Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz has filed charges against former President Mohamed Nasheed and the former defense minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu for their alleged role in detaining Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed in January.
Abdulla Mohamed was a central figure in the downfall of former President Nasheed, following the military’s detention of the judge after the government accused him of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.
Nasheed and Tholhath stand charged with violating Article 81 of the Penal Code, which states that the detention of a government employee who has not been found guilty of a crime is illegal. If found guilty, Nasheed and Tholhath will face a jail sentence or banishment for three years or a Rf 3000 fine (US$193.5).
The case was filed at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court. In a statement today, Muizz said he intends to levy the same charges against former Chief of Defense Forces Moosa Ali Jaleel, Brigadier- General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and Colonel Mohamed Ziyad.
Home Minister Mohamed Jameel in a post on social media Twitter has said the “historic criminal trial” is the “first step towards the national healing process.”
President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza told Minivan News the president will not “interfere with the independent Prosecutor General’s decisions.”
In April, Nasheed told the UK’s Guardian that he did not like arresting a judge, but he “just couldn’t let him [Abdulla Mohamed] sit on the bench.”
“There is a huge lack of confidence in the judiciary, and I had to do something and the constitution calls upon me to do that. It’s not a nice thing to do. And it’s not a thing that I would want to do. And it’s not a thing that I liked doing. But it had to be done,” he added.
The chief judge was detained by the military, after he had opened the court outside normal hours, to order the immediate release of current Home Minister and deputy leader of the Dhivehi Quamee Party Jameel who was arrested after President’s Office requested an investigation into “slanderous” allegations he made that the government was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives. The judge’s whereabouts were not revealed until January 18.
As Judge Abdulla continued to be held, Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz later joined the High Court and Supreme Court in condemning the MNDF’s role in the arrest, requesting that the judge be released.
The police are required to go through the PG’s Office to obtain an arrest warrant from the High Court, Muizz said, claiming the MNDF and Nasheed’s administration “haven’t followed the procedures, and the authorities are in breach of law. They could be charged with contempt of the courts.” He then ordered the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to investigate the matter.
Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked three weeks of anti-government protests starting in January, while the government appealed for assistance from the Commonwealth and UN to reform the judiciary.
As protests escalated, elements of the police and military mutinied on February 7, alleging Nasheed’s orders to arrest the judge were unlawful. A Commonwealth legal delegation had landed in the capital only days earlier.
Nasheed publicly resigned the same day, but later said he was forced to do so “under duress” in a coup d’état. Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has taken to the streets in recent months calling for an early election.
Judge Abdulla was released on the evening of February 7, and the Criminal Court swiftly issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest. Police did not act on the warrant, after international concern quickly mounted.
Former President’s member on the JSC and whistleblower Aishath Velezinee for several years contended that Abdulla Mohamed was a central, controlling “father figure” in the lower courts, answerable to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and a key figure responsible for scuttling the independence of the judiciary under the new constitution.
“When Abdulla Mohamed [was arrested by Nasheed’s government] I believe the opposition feared they were losing control over the judiciary, and that is why they came out on the streets. If you look at the so called public protests, it was opposition leaders and gang members. We did not see the so-called public joining them – they were a public nuisance really,” Velezinee observed, in an interview with Minivan News.
“For nearly three weeks they were going around destroying public property and creating disturbances. It wasn’t a people thing – we can say that. We locals – we know who was there on the streets. There is footage and evidence available of it. We’ve seen the destruction they were causing in Male’ every day.”
Following the arrest of the judge, Nasheed’s government appealed to the international community – in particular the Commonwealth, the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) and the UN – for assistance in resolving the spiraling judicial crisis. A Commonwealth team arrived in the Maldives the day before Nasheed’s government was overthrown after a group of police sided with opposition demonstrators, attacking the military headquarters and seizing control of the state broadcaster.
Velezinee bemoaned the local and international focus on the arrest of the judge rather than the decline of the institution that led Nasheed’s government to such desperate interference in the judiciary.
“To the international community [the protesters] were a crowd of people – and to them that’s the public. It’s a public protest to them. But it was not. We need to consider who was involved in the free Abdulla Mohamed campaign. These are the same people I have previously accused of covering up and being conspirators in the silent coup,” Velezinee told Minivan News.
Charges against Judge Abdulla
The first complaints against Abdulla Mohamed were filed in July 2005 by then Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed – now Dr Waheed’s political advisor – and included allegations of misogyny, sexual deviancy, and throwing out an assault case despite the confession of the accused.
Among the allegations in Dr Saeed’s letter was one that Judge Abdulla had requested an underage victim of sexual abuse reenact her abuse for the court, in the presence of the perpetrator.
In 2009, those documents were sent to the oversight body JSC, which was requested to launch an investigation into the outstanding complaints as well as alleged obstruction of “high-profile corruption investigations”.
The report, which the commission has not yet publicly released, recommended action against Judge Abdulla for allegedly violating the Judge’s Code of Conduct by making a politically biased statement in an interview with DhiTV.
Abdulla then filed a case against the JSC in the Civil Court requesting that it invalidate the JSC’s report, claiming that DhiTV took his statement out of context. He also asked for and was granted a Civil Court injunction to halt any action by the judicial watchdog.
The commission appealed the verdict at the High Court, claiming that the Civil Court had disregarded the commission’s constitutional mandate which allowed it to take action against judges, and argued that the court did not have the jurisdiction to overrule a decision of its own watchdog body. However, the appeal was rejected in April.
Abdulla’s case against the JSC continues. Civil Court Judge Maryiam Nihayath in May ordered the commission to submit all documents relating to Abdulla’s ethical misconduct.
Nasheed became the first president to be summoned before the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) when he was asked to testify regarding his role in the arrest of Judge Abdulla in April. Nasheed used his testimony to claim that he had been informed at the time by the Home Ministry that the judge allegedly posed a “national threat” – prompting his eventual detention.
The former president additionally claimed that the Home Ministry had communicated with the Defence Ministry on the situation, which in turn led to the decision to arrest the judge after watchdog bodies like the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had raised alleged concerns over his ethical conduct.
“I was told Abdulla Mohamed would not comply with the police’s summons to investigate allegations [against him],” Nasheed later stated at a press conference following the meeting with the HRCM.
“The Home Minister wrote to the Defense Minister that Abdulla Mohamed’s presence in the courts was a threat to national security. And to take necessary steps. And that step, the isolation of Abdulla Mohamed, was what the [Defense] Ministry deemed necessary.”
A second case involving Nasheed has also been sent to the prosecutor general by the police that involved the confiscation of bottles of alcohol allegedly found at his residence shortly after his presidency ended.