The government has said it will have no involvement in the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed, adding it would consider the possibility of offering clemency should he eventually be found guilty.
Nasheed, who yesterday announced he had started his campaign for re-election, has called for the trial over his role in the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed earlier this year to be expedited. The former president has alleged that the trial against him is politically motivated to prevent him from contesting in presidential elections scheduled for 2013.
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad claimed that the government was committed to its pledge of not interfering in the Maldives judicial system and played down fears of the trial being politicised.
“We would regret any parties or international organisations trying to politicise this trial,” he said. “However, after a judgement on the case has been given, if there is an opportunity to do so, I’m sure President Waheed would consider the possibility of clemency [for former President Nasheed].”
The comments were made today as Department of Judicial Administration Spokesperson Latheefa Qasim confirmed to Minivan News that the decision had been taken to appoint three judges to hear the former president’s trial. Qasim added that a date for the hearing or the identities of the three judges presiding over the trial had yet to be decided.
Last week, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was cleared to hold the trial that will see Nasheed along with several senior military figures under his command face charges for the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
During Nasheed’s administration Judge Abdulla was accused by the government of demonstrating political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, having 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 himself gave a speech to supporters in Male’ yesterday playing down the likelihood of his prosecution for the detention of the judge, while additionally launching his campaign for re-election despite no date for elections having been set.
Speaking from the Usfasgandu area in Male’, which is presently being used as a protest area by the now opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Nasheed alleged that he was not concerned of being prosecuted, according to local media reports.
During a speech outlining his plans to continue to pursue early elections through the MDP’s ‘direct action’ protests and political pressure, the former president claimed that he was confident of securing re-election.
MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that Nasheed’s comments were focused on the party’s continued efforts to secure “early elections” ahead of the proposed date of July 2013. President Waheed has said July 2013 is the earliest date for fresh polls as allowed in the country’s constitution
The MDP back in July approved a resolution that the party would choose to boycott elections should Nasheed not be able to stand as its presidential candidate after winning.
Ghafoor claimed that despite preparing for early elections, both Nasheed and the MDP had agreed to respect the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) report that last week concluded the government of President Waheed had come to power constitutionally and not through a “coup d’etat” on February 7.
“We have been respecting the report, but we also have very strong reservations about the concerns raised by [Nasheed’s appointee on the commission] Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed and we would like these shortcomings to be looked into,” he said. “There are obviously issues that we have with the findings and I do not believe that the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) will just choose to ignore Mr Saeed’s own reservations about the report.”
Saeed last week resigned from the five-member CNI panel approved by the government, MDP and Commonwealth, a day before the release of its findings over what he alleged was a failure by the commission to consider certain evidence and witness statements presented to the Commission.
Nasheed was also reported to have used his speech to claim that no country had so far accepted the CNI’s findings, according to local news service Sun Online.
Following the release of the CNI report last week, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma welcomed the completed publication, urging “all concerned to respect the findings of the commission so that, moving forward, all actions and reactions reflect the sense of responsibility and restraint necessary in the best national interest.”
The US, India and the UN also called for the outcome of the CNI’s report to be respected in light of its publication.
However, Ghafoor said that Nasheed had in fact questioned the responses of various international players claiming they had been “unclear” on their views of the report.
Ghafoor added that the party would continue to lobby to have the reservations raised by Saeed concerning the CNI report addressed.
Beyond reservations with the CNI, the MDP claimed that it had been willing to work with the government of President Waheed in what it called the “common interests” of the public by offering to join his coalition government.
“We do not want to be working with this government, we ourselves want to see early elections as soon as possible,” he said.
However, President Waheed yesterday announced he had opted against including the MDP in his national unity government.
While the MDP – in light of the CNI’s findings – had called for clarification on whether it was presently the ruling or opposition party, the President’s Office responded that the matter was irrelevant under the country’s presidential system of governance.