Former President Mohamed Nasheed today began touring the country’s Southern Atolls less than 24 hours after boycotting a trial against him in protest at what he and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) allege is a lack of independence within the nation’s judiciary.
However the Department of Judicial Administration today confirmed that police were “to produce” Nasheed at a rescheduled hearing at 4:00pm on Sunday, October 7.
Department Director Ahmed Maajid told Minivan News that despite the order, the former president was “not to be detained”.
With the campaigning beginning today in Gaafu Alif Atoll, the MDP has claimed that uncertainty remains over whether Nasheed would be able to complete the tour without being taken into custody by authorities.
Despite the Department of Judicial Administration’s order, no official communication from authorities has so far been received by the MDP following Nasheed’s decision to boycott his trial, contravening a court order requiring him to remain in the capital.
The court hearing was to be the first in the case concerning Nasheed’s detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, while in office.
The government meanwhile has told the Agence France Presse (AFP) news service that the former president could be taken into custody should he fail to comply with a second summons for his trial over the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
“The court will issue him another summons,” President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told the AFP. “After the second summons, if he does not comply, the standard procedure is they (the court) will instruct the police to bring him in.”
Both Masood and President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza were not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.
Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed told Minivan News that the existing protocols relating to a defendant failing to attend their trial were a matter of judicial process that were applied to any defendant, regardless of their position.
“Nasheed or anyone else is subjected to the same set of rules governing trials when they face criminal charges,” he claimed. “The state would not commit any act which would amount to contempt of court whenever it is asked to assist in bringing a suspect to court who wilfully avoids an appearance or absconds a trial.”
Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz was also not responding to calls from Minivan News at the time of press.
MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, who is travelling with Nasheed as part of the party’s 14 day tour, said that no official correspondence had been received from authorities at present concerning Nasheed’s decision not to attend yesterday’s trial.
“[The authorities] have done everything they can to try and stop this tour, though we have just arrived and the party is in good spirits,” he said.
When questioned if the MDP was confident Nasheed would be able to complete the tour following his decision to defy court rulings against him, Ghafoor said it remained too early to tell at present.
“Obviously we hope he will be able to complete the tour, but they might come and get him at some point. We will have to wait and see,” he said. “We have just arrived at our first destination on Kolamaafushi, the island is very yellow (the official colour of the MDP), it is quite a thing to see.”
Another source travelling with Nasheed as part of the tour, who asked not to be identified, told Minivan News that there had been no communications so far between the former president’s representatives, the government or the courts.
The source claimed that from their own understanding, Nasheed was being treated under standard protocols employed against any Maldivian national failing to attend a criminal trial, with a second summons expected to be issued by the courts at a later date. A failure to comply with this second order would likely see police ordered to bring the former president to court, they added.
Nasheed’s departure to participate in his party’s ‘Vaudhuge Dhathuru’ (Journey of Pledges) campaign in the country’s southern atolls reflected a wider MDP decision to no longer follow any orders given by the courts of the Maldives until changes proposed by international entities were brought to the Maldivian judicial system.
Nasheed’s controversial decision to detain Judge Abdulla in January 2012 followed the judge’s repeated release of former Justice Minister – and current Home Minister – Dr Mohamed Jameel, in December 2011, whom the government had accused of inciting religious hatred over the publication of his party’s pamphlet, ‘President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians’.
The former government government further accused the judge of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, having links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” so as to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases, among other allegations.
Nasheed justified the judge’s arrest based on his constitutional mandate to protect the constitution. Judge Abdulla had in September 2011 received an injunction from the Civil Court preventing his investigation by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the watchdog tasked with overseeing the judiciary, which complied with the ruling.
Former President’s Member on the JSC, Aishath Velezinee, has written a book extensively documenting the watchdog body’s undermining of judicial independence, and complicity in sabotaging the separation of powers.
Over 80 pages, backed up with documents, evidence and letters, The Failed Silent Coup: in Defeat They Reached for the Gun recounts the experience of the outspoken whistleblower as she attempted to stop the commission from re-appointing unqualified and ethically-suspect judges loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, after it dismissed the professional and ethical standards demanded by Article 285 of the constitution as “symbolic”.