Former President Mohamed Nasheed has requested state institutions consider the Prosecutor General’s statement to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court during the most recent hearing of his ongoing trial.
During the hearing on Wednesday (March 7), state prosecutors said they did not object to delaying the trial until presidential elections scheduled for later this year are over.
The prosecution told the three-member panel of judges that they “did not have any problem” withholding the trial for four weeks, and “did not object to delaying the election until the end of the scheduled presidential elections in September 2013.”
Nasheed is facing criminal charges over the controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed during the last days of his presidency.
Speaking during a party rally held on Wednesday evening, President Nasheed stated that the four-week break granted by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court until the next hearing was an opportunity for state institutions to decide on the matter.
“Delaying trial for just four weeks has no meaning. There is no reason for it nor does it help anyone. We want the trial to be delayed till the elections are over. [The prosecution] gave one month and said that they did not object to further delays,” Nasheed told his supporters.
Nasheed said that it was very clear that charge of arresting the judge was not a charge against him alone, but several others as well.
He also warned that if the magistrate court issued a verdict that would bar him from contesting the elections, a lot of people would rise up against the decision and trigger a “very dangerous political insurgency”.
“Can remain straitjacketed for another 40 days”: former president
“[The government] and the prosecutor general knows very well that Nasheed of Galolhu Keneryge can remain straitjacketed for anther 40 days. He can do that. The torture he receives from it will not change anything,” Nasheed said.
Nasheed also criticised the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) stating that the problem with Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was not just the panel of judges. He alleged that the JSC had formulated the bench and have now been forcing administrative staff of the court to do specific things to impact the trial.
Elaborating, Nasheed claimed that the current Cabinet Secretary of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, Abdulla Nazeer – who was a state minister of education – regularly paid visits to the judges and cabinet ministers and regularly contacted the judges to inquire about the progress of the trial.
“Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential hopeful Abdulla Yameen does not talk about the case. Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali does not speak about it. But it is always traitor Waheed who speaks of it,” Nasheed said.
“He will always say it is with the courts. We are seeing today and every other day how much he is trying to influence this trial. It is posing a huge challenge towards a fair and transparent hearing.”
Nasheed further claimed that the current judiciary of the Maldives was being operated for the benefit of a few politicians.
Despite the law stating otherwise, the judiciary was incompetent and inexperienced, and could not guarantee a court room that would deliver justice to the people of the country, Nasheed said.
“They will take us tomorrow. Even then, be courageous. They will take us the day after tomorrow. Even then, be courageous. Next time it would not be just a day, next time it would be 10 days, perhaps a month but still we shall not back down,” he said, as supporters roared in support.
No withdrawal, no objection
Despite Nasheed’s remarks, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz stated that he was not withdrawing the charges against Nasheed, and said that he was still sticking by his decision.
He told local newspaper Haveeru that the state prosecutors will be present any time the court wishes to schedule the trial.
“We told [Nasheed’s lawyers] that we have no problem requesting the court delay the hearing for four weeks. We even told the court that,” he said. “I don’t mind even if the court delays the case. But we don’t have an desire to delay the trial. The court can carry out the trial the way they wish. I have no objection to it; we would follow the schedule they give.”
During Wednesday’s hearings, Nasheed’s legal team requested the court delay the trial until the end of the scheduled presidential elections in 2013, and in a separate request, asked the court for a delay in proceedings by four weeks.
However, the judges dismissed the request to delay the trial until the end of the elections, but agreed to withhold it for four weeks, stating that the panel of judges by majority “have decided to proceed with the trial”.
Nasheed’s lawyers subsequently contested the decision, claiming that continuing the trial could compromise the rights of many people, arguing that Nasheed was the presidential candidate of the largest political party in the country, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
However, the court stated that Nasheed’s claim he was the presidential candidate of a political party lacked legal grounds to support it, as presidential candidates were announced by the Elections Commission after it opened the opportunity to file presidential candidates.
Speaking to Minivan News, the former President’s Spokesperson MP Mariya Ahmed Didi claimed the court’s decision reflected “how politicised” the trial was.
“The prosecution did say that they had no objection to defer the trial after the election. However, the court opted for a four week [delay],” she said. “We do feel that the fact that the PG has said that he did not object but the court to give only four weeks deferment shows how politicised this trial is.”
Didi added that Nasheed’s legal team had not ruled out the option of appeal and said that President Nasheed and senior members of MDP are currently engaged in discussion with the legal team on whether to do so.
Speaking to Minivan News, Kirsty Brimelow QC, one of three UK-based experts on former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team, said that there remained a “strong argument” in the case that the prosecution of Nasheed was “not in the public interest”.
“It is a strong argument that a prosecution is not in the public interest. The currently constituted court comprises of judges who may be biased or have the appearance of bias. They should recuse themselves,” she argued.
She also contended that the prosecution of Nasheed’s case before the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court fell “below international standards for fair trial procedure”.