did not prevent a magistrate court from investigating allegations of the “deliberate arrest of an innocent individual”.
Addressing the issue of court jurisdiction, President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad said that the government remained committed to not interfering with the country’s judiciary. Masood said he would not therefore comment on the case against the former president, who has alleged his successor Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan came to power in a “coup d’etat” on February 7.
“We would not want to touch the issue with a ten-foot pole,” Masood added, referring any questions on the case to Attorney General (AG) Azima Shakoor.
AG Shakoor was not responding to calls at time of press.
Former President to justify judge’s detention
Former President Nasheed has previously that he is “prepared” to justify the reasons for the arrest of Judge Abdulla, and said he was ready to appear in court and prove his actions were valid.
MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that that despite the present uncertainty over the exact legal body that would be hearing the trial, he believed authorities would be going ahead with the trial.
“Nobody, can stop them from doing it,” he claimed. “They have no choice to go ahead with such a thing. It is the only way to avoid talk of an early election by arresting Nasheed and trying to dismantle the MDP. The dictatorship is back.”
Ghafoor alleged that the MDP did not presently take the potential trial of the former President Nasheed “seriously”, owing to what he claimed was institutionalised bias and political influence in the country’s judiciary.
“Today for example, a lower court was able to overrule the JSC [the country’s judicial watchdog] to take action against Chief Judge Abdullah over concerns of his conduct,” he said.
Ghafoor claimed that the judiciary’s reputation and conduct reflected a wider societal attitude that the Maldives did “not have a culture of law” for citizens to rely on.
“The courts and judiciary are not up too much here. During the thirty years of dictatorship we had, the media published propganda about these institutions and people thought they were quite capable,” he said. “Yet in the democracy we have had, you have to prove yourselves”
Ghafoor claimed that as the issue of Nasheed’s trial continued to wear on, more members of the public were becoming are “that the trials are a sham”.
In late 2011, Judge Abdulla was himself under investigation by the JSC, the country’s judicial watchdog, for allegedly politically biased comments made to private broadcaster DhiTV. The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) was due to release a report into Judge Abdulla’s alleged ethical misconduct, however the judge approached the Civil Court and successfully filed an injunction against his further investigation by the judicial watchdog.
Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked international criticism of the Nasheed administration as well three weeks of anti-government protests in January, leading the former government to appeal for international assistance from the Commonwealth and UN to reform the judiciary.