Hundreds urge Criminal Court to release Nasheed’s court proceedings

Hundreds of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters today urged Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed to release a transcript of court proceedings necessary for the appeal of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s 13-year jail sentence.

In a letter to Judge Abdulla, over a hundred signatories noted the ten-day appeal period would expire on Monday, March 23, and urged the court to release court proceedings without further delay.

The High Court subsequently informed Nasheed’s lawyers that the appeal period would expire on March 26 (Thursday).

Nasheed was convicted of terrorism on March 13 over the January 2012 military detention of Judge Abdulla in a trial many international and domestic observers called a “travesty of justice.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and the UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Lawyers and Judges Gabriela Knaul last week urged the Maldives to guarantee that Nasheed’s appeal would respect the most stringent fair trial standards and observe due process.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Nasheed’s lawyer, Hassan Latheef, said the Criminal Court had only provided a summary of the judgment, and said the full court proceedings were necessary for a strong appeal.

Latheef said the High Court’s decision to discount weekends in the new appeal period demonstrated the judiciary’s extraordinary treatment of Nasheed’s case.

The Supreme Court in January issued new regulations reducing the maximum period of appeal from 90 days to ten days. On March 5, in an announcement online, the Supreme Court said the ten day appeal did not include weekends or the day the verdict was issued.

The MDP has previously accused the Criminal Court of deliberately thwarting Nasheed’s attempts to launch an appeal. Meanwhile, the legal team in a statement last week noted the Criminal Court contravened the Supreme Court’s appeal regulations by providing the judgment summary a week late.

Speaking to Minivan News today, MDP MP Eva Abdulla said the possibility of the judiciary providing Nasheed adequate time to prepare an appeal seemed “unlikely, to say the least.”

Eva, MDP MP Ahmed Falah and Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof led the group delivering the letters to the Criminal Court. The crowd set out from the MDP offices towards the Criminal Court at noon, but were blocked at the President’s Office and the Supreme Court.

MP Falah rubs wrists after being handcuffed
MP Falah rubs wrists after being handcuffed

Police detained Falah in a scuffle near the President’s Office. He was handcuffed and taken to the Police HQ, but was immediately released.

When the group reached the Criminal Court, they were pushed behind barricades in a narrow alleyway and police escorted each letter bearer separately into the Justice Building.

After submitting his letter, 27-year-old Shammoon Jaleel said he did not believe justice was possible in the Maldives at present and he had also put a suggestion into a suggestion box at the Criminal Court asking the judiciary to “tear down the justice building and build a park there.”

Shimla Adam, 45, pointed out Nasheed’s legal team did not have enough time to review court proceedings and lodge an appeal even if the Criminal Court provided the report today.

“I do not think President Nasheed will get any justice. I have no hope of things getting better in this country,” she said.

President Abdulla Yameen has previously called on all parties to respect the Criminal Court’s verdict, stating Nasheed had “a constitutionally guaranteed right of appeal” to challenge his conviction on terrorism charges at the High Court.

UN rights experts Knaul and Zeid have called on the Maldives to allow international observers including jurists to attend Nasheed’s appeal hearings.

This article was amended to include a statement by the Supreme Court which said the appeal deadline does not include weekends or the day a verdict is issued. 



India, UK politicians continue to voice concern over Nasheed’s imprisonment

Politicians from the United Kingdom and India this week continued to voice concerns over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s 13 year jail term for terrorism offences.

“We have a number of serious concerns about increasing political tensions in the Maldives and the arrest of former President Nasheed,” Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire told parliament this week.

Meanwhile, Indian diplomats have called the trial a foregone conclusion, while the French government has added its voice to growing international concern over the trial.

On March 16, UK Conservative Party MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown questioned Swire about discussions held with Maldives foreign minister Dunya Maumoon regarding Nasheed’s rushed trial.

In response, Swire said the trial was not conducted in “accordance with due legal procedure.”

“Despite calls from the international community for due process to be followed, we are concerned that the former President’s trial has not been conducted in a transparent and impartial manner nor in accordance with due legal process,” he added.

Last week, Lord Alton of Liverpool asked the UK government for its assessment of the Criminal Court’s decision to deny Nasheed rights of appeal in relation to his initial arrest, and asked what discussions had taken place with the Commonwealth over the rule of law in the Maldives.

Conservative peer Baroness Joyce Anelay referred to Swire’s statements expressing concern over irregularities in Nasheed’s trial, saying the UK continues to monitor the situation closely.

“It is important for international confidence in Maldives that Mr Nasheed, like all other citizens, is seen to be enjoying due legal process and respect for his fundamental rights,” she said.

International concern grows

Nasheed was charged with terrorism over the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012. The Criminal Court’s refusal to allow Nasheed legal counsel, adequate time to prepare defence, or to hear defence witnesses has caused international concern.

The United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union expressed concern with the lack of due process, while Amnesty International has said Nasheed’s conviction “after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.”

The French Embassy for Sri Lanka and the Maldives has been the latest to join the increasing international chorus of concern.

“France wishes to reiterate the importance of the right to a fair trial, which is a founding principle of democracy. We call on the Maldivian government to stand by its international commitments in this field,” a statement issued on Wednesday read.

Meanwhile, several Indian Diplomats told India’s Economic Times that the outcome of the trial had been a foregone conclusion, with the verdict written long before Nasheed was arrested and charged with terrorism.

“Every hearing at the court has been a blow to the rule of law,” said an unnamed Indian official.

“It is apparent that Yameen’s government, despite being seen as strong and stable, has seeds of instability within itself due to Yameen’s narrow outlook which has led to sustained efforts on the part of his coterie to neutralize other potential power centres and prospective threats,” the official said.

Government defends trial

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon, at a press conference in Colombo on Monday (March 16), called upon India and Sri Lanka to defend the Maldives from “unjust criticism” from the international community.

Dunya and Attorney General Mohamed Anil maintained the trial was fair and just, insisting that the government does not interfere with the judiciary.

Arresting Judge Abdulla was a “serious crime,” Dunya said.

“We feel, that some people are a lot stricter on us because we are a small nation,” said Dunya. “There are countries with bigger issues than the Maldives.”

Dunya has previously condemned international statements of concern, stating: “Those who prefer to issue public statements about an on-going legal case, or on a domestic political situation, are advised to do a basic fact-check, before bandwagoning on to accusations made by a political party.”

In a statement issued last week, Dunya said that President Abdulla Yameen’s administration “will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country.”

President Abdulla Yameen has meanwhile called on all parties to respect the Criminal Court’s verdict.

In a statement released by the President’s Office on Sunday (March 15), President Yameen noted that the opposition leader has “a constitutionally guaranteed right of appeal” to challenge his conviction on terrorism charges at the High Court.

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives said the former president was denied fundamental rights that guarantee a fair trial in line with the Maldives’ obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Moreover, human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network urged the UN apecial rapporteur on the independence of judges to intervene in order to prevent a “slide back to autocracy,” whilst Transparency Maldives expressed “grave concern”, stressing that Nasheed was denied legal representation, the right to appeal, and sufficient time to mount a defence.

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High Court dismisses Nasheed’s arrest warrant appeal

The High Court today dismissed former President Mohamed Nasheed’s appeal challenging the legality of the Criminal Court’s February 22 arrest warrant, after the opposition leader asked for an open hearing.

The High Court denied Nasheed’s request, claiming neither members of the public nor journalists were allowed to observe appeal hearings.

The appellate court dismissed the case after the former president reportedly refused to enter the courtroom.

Hisaan Hussain from Nasheed’s legal team told reporters that the High Court had decided in a circular to hold closed hearings for appeals concerning arrest warrants.

She argued that the decision was in violation of Article 42 of the Constitution and Article 71 of the Judicature Act as circulars did not have the force of either laws or regulations that derived its authority from an act of parliament.

Nasheed’s lawyer, Hassan Latheef, told Minivan News that the legal team has decided to appeal the High Court’s decision at the Supreme Court.

Article 42 of the Constitution states that “trials of any matter shall be held publicly” while the presiding judge could exclude the public in the interest of public morals, order and national security, or where juveniles or the victim of the crime requires, and in cases where public interest would prejudice justice.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) subsequently released a statement contending that the High Court did not have the legal authority to bar members of the public and journalists from observing hearings.

“By carrying out court proceedings in a manner that prevents constitutional rights and protection, the High Court is losing public trust, with the appeal process losing its meaning,” the MDP said.

Following the Criminal Court convicting Nasheed on terrorism charges on Friday night (March 13), Latheef said the legal team has requested the court report in order to appeal the 13-year prison sentence at the High Court within ten days.

A Supreme Court circular in January shortened the maximum appeal period from 90 days to ten days, claiming it would ensure the right to appeal in a timely manner.

“The Criminal Court informed us that the report will be provided in seven to 14 days,” said Latheef, noting that it would leave the defence team two days to prepare for the appeal hearing.

“Every aspect of this trial is very different from normal procedures followed by the courts,” he said.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz said yesterday that the government would ensure Nasheed’s right to appeal.

“I believe the Criminal Court would have afforded due process in the conduct of Nasheed’s trial. If you study this case, from the beginning to the end, it is clear the charges are not politically motivated,” Muaz insisted.

“We have a system of separation of powers. In a democracy, the head of state does not interfere in judicial proceedings and is not to blame for court proceedings,” Muaz said.

Nasheed was brought from the Dhoonidhoo detention centre to Malé around 1:30pm.

Hundreds of protesters were gathered near the High Court building, demanding the former president’s immediate release.

MDP High Court Protest

Police informed Minivan News that four individuals were arrested from the protest for allegedly obstructing police duties and for trying to harm police officers. Minivan News journalists observed police officers using pepper spray indiscriminately while making the arrests.

MDP High Court Protest

Throughout the Criminal Court trial, Nasheed maintained that he had been deprived of basic constitutional rights, including the right to legal counsel, right to appeal, and the right to be provided adequate time to prepare a defence. Judges also refused to hear defence witnesses claiming they did not appear to negate the prosecution’s case.

Delivering the guilty verdict Friday night, Judge Abdulla Didi said the prosecution’s evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that Nasheed as commander-in-chief ordered the arrest or “forceful abduction” of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

The former president was arrested on February 22 after Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin personally sought an arrest warrant from the Criminal Court ahead of the surprise terrorism trial.

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