Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyers quit today in protest of the Criminal Court’s alleged refusal to provide sufficient time to mount a defence on terrorism charges.
Lawyers Hisaan Hussein, Abdulla Shaairu, Ahmed Abdulla Afeef and Ibrahim Riffath said they are unable to dispense legal advise and counsel to President Nasheed and represent him on a fair and just basis.
Nasheed is charged with ordering the abduction of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012. If convicted, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.
The Criminal Court has dismissed the lawyer’s repeated requests for additional time, arguing case documents had been provided three years ago when charges of ordering Judge Abdulla’s “arbitrary detention” were filed against Nasheed.
However, lawyers noted Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin had withdrawn the initial lesser charges and pressed newer and harsher terrorism charges.
“Even though we had the case documents for three years, we were reviewing and researching those documents and evidence to mount a defence for the intial charges,” the lawyers said in a statement today.
“We have to start work all over again in order to build a defence for the new terror charges. This is why we keep reiterating requests for additional time in the ongoing hearings.”
The basis of defence arguments are different, lawyers argued, stating it was “impossible” to provide Nasheed with proper legal counsel without sufficient time.
“Our consciences do not allow us to continue when we are unable to carry out our duties according to the oaths we swore as lawyers,” they added.
The defence team’s resignation comes after they staged a no-show last night over the court’s alleged failure to provide important documentary evidence on time.
In Sunday evening’s hearing, the legal team was supposed to evaluate the prosecution’s audio and video evidence, but the CDs of this evidence were either un-labeled, dysfunctional or left blank, lawyers alleged.
The Criminal Court last night warned Nasheed’s legal team against protesting the court’s rulings, and warned Nasheed they would continue tonight’s hearing without legal representation if he is unable to appoint new lawyers.
Nasheed was arrested on February 22 on Muhsin’s claim he may abscond from a hearing scheduled for the next day. At the time of his arrest, Nasheed was not aware of Muhsin’s decision to press new charges.
The former president has expressed concern over the Criminal Court’s decision to expedite hearings, especially as he continues to be held in police custody.
Meanwhile, the High Court today threw out an appeal filed by Nasheed in which he claimed the Prosecutor General was not authorised to withdraw charges and re-prosecute on new charges.
The appellate court claimed the appeal required interpreting the Constitution and said it had no jurisdiction over the matter.
Nasheed had also appealed the Criminal Court’s decision to keep him under custody until the trial ended. Lawyer Hisaan said the High Court rejected the appeal by classifying the Criminal Court’s bail denial ruling as a court summons.
Lawyers have also appealed the first warrant to arrest Nasheed, and the Criminal Court’s refusal to recuse Judges Abdulla Didi and Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf despite the pair having provided witness statements to a 2012 investigation into Judge Abdulla’s arrest.
Over 70 lawyers submitted a petition to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) yesterday urging the commission to investigate unlawful acts committed by courts within the criminal justice system.
The petition outlined seven issues, including court’s denying the accused their right to legal representation and right to adequate time to prepare defence, as well as obstructions in appealing court rulings.