Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed has said there is insufficient time to conduct a fair trial against him before the presidential elections scheduled for September 7.
The former President, who is being tried for the controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed – charges Nasheed’s party contend is a politically-motivated attempt to bar him from contesting the election – said having the state arrest the MDP candidate and then hold elections would be “akin to play-acting.”
“The Maldivian people must receive justice. Therefore, God willing, I will come out to face that justice in 2018,” Nasheed said.
Nasheed also called upon Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz to temporarily halt the trial. He said the Chief Justice had previously taken a stand on similar cases of national interest, and hence must comment on the trial in question.
The former President also said that his legal team would appeal a verdict released by the High Court on Monday, after it upheld the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court where he is being tried.
“This trial that is to be held at the Hulhumale’ Court concerns a huge coup d’etat. The way I see it, this trial should have 30 or so hearings, at least. Lawyers should get a minimum period of 15 days between hearings. Otherwise, we cannot say this is a just process,” he said.
Nasheed said that if things proceeded at the current pace, the trial “will be still be ongoing when we win the upcoming elections.”
“A serving president cannot be tried in a court during his term without parliamentary approval. I don’t see that approval coming from the parliament,” Nasheed said.
“There isn’t a single person who hasn’t made some kind of comment about this trial now, from ministers to princes to island chiefs to imams,” Nasheed said, alleging that the government, too, had made a variety of comments in an attempt to influence the trial.
Nasheed said that he did not believe there was any chance of a fair trial under the present circumstances.
The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister for South Asia, Alistair Burt, has meanwhile met with President Mohamed Waheed and “emphasised the importance of moving swiftly towards free, fair and inclusive elections later this year.”
“I also stressed the importance of all parties being able to participate with the candidate of their choice. I was encouraged to learn that the date for these elections has now been confirmed for 7 September 2013,” Burt said in a statement.
The former President has meanwhile departed on an official visit to India.
MDP seeking arrest of police commissioner
Nasheed also stated that work was underway to ensure the arrest of Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz, whom he accused of “illegally ascending to the post of Commissioner after the coup d’etat.”
“We are working to bring all those who participated in orchestrating the coup d’etat to justice. It is only a small number of police and army officials who have brought about this coup. Now they are arresting innocent citizens,” Nasheed said.
Nasheed said the core issue now facing the country was resolving the alleged “coup d’etat” brought about by Abdulla Riyaz and the Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim.
Nasheed made the remarks during a press conference on Tuesday (February 5) in relation to a former member of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and a Councillor of the island of Narudhoo in Shaviyani Atoll, Hussain Siraj, joining the MDP.
With Siraj joining MDP, the party has now gained a majority in the Narudhoo Island Council.