Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has expressed his disappointment over the Indian government’s decision to provide refuge to former President Mohamed Nasheed in the Indian High Commission.
The former President was due to attend a hearing regarding his detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
Instead of appearing in court, Nasheed sought refuge in the Indian High Commission, claiming his trial was politically motivated and an attempt to bar him from running in presidential elections scheduled this year.
Speaking to local newspaper Haveeru, Jameel said that attempts by any country to prevent a person from facing charges pressed by an independent Prosecutor General (PG), could be described as interfering domestic matters of a sovereign state.
He said the charges levied against the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate were serious as they involved the “abduction of a senior judge”.
In January 2012 while in power, Nasheed’s Home Minister Hassan Afeef wrote to the Defense Ministry requesting the judge be detained as he posed a threat to both the country’s national security and the criminal justice system.
The judge had previously obtained an injunction from the Civil Court against his further investigation by the judicial watchdog, which had complied.
The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) subsequently arrested Judge Abdulla and placed him in military detention on Girifushi – a military training centre near Male’, also used for Nasheed’s famous underwater cabinet meeting in 2009.
In an attempt to give a legal justification for the involvement of the armed forces during the arrest, the former Home Minister alleged the judge had “taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist”, and posed a threat to “public order, safety and national security”.
After his sudden resignation on February 2012, Nasheed is now facing criminal charges for 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.
Jameel – a former Justice Minister under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30 year autocracy – has previously said 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.”
“Every single day that goes by without the case being concluded contributes to creating doubt in the Maldivian people’s minds about the judiciary,” the home minister said at the time.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s contended that the charge against its presidential candidate was a desperate attempt by the government to destroy its political opponents and bar Nasheed from contesting the scheduled elections.
The UK Bar Human Rights Commission – which is has been observing Nasheed’s trial – concurred in its recent report, agreeing that the trial was politically motivated.
“BHRC is concerned that a primary motivation behind the present trial is a desire by those in power to exclude Mr Nasheed from standing in the 2013 elections, and notes international opinion that this would not be a positive outcome for the Maldives,” the report stated.
However Home Minister Jameel has disputed the MDP’s claims, arguing that the trial was not politically motivated but a sincere attempt by the current government to uphold the rule of law.
Expressing his frustration over Nasheed’s presence in the Indian High Commission, Jameel said he had “never previously seen the international community trying to protect a convict or an individual who is being tried in a court of law”.
“I describe this action [by Indian High commission] as very unusual,” he said. “For example, it would be very unusual for a murderer to seek refuge in a diplomatic office.”
Jameel said the country needed assistance from the international community to look into the arrest of the judge, and “not to protect an individual who stands charged with a serious crime”.
Tweeting last night, the Home Minister implied that India was meddling in the Maldives’ internal affairs: “What’s happening now gives us an indication of the extent and level of interest some countries prepared to take in our internal matters,” he said.
“I would strongly urge everyone to let our institutions deal with the challenges, and allow the Maldives to uphold rule of law,” he tweeted.
Jameel was not responding to calls at time of press.
In a statement released by Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian government called on its regional counterpart to strictly adhere to “democratic principles and the rule of law, thereby paving the way for free, fair, credible and inclusive elections”.
“Following the arrest warrant issued against him by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, the former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, who is a candidate for the Presidential elections in Maldives scheduled for September 2013, is in the Indian High Commission and has sought India’s assistance. We are in touch with the relevant Maldivian authorities to resolve the situation,” the statement read.
“Now that the President of the Election Commission of Maldives has announced that Presidential elections would be held on 7 September 2013, it is necessary that the Presidential nominees of recognised political parties be free to participate in the elections without any hindrance.
“Prevention of participation by political leaders in the contest would call into question the integrity of the electoral process, thereby perpetuating the current political instability in Maldives,” it added.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs concluded its statement by contending it was “not in the interest” of the Maldives or the region to prevent any candidate from contesting the country’s presidential elections later this year.
“India would call upon the government and all political parties in Maldives to avoid any actions that would vitiate the political atmosphere in the Maldives,” its statement read.
In a statement released by the office of the former President, Nasheed welcomed the Indian statement.
“The events of the past year – the mass arrests, the police brutality, the politically motivated trials – demonstrate that Dr Waheed cannot be trusted to hold a free and fair election. Waheed should do the right thing and resign from office. An interim, caretaker government should be established that can lead the Maldives to genuinely free and fair elections, in which all candidates are freely able to compete,” he said.
Nasheed in the statement also reiterated his belief that that his trial was “a politically motivated sham” and said the Hulhumale Magistrate Court – established to hear his case – was illegal and created “with the sole purpose of disqualifying me from standing in the presidential elections”.