The Criminal Court tonight continued to hear evidence against former President Mohamed Nasheed in an ongoing terrorism trial, dismissing the opposition leader’s repeated requests for legal counsel.
“I want a lawyer. This is not a court of law. This is injustice. This is the biggest circus this country has seen in its constitutional history,” Nasheed told Judges Abdulla Didi, Abdul Bari Yoosuf and Sujau Usman.
All four of Nasheed’s lawyers quit today in protest of the Criminal Court’s alleged failure to provide adequate time to mount a defense.
The former president is accused of ordering the military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012. If convicted under the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.
“I call on all Maldivian citizens to stop this atrocity the three of you are committing here, to summon you before a court of law and ensure justice,” Nasheed said in court today.
He accused the three judges of authoritarianism, taking the law in to their hands and ripping the 2008 Constitution to shreds. The opposition leader also said he preferred an immediate sentence over a trial without legal representation.
The Criminal Court adjourned today’s hearing after announcing Judge Abdulla would be called to court tomorrow night. However, the four defence witnesses would not be summoned as they do not appear to counter the state’s claims, judges said.
Nasheed was arrested on February 22, ahead of the surprise terrorism hearing scheduled for the next day. The Criminal Court has held eight hearings since then.
State prosecutors tonight presented video recordings of two speeches Nasheed had made in public on January 22, 2012 and on July 2, 2012, and an audio recording of comments made at the police HQ on January 18, 2012.
A video of Judge Abdulla’s arrest was also screened in court, showing masked soldiers escorting the judge out of his home and into a military vehicle. The video showed Judges Didi and Yoosuf active at the scene of Judge Abdulla’s arrest, Nasheed pointed out.
In the January 22 speech at Raalhugandu area in Malé, Nasheed said judges were undermining the constitutional powers of the judicial watchdog body tasked with disciplining judges. As the head of state, he said he was obliged to take action, but said arresting individuals gave him no satisfaction.
Nasheed also said judges must have the required qualifications, honesty and integrity.
In the July 2 speech, Nasheed described Judge Abdulla Mohamed as a national security threat and said he had ordered the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) to treat Judge Abdulla as such, upon a request from the Home Minister and the Commissioner of Police.
Meanwhile, in an audio clip of comments made to police officers on January 18, Nasheed said he would not allow Judge Abdulla within 100 meters of a courthouse during his presidency.
State prosecutors also read from a transcript of a conversation between Nasheed and his cabinet on January 17, 2012, in which the former president asked his ministers their opinion on releasing Judge Abdulla or keeping him detained.
A log of MNDF’s observations of Judge Abdulla’s activities while at Girifushi, and several Supreme Court and High Court rulings ordering the judge’s release were also presented.
State prosecutors said Nasheed’s comments demonstrated he had directly ordered the judge’s arrest, while the video of the arrest, the military logs and court orders demonstrated the judge had been incarcerated against his will on military training island Girifushi.
At every opportunity, Nasheed repeated a request for legal counsel of his choosing, and reiterated his belief that the trial was unjust and unlawful.
The Criminal Court dismissed Nasheed’s requests, claiming the former president and his legal team had been afforded adequate time. They have previously argued case documents had been provided three years ago when charges of ordering Judge Abdulla’s “arbitrary detention” were filed against Nasheed.
However, lawyers in a statement on Monday evening noted Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin had withdrawn the lesser charges and pressed harsher terrorism charges on February 22.
“Even though we had the case documents for three years, we were reviewing and researching those documents and evidence to mount a defence for the intial charges,” the lawyers said.
“We have to start work all over again in order to build a defence for the new terror charges. This is why we keep reiterating requests for additional time in the ongoing hearings.”
The basis of defence arguments are now different, lawyers argued, stating it was “impossible” to provide Nasheed with proper legal counsel without sufficient time.
Meanwhile, the High Court on Monday threw out an appeal filed by Nasheed in which he claimed the Prosecutor General was not authorised to re-prosecute on new charges.
The appellate court claimed the appeal required interpreting the Constitution and said it had no jurisdiction over the matter.
Nasheed had also appealed the Criminal Court’s decision to keep him under custody until the trial ended. Lawyer Hisaan Hissein has previously said the High Court had rejected the appeal by classifying the Criminal Court’s bail denial ruling as a court summons.
Lawyers have also appealed the initial arrest warrant, and the Criminal Court’s refusal to recuse Judges Abdulla Didi and Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf despite the pair having provided witness statements to a 2012 investigation into Judge Abdulla’s arrest.
Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked 22 consecutive nights of violent anti-government demonstrations that culminated in a police and military mutiny on the morning of February 7, 2012, forcing Nasheed to resign in what he subsequently called a “coup d’etat.”
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