The Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court has decided to halt the ongoing trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed for four weeks.
The former President is charged with the controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed during the last days of his presidency.
During Wednesday’s hearings, Nasheed’s legal team requested the court delay the trial until the end of the scheduled presidential elections in 2013, and in a separate request, asked the court for a delay in proceedings by four weeks.
The court stated that the request was made in a letter it had been sent by Nasheed’s legal team.
Following the request, the prosecution told the three-member panel of judges that they “did not have any problem” with withholding the trial for four weeks, and they “did not object to delaying the election until the end of the scheduled presidential elections in September 2013.”
Judges repeatedly questioned the prosecution on this statement.
In response, the prosecution repeated the statement, adding that the phrases “not objecting” and “not having a problem” had two different meanings, but did not explain further.
After a short break, the judges dismissed the request to delay the trial until the end of the elections, but agreed to withhold it for four weeks, stating that the panel of judges by majority “had decided to proceed with the trial”.
Nasheed’s lawyers subsequently contested the decision, claiming that continuing the trial could compromise the rights of many people, arguing that Nasheed was the presidential candidate of the largest political party in the country, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
The latest statistics from Elections Commission show the MDP currently holds a membership of more than 46,000 members, in a country with a population of 320,000.
However, the court stated that Nasheed’s claim he was the presidential candidate of a political party lacked legal grounds to support it, as presidential candidates were decided by the Elections Commission after it opened the opportunity to file presidential candidates.
The judges then repeatedly asked the prosecution to state whether they wanted to delay the trial or not. However, the prosecution maintained that it was not their request to delay the trial, but said they would not object to this.
The sitting judges concluded Wednesday’s hearing stating that another hearing would be scheduled after the four week break.
Nasheed’s lawyers after the hearings stated that they would appeal the decision made by the magistrate court in the High Court.
Member of Nasheed’s legal team Abdulla Shairu stated that he was surprised by the decision reached today by the court , as this was the first time it had decided to go on with a trial while both defendants and the prosecution had not objected to a delay.
The hearing was attended by senior members of the MDP, including its parliamentary group members.
Nasheed was also released from police custody as the court order to hold him expired.
Earlier, the former President’s legal team’s appeal to the Criminal Court for a writ of Habeas Corpus demanding his release from custody, however this was rejected by the court without a hearing.
The team made the appeal to the court on Tuesday evening. The Criminal Court subsequently requested police to provide the details of the detention.
In a notice sent to member of Nasheed’s legal team Hisaan Hussain, the Criminal Court stated that former President Nasheed had been arrested as per a court order, therefore could not be released.
Speaking to Minivan News, Kirsty Brimelow QC, one of three UK-based experts on former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team said that there remained a “strong argument” in the case that the prosecution of Nasheed was “not in the public interest”.
“It is a strong argument that a prosecution is not in the public interest. The currently constituted court comprises of judges who may be biased or have the appearance of bias. They should recuse themselves,” she argued.
“There has been no review of the original decision to prosecute in the light of the Parliamentary Select Committee’s findings,” she said. “There has been no disclosure of documents which are essential to allow Mohamed Nasheed to properly defend himself,”
She contended that the prosecution of Nasheed’s case before the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court fell “below international standards for fair trial procedure”.
“The arrest and remand in custody of Mohamed Nasheed was heavy handed and unnecessary. Arrangements could easily have been made, at any time, for him to surrender to the court,” Brimelow added.