The Hulhumale Magistrate Court has scheduled hearings against former Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, former Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) Male Area Commander (retired) Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and Colonel Mohamed Ziyad.
All three are facing the same charges as former President Mohamed Nasheed, concerning the former administration’s arrest of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, in January 2012.
Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) official, Mohamed Zahir, told Minivan News that the hearings are to take place from next week.
According to Zahir, Tholthath’s trial is scheduled to take place on February 16, while both retired Brigadier General Didi and Colonel Ziyad’s trial will be held on February 25.
Zahir said that a date has not yet been set for Nasheed’s hearing.
Nasheed meanwhile failed to appear in court for his scheduled hearing on Sunday. Nasheed was on an official visit to India and arrived back in the Maldives this afternoon. The hearing was cancelled in Nasheed’s absence.
Zahir told Minivan News that the bench would meet to decide on a date to hold the hearings.
An investigation led by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), on the order of the Prosecutor General (PG), found that the former President was the “highest authority liable” for the military-led detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
Along with Nasheed, the report concluded that the former Defence Minister, Tholhath, was a second key figure responsible for the decision to detain Judge Abdulla.
The commission stated that the judge was not physically harmed during the 22-day detention at the military training island of Girifushi.
However, the HRCM did claim that the government had “violated his human dignity” and made attempts to manipulate the judge through a psychologist who visited him at the facility where he was detained.
In July 2012, the PG filed charges based on the findings of the HRCM investigation. The accused stand charged with violating Article 81 of the Penal Code, which states that the detention of a government employee who has not been found guilty of a crime is illegal.
If found guilty, parties may face a jail sentence or banishment for three years or a MVR 3000 fine (US$193.5) at the discretion of the judge.
The PG pressed charges against Nasheed in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court on the grounds that holding the trial in Male’ at the Criminal Court represented a conflict of interest on behalf of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, whom the case concerned.
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) appointed a three-member panel of judges to oversee the trial of the former president.
The Commission’s members include two of Nasheed’s direct political opponents, including Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid – Deputy of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) – and Gasim Ibrahim, a resort tycoon, media owner, MP and leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP), also a member of the governing coalition.
During the first hearing of Nasheed’s trial, his legal team challenged the legitimacy of the court and several other inconsistencies, however was this was dismissed.
Nasheed’s legal team then appealed the matter in the High Court. Despite its initial rejection, the High Court subsequently accepted the team’s appeal over the procedural points and issued a injunction on the case.
Following the JSC’s request that it look into the legality of the magistrate court, the Supreme Court ruled that the magistrate court was formed in accordance with the law and therefore could operate normally.
Meanwhile, High Court upheld the rulings of Hulhumale Magistrate Court in the appeal case filed by Nasheed’s legal team, and ordered the court to proceed with the hearings.
Arrest of the judge
The chief judge was detained by the military after he opened the court outside normal hours and ordered the immediate release of current Home Minister and deputy leader of the Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP), Dr Mohamed Jameel.
Jameel had been arrested after the President’s Office requested an investigation into “slanderous” allegations he made that the government was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.
Nasheed’s Home Minister Hassan Afeef sought to justify the arrest claiming that the judge had taken the country’s “entire criminal justice system in his fist“.
Afeef meanwhile listed 14 cases of obstruction of police duty by Judge Abdulla, including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts.
Afeef also accused the judge of “deliberately” holding up cases involving opposition figures, and barring media from corruption trials.