Nasheed fails to appear in court, defies travel ban

Additional reporting Daniel Bosley, Mariyath Mohamed and Mohamed Naahii.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed departed Male’ today to participate in his party’s ‘Vaudhuge Dhathuru’ (Journey of Pledges) campaign in the southern atolls, defying a court order that he remain in the capital.

Nasheed’s departure contravenes an order from the Hulhumale Magistrate Court last week that Nasheed be confined to Male’ ahead of his court trial, which was to be conducted at 4:00pm today.

Journalists in the courtroom were required to undergo heavy security screening and were stripped of mobile phones, recording equipment and notepads. However, 20 minutes later a court official stated that the hearing was cancelled as the defendant and his lawyers had failed to appear. A new date was not set.

Nasheed meanwhile held a rally from atop a yellow flagged dhoni in front of 500 demonstrators near the petrol jetty in the south of Male’, before departing with five vessels and hundreds of supporters. Minivan News observed no police presence in the area.

“Once they started to set up a fabricated court, bring in judges who are not judges of that court, and the whole structure of it is so… politically motivated, it is very obvious it is not meant to serve justice,” Nasheed told the BBC.

“We intend to find out in this trip to what extent we were able to fulfil our pledges during this party’s period in government,” Nasheed told his supporters. “This is a journey of pledges. This is a journey for justice. This is a journey where we become one with the citizens.”

The party and its senior leadership will visit over 30 islands during the 14 day trip, taking in the atolls of Gaafu Alif, Gaafu Dhaalu, Fuvahmulah and Addu.

Meanwhile, the court hearing was to be the first in the case concerning Nasheed’s detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, while in office.

Nasheed also faces charges of defaming Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim as “traitors”, following February 7’s controversial transfer of power. The first hearing in Riyaz’s case has been postponed indefinitely.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed deep concern over the legality of the court’s procedures regarding the trials, which it contends are a politically-motivated attempt to convict the former president and prevent him from running in future Presidential elections.

Following the court-ordered travel ban on Nasheed ahead of the party’s southern atoll election campaign, the MDP announced that it would no longer recognise the authority of the courts in the Maldives until changes proposed by international entities were brought to the judicial system.

“This all looks very ‘Myanmar’ – using the courts and administrative manipulation to restrict political party activity,” said MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor at the time.

“While President Waheed was lobbying the Commonwealth to remove the Maldives from its human rights watch-list, his regime had detained the leader of the opposition.”

The concerns were echoed by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) who recently downgraded the Maldivesfrom its formal agenda to a ‘matter of interest’.

“Canada is deeply troubled by the reported September 25 travel ban of former President Nasheed in Malé,” said Baird.

“The recently adopted Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report has raised substantial concerns about the independence of the judiciary. That too causes Canada grave concern as we strive to assure independent open elections in the Maldives,” he added.

“President Waheed offered no substantial defence of these questions, which is a telling response in itself,” said Baird. “Canada finds the declining state of democratic values in the Maldives alarming and deeply troubling.”

The court has maintained that the travel restriction is normal procedure for defendants ahead of court trials.

The case

Nasheed’s controversial decision to detain Judge Abdulla in January 2012 followed the judge’s repeated release of former Justice Minister – and current Home Minister – Dr Mohamed Jameel, in December 2011, whom the government had accused of inciting religious hatred over the publication of his party’s pamphlet, ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’.

Nasheed’s government further accused the judge of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, having links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” so as to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases, among other allegations.

Nasheed justified the judge’s arrest based on his constitutional mandate to protect the constitution. Judge Abdulla had in September 2011 received an injunction from the Civil Court preventing his investigation by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the watchdog tasked with overseeing the judiciary, which complied with the ruling.

Parliament’s Independent Commissions Committee, the body mandated with holding the judicial watchdog accountable, took no interest in the matter.

The then-opposition began nightly protests over the judge’s detention, while the government sought assistance from the UN and Commonwealth for urgent judicial reform.

However, Nasheed resigned on February 7 amid a police and military mutiny the day after the Commonwealth team arrived.

Judge Abdulla was released, and the Criminal Court issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest. The warrant was not acted upon.

Former Defence Minister Tholhath, former Chief of Defence Force Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel, Brigadier Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and Colonel Mohamed Ziyad are also facing charges for their role in detaining Judge Abdulla in January 2012.

The charges include a breach of article 81 of the Penal Code: “Arresting an innocent person intentionally and unlawfully by a state employee with the legal authority or power vested to him by his position is an offence. Punishment for a person guilty of this offence is imprisonment or banishment for 3 years or a fine of MVR 2000 (US$129.70).”

“The full story”

Former President’s Member on the JSC, Aishath Velezinee, has written a book extensively documenting the watchdog body’s undermining of judicial independence, and complicity in sabotaging the separation of powers.

Over 80 pages, backed up with documents, evidence and letters, The Failed Silent Coup: in Defeat They Reached for the Gun recounts the experience of the outspoken whistleblower as she attempted to stop the commission from re-appointing unqualified and ethically-suspect judges loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, after it dismissed the professional and ethical standards demanded by Article 285 of the constitution as “symbolic”.

That moment at the conclusion of the constitutional interim period marked the collapse of the new constitution and resulted in the appointment of a illegitimate judiciary, Velezinee contends, and set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest of Abdulla Mohamed two years later.

According to Velezinee, “the assumption that Abdulla Mohamed is a constitutionally appointed judge is based on a false premise, a political creation [which] ignores all evidence refuting this.”

“Judge Abdulla Mohamed is at the centre of this story. I believe it is the State’s duty to remove him from the judiciary. He may have the legal knowledge required of a judge; but, as the State knows full well, he has failed to reach the ethical standards equally essential for a seat on the bench.

“A judge without ethics is a judge open to influence. Such a figure on the bench obstructs justice, and taints the judiciary. These are the reasons why the Constitution links a judge’s professional qualifications with his or her moral standards,” she wrote.

“There is no legal way in which the Civil Court can rule that the Judicial Service Commission cannot take action against Abdulla Mohamed. This decision says judges are above even the Constitution. Where, with what protection, does that leave the people?” Velezinee asked.

“The Judicial Service Commission bears the responsibility for removing Abdulla Mohamed from the bench. Stories about him have circulated in the media and among the general public since 2009, but the Commission took no notice. It was blind to Abdulla Mohamed’s frequent forays outside of the ethical standards required of a judge. It ignored his politically charged rulings and media appearances.

“Abdulla Mohamed is a man who had a criminal conviction even when he was first appointed to the bench during President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s time. Several complaints of alleged judicial misconduct are pending against him. The Judicial Service Commission has ignored them all. What it did, instead, is grant him tenure – a lifetime on the bench for a man such as Abdulla Mohamed. In doing so, the Judicial Service Commission clearly failed to carry out its constitutional responsibilities. It violated the Constitution and rendered it powerless.”

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16 thoughts on “Nasheed fails to appear in court, defies travel ban”

  1. However, the 'draconian' the legal system a court order is a court order.

    The brave thing would have been to face it and defend himself.

    Being a chicken is not leadership.
    Only criminals flaunt rules

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  2. Even as someone who supports the MDP and thinks that Waheed came to power through unethical means, I must raise concern that this cannot possibly be a good precedent for the long term institutionalization of democracy.

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  3. This is the state of MDP now. This was a court established during Nasheed's regime.

    The Prosecutor General was nominated during Nasheed's regime. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was nominated by Nasheed.

    When he feels like it he refuses to obey the courts. When he feels like it, he breaks the constitution.

    This is a funny kind of democracy he is practising. I am sure that leaders in Canada, USA and the UK could also learn a lot about this democracy from Nasheed.

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  4. As a lawyer -but not as a politician - I can understand and sympathize with President Nasheed about this one. After all, our lawyers are not qualified and they are just conducting a with hunt.. I hope all the sexpats in sri lanka reading this will believe me as I am a very realible lawyer with many years of practice in Male.. and despite begin educated in malaysia, I have very liberal ideas like having sex with my female staff at lunch break. tara

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  5. Drastic situations demand drastic measures. In a country where rules of the jungle work nothing can be achieved by being a weakling .

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  6. We have no rule of law or fare judicary in the country, the old brutal and evil dictatorship is back!!

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  7. Prosecutor General Muizz was nominated by Nasheed. Chief Justice Faiz was nominated by Nasheed.

    Nasheed is above all the laws of the land. He is supreme!

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  8. MDP established thier own court and they appointed their own judges and they now have their country .

    This mean they do not need to obey the rules and regulation of the Maldives.

    Since Anni had asked not to follow the court orders, i guess the murderers have listen to that and started killing innocent people.

    If Anni and MDP is above the law, then neither the criminals nor the public will have to follow. Guys we need to think seriously now and can not allow this Idiot Anni to ruin the country for his personal gain and we need to peace and harmony .

    We need to arrest this idiot Anni and need to put behind the bar for the crimes that he had committed and need take back the millions of dollars that he got through GMR deals.

    These power hunger Man need to know that running this country and creating lawless state is not going to help him or anyone and it is is bad for the whole nation.

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  9. Judiciary is in doldrums because it is a tool of some crooked few to protect themselves and cronies, and an instrument of bullying to spite the opponents and the weak.

    Salaam to judiciary. It is fact established beyond doubt that injustice and oppression have invariably led to turmoil and bloodshed.Where is the Maldives heading? Where judiciary is concerned the country's hopes are shattered, human rights in jeopardy. Peace and harmony are casualties. Which country chose civil strife as an outcome of referendum or Constitution. None. It's the loss hope and public confidence in the system that gives birth to turmoil and violence. Once turmoil and violence, in absence of justice and rule of law, cohesion of national fabric is torn apart to the ruin of development and progress.

    Human greed takes the centre stage in everything and money becomes the name of the game. What is the system that insures us all against all these vice.Islam. The treasure is being untapped. Death sentences are yet to be implemented. We are so ignorant of our Islam that we take Islamic values imported from Non-Islamic cultures as acceptable values. This is because our systems do not reflect any of these, personal, communal and national Islamic qualities.

    The murder of Afrasheem could only be condemned not by lip service but by implementing Islamic Sharia codes. Simple arrests and passing sentences on such criminals only causes them too costly in jails. Respect to human life, protection of human rights as an all encompassing system is Islam. When we do not use it, we cannot reap the fruits of it.We lose it by atrophy.

    Is it not Anni who is rising to the challenge?

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  10. From comments it seems Maldives had a Constitution that Maldivians (some at least) don't understand
    When Nasheed nominate; Majlis must approve Supreme Court etc. Is it not the one who approve who have said final word and therefore to take responsibility?
    Facta of the matter is: Nasheed under control of Majlis. Whole Government under control of Majlis. Judge Ablow protected by Majlis.

    Majlis under control of ....FILL BLANK..... ?????????

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  11. "Velezinee’s intelligence is totally sexy"; sigh!

    @ mody; you would not be fit enough to wash Velezinee's foot! Leave alone the rest of her!

    Many things can be said about Ms. Velezinee.
    But she is one Maldivian lady who have stood for justice risking her life and is history! JA!

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  12. Velezinee served the man who appointed her.

    This is the reason why she could never attract crowds to her cause. She was a political appointee promoting the agenda of then President Mohamed Nasheed. This is no surprise as she was appointed there to protect his interests.

    This is the biggest issue with the composition of the Judicial Services Commission. Most of its members by virtue of their posts are in there to promote specific political interests. The necessary experience of judicial and legal matters as well as administrative issues cannot be found there. The structure of the JSC must be changed as part of the host of Constitutional reforms required before an election of any form can be held in the Maldives.

    But of course the Conservative Party's HRC and Richard Branson would rather install Nasheed in the presidency than give the Maldivians the right to choose their future.

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  13. tsk [email protected]
    Were you one of those household servant boys whom Gayoom brought form the outer islands, put through school and put into an influential job, so he could play with the governing system.
    Velezinee is a national hero. Can you ever be that? Yes Velezinee was appointed by President Nasheed WHO WAS ELECTED BY THE MAJORITY OF MALDIVIAN PEOPLE IN A DEMOCRATIC FREE AND FAIR ELECTION. In effect she represented the will of the people.

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