The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused President Abdulla Yameen of manipulating the judiciary to remove opponents, as court proceedings related to former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial resume tomorrow.
In a press conference held ahead of the High Court trial challenging the legality of the Hulhumalé Magistrates Court’s bench, MDP spokesman Imthiyaz Fahmy suggested that “a very unpopular government” was trying to “invalidate the candidacy of all of President Yameen’s competitors”.
The case will consider Nasheed’s appeal against the assembly of the court’s bench, appointed to try him for the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
Fahmy today suggested that the government’s attitude towards the judge’s detention – which stoked anti-government protests before Nasheed’s controversial resignation on February 7 – was reflected in the recent appointment of a fellow defendant in the case as defence minister.
“If the government believes that the case against President Nasheed is serious; if the case has any substance, why would the government appoint Moosa Ali Jaleel as the defence minister?” asked Fahmy.
Formerly the chief of defence forces, Jaleel retired after 32-years of service following Nasheed’s resignation, later telling parliament’s government oversight committee that he believed the MDP leader had “resigned under duress”.
Fahmy today also suggested that the Supreme Court’s recent decision to reduce the period allowed for legal appeal was an effort to hastily sentence Nasheed before the implementation of the new penal code in April.
The court’s decision reduces the time allowed to file appeals in the higher courts from 90 days (180 for cases from the atolls) to ten, prompting legal experts to accuse the court of infringing upon the constitutional right to an appeal.
“The new penal code does not have the article under which President Nasheed is being prosecuted nor does it have a specified punishment,” continued Fahmy.
If convicted under the old legal code, Nasheed could face imprisonment or banishment for three years – leaving him ineligible for the 2018 presidential race, under Article 109 (f) of the Constitution.
Nasheed’s MDP has recently formed an alliance with the Jumhooree Party (JP) in defence of what it regards as persistent breaches of the Constitution. The eligibility of the JP’s leader, Gasim Ibrahim, is also under threat after the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives proposed constitutional amendments that would deem him too old to contest the presidency for a third time in 2018.
During tomorrow’s hearing, Nasheed’s legal team and the Judicial Services Commission – which assembled the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court’s bench – will be given ten minutes each to summarise arguments and raise further points regarding procedural issues raised before the case was halted in April 2013.
The judicial watchdog has raised a procedural issue claiming that the High Court does not have the jurisdiction to oversee the case.
After the announcement of the trial, Nasheed’s legal team had requested a one and a half month delay in the trials as further time was required to “review and research the case after recent developments in the judicial system”.
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”.
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