The Hulhumale Magistrate Court has suspended all trials concerned the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012, following the High Court’s order yesterday to suspend the trial against former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Meanwhile eight High Court judges today submitted a case to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) against the Chief Judge of the High Court.
The High Court on Sunday ordered the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court to halt President Nasheed’s trial until it determined the legitimacy of the panel of judges appointed to examine his case. The stay order signed by Judge Ahmed Shareef of the High Court stated that the court was of the view that Nasheed’s ongoing trial must come to a halt until the legitimacy of the bench was established.
Following the resumption of the trials after a Supreme Court battle between President Nasheed’s legal team and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) over the legitimacy of Hulhumale Magistrate Court – which ended in favour of JSC after Supreme Court declared the court legitimate – Nasheed’s legal team again filed a case at the High Court requesting that it look into the legitimacy of the appointment of the three member judges panel.
The decision by the Hulhumale Magistrate Court means trials of former Defense Minister Tholthath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, former Chief of Defence Force retired Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel, former Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) Male Area Commander retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and former MNDF Operations Director Colonel Mohamed Ziyad’s will be suspended until the High Court comes to a decision on the matter – or the Supreme Court takes over the case, as it did following the previous injunction.
An official from the magistrate court was quoted in local media as stating that the suspension of the trials came because the case that is currently being heard in the High Court is closely linked to all cases.
At the time of suspension of the trials, all defendants including Nasheed had denied the charges levied against them.
Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed was taken into military detention in January 2012, following a request made by then Home Minister Hassan Afeef to then Defense Minister Tholthath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu.
Justifying the arrest, former Home Minister Afeef claimed that the judge had taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist which posed threats to the country’s national security.
All the individuals are facing the same charge under section 81 of the Penal Code – the offence of “arbitrarily arresting and detaining an innocent person”.
Section 81 states – “It shall be an offense for any public servant by reason of the authority of office he is in to detain to arrest or detain in a manner contrary to law innocent persons. Persons guilty of this offense shall be subjected to exile or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding MVR 2,000.00”.
The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has come under heavy scrutiny over its appointment of the panel of the judges – which several lawyers and members of JSC itself have claimed exceeded the JSC’s mandate.
Among the JSC’s critics include JSC member Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman – the member appointed from among the public. Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman previously claimed the JSC had arbitrarily appointed three magistrates from courts across the Maldives to Nasheed’s case after dismissing the three names first submitted to the commission by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
“Moosa Naseem (from the Hulhumale’ Court) initially submitted names of three magistrates, including himself. This means that he had taken responsibility for overseeing this case. Now once a judge assumes responsibility for a case, the JSC does not have the power to remove him from the case,” Sheikh Rahman explained. “However, the JSC did remove him from the case, and appointed three other magistrates of their choice.”
Sheikh Rahman stated that the commission had referred to Articles 48 to 51 of the Judge’s Act as justification.
“But then I note here that the JSC breached Article 48 itself. They did not gather any information as per this article. They stated that it was due to the large amount of paperwork that needs to be researched that they are appointing a panel. However, this is not reason enough to appoint a bench,” he said.
Rahman further stated that the judicial watchdog body was highly politicised, and openly attempting to eliminate former President Nasheed from contesting the presidential elections.
Meanwhile, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid – who is also a member of the JSC – stated that he believed that the judicial watchdog had acted unconstitutionally in assigning magistrates to a particular case.
“In deciding upon the bench, the JSC did follow its rules of procedures. As in, it was voted upon in an official meeting and six of the seven members in attendance voted on the matter. The seventh member being the chair, does not vote in matters,” Shahid explained.
“However, whether it is within the commission’s mandate to appoint a panel of judges in this manner is an issue which raised doubt in the minds of more than one of my fellow members,” he added.
Other critics included United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, who also said the appointment was carried out arbitrarily.
“Being totally technical, it seems to me that the set-up, the appointment of judges to the case, has been set up in an arbitrary manner outside the parameters laid out in the laws,” Knaul said, responding to questions from media after delivering her statement in February.