Jumhoree Party (JP) Youth Wing President Moosa Anwar has backtracked on an earlier declaration that he would seek to challenge the Elections Commission’s decision to accept former President Mohamed Nasheed as a presidential candidate in the upcoming election through the Supreme Court.
Hours after making the announcement Anwar reversed his decision, stating that he had been advised to do so by Jumhoree Party officials after he was unable to convince an attorney to take the case.
Anwar lodged a similar lawsuit at the then interim Supreme Court contesting the candidacy of Nasheed prior to the 2008 presidential elections.
Anwar previously contested that Nasheed had been convicted and sentenced for theft in 2001 for taking documents that were to be disposed from Velaanaage, the house belonging to former President Ibrahim Nasir – without permission.
According to media reports at the time, Nasheed attended the auction of the house in October 2001 along with then Minister for Construction and Public Works Umar Zahir and his Assistant Director Ibrahim Fayaz.
Nasheed pulled out scraps of discarded paper from the waste of the partially demolished house, which he later packed and labelled for donation to the National Council of Linguistic and Historical Research.
“They laughed and joked as Nasheed pulled scraps of discarded paper from the dust and rubble of the partially demolished house. Minister Rashida Yusuf was delighted when she recognised former President Nasir’s children’s schoolwork that had been marked by her when she had been his teacher many years ago,” read a special report by the Maldives Culture website.
“These papers were collected by Nasheed who later packed and labelled them for donation to the National Council of Linguistic and Historical Research. It was at this point that Nasheed was arrested and held in solitary confinement for a month before being charged and found guilty of theft, and then sentenced to two and a half years exile in Raa Atoll, away from his family and children who live in Male’. The whole process was over in about two and half hours. Mohamed Nasheed had never admitted to the charges of theft, and the judge denied him his legal rights to present his case or respond to the charges made against him,” according to Maldives Culture’s account of the incident.
The prosecution succeeded in removing Nasheed from his seat in parliament – a move labelled as politically motivated by various international human rights watchdogs.
An appeal in 2002 against the conviction was rejected by the government – which at the time was also the head of judiciary – despite the attorneys who examined the case pointing to grave flaws in the judgement.
Anwar meanwhile contended that the former president’s conviction was a hadd offence under Islamic Sharia and therefore, Nasheed did not satisfy the criteria set out in constitution for a person to hold the office of president.
Article 109(E) of the constitution demands that a person who holds the office of the president and those that are contesting for the post of presidency must “not have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than 12 months, unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release, or pardon for the offence for which he was sentenced”.
The then interim Supreme Court ruled in favour of the former president and declared the Elections Commission’s decision to accept his candidacy as valid, stating that Nasheed’s sentence was not a Hadd offence but a Ta’zir offence under Islamic Sharia.
Under Islamic Sharia law, unlike a Hadd offence which the punishment is prescribed in the holy Quran, Ta’zir offences are punishments applied to the other offences for which no punishment is specified in the Qur’an. It is a lesser degree of offence compared to Hadd offences, and the punishment varies depending on the discretion of the judge or the Qazi.
Anwar told Minivan News today that his latest petition at the Supreme Court would be based on the same grounds with which he challenged Nasheed’s candidacy in 2008. He claimed that he did not believe that Nasheed was eligible to contest in the presidential polls and would lodge the case as soon as the Elections Commission formally announced the candidates list.
Anwar’s submission comes after the five day deadline given by Election Commission regulations to challenge the candidacy of potential presidents. Anwar however had a different interpretation.
“Even back in 2008, I was able to file the case after the time frame given by the Elections Commission. Therefore, I do not believe there was any deadline to file such a case concerning a presidential candidate,” he told Minivan News.
Anwar said he had made several requests to attorneys registered at the Supreme Court to take up the case, but said they were all “too scared” over how “emotional” President Nasheed and his party Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters are.
Therefore, Anwar claimed that he would go all by himself to the Supreme Court, and utilise his “knowledge of the law” during his years spent studying at the faculty of Sharia and Law of the Maldives National University.
“I think it is a problem that our lawyers, judges, police and the military are so afraid of a single individual or a political organisation,” Anwar said, referring to Nasheed and the MDP.
Meanwhile, President Nasheed’s Spokesperson MP Mariya Ahmed Didi told Minivan News that the Supreme Court had previously set strong precedents upholding the Article 60 of the constitutions which prohibits double jeopardy.
Overturning parliament’s deposing of Chair of Civil Service Commission Mohamed Fahmy, the Supreme Court upheld the principle of prohibiting double jeopardy, contending that Fahmy would receive two punishments for the same crime if he was to be removed from his position over the alleged sexual harassment case which is currently looked into by the Prosecutor General.
Therefore, Didi contended that she was confident that the Supreme Court would not accept the case as it was previously decided by the Supreme Court in 2008.
She further claimed that Nasheed’s rival in the election, resort tycoon and presidential hopeful Gasim Ibrahim, was behind the submission of the case, suggesting the move was a desperate ploy in the face of Nasheed’s broad electoral popularity.