Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team have requested that the appointment of new judges to the vacant positions on the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court bench be halted.
The stay order was submitted at today’s High Court hearing in Nasheed’s case against the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) over the legality of the appointment process to the magistrates court.
Despite Nasheed’s representatives insisting that the court consider the request during the hearing, presiding judges asked that it be submitted in writing, saying that the court will deliberate on the issue in a timely manner.
Responding to the request, JSC lawyer Hussain Ibrahim said he was unable to respond as he was unaware that the process of appointing new judges to the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court bench was underway.
Nasheed’s lawyers attempted to add new points to the original case, but the judges again asked that the new point to be submitted in writing, in spite of further protests.
“This hearing will only take arguments from both sides regarding the procedural issue raised by JSC. We will only allow this trial to be conducted as scheduled”, stated Abbas Shareef, the presiding judge.
The case was first raised in 2012, and challenges the legality of the bench, which was assembled to try the opposition leader for the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed during his presidency.
JSC’s procedural issue
The JSC lawyer stated that he had no points to add to the arguments made prior to the case’s suspension in April 2013. These included claims that the Hulhumalé bench had been appointed on the orders of the Supreme Court, meaning that the High Court could not deliberate on the decision.
Ahmed Abdulla, member of Nasheed’s team, noted that the letter regarding the appointment of the bench was sent by the Supreme Court in the capacity of the Judicial Council, despite it having been written under a Supreme Court letterhead.
Therefore Nasheed’s lawyers contested that the decision cannot be interpreted as a Supreme Court ruling but must be regarded “an administrative decision by an administrative body”, which would enable the High Court to deliberate on its legality.
The Judicial Council was created under the 2010 Judicature Act to oversee administration of the courts, but its duties were soon absorbed by the Supreme Court in what has been described as a centralising of judicial power.
Hisaan Hussain and Abdulla Shairu also spoke on behalf of Nasheed today, while Hassan Latheef also represented the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader in court.
The hearing was concluded after a brief statement by Nasheed in which he requested that the High Court grant him the permission to travel freely during the period in between hearings.
Nasheed also expressed his hope that the court had not expedited his case because “we are moving towards the shade of the new penal code, which does not include the article under which I have been charged”.
The presiding judge ended the session with the announcement that a hearing will be held next week in which the court will deliver its verdict on the procedural issues raised by the JSC, explaining to Nasheed that he will be granted permission to leave Malé after making requests in writing.
The MDP yesterday described Nasheed’s trial as the government’s attempt to eliminate President Abdulla Yameen’s political opponents and to prevent them from contesting in the 2018 presidential elections.
Nasheed’s lawyers have previously challenged – unsuccessfully – the establishment of a magistrates court in the Malé suburb, arguing that Hulhumalé is considered to be part of Malé City under the Decentralisation Act and therefore does not require a separate court.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul has previously noted that the “appointment of judges to the case, has been set up in an arbitrary manner outside the parameters laid out in the laws”.
(PHOTO: MINIVAN NEWS ARCHIVE)
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