PG, presiding judges among state witnesses, reveals Nasheed’s legal team

The Prosecutor General (PG) and two of the three judges presiding over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial on terrorism charges are among the state’s witnesses in the case against the opposition leader.

Documents sent by the court at 11:30am yesterday (February 24) contained witness statements from PG Muhthaz Muhsin, Judge Abdulla Didi and Judge Abdul Bari Yusuf, revealed Hassan Latheef from the former president’s legal team.

“This is a clear violation of Islamic Sharia and law and also international judicial principles. The prosecution, witnesses and the judge cannot be the same person or same parties,” Latheef said.

PG Muhsin – a former Criminal Court judge – filed terrorism charges against Nasheed, his former defence minister and senior officers of the military over the controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Nasheed’s secretariat also released a statement today suggesting that “the conflict of interest that arises from the deliberation of a trial by both the prosecutor and the witness is blatant.”

In counter-statement, the PG office noted that while all documents, including all the witness statement obtained by the police, were forwarded to the court, “no witnesses or evidence have so far been presented to the court regarding the case.”

Despite repeated attempts by Minivan News to seek clarification, PG Office Media Officer Adam Arif was unavailable for comment due to scheduled appearances at court.

Meanwhile, Nasheed’s legal team has appealed the Criminal Court’s arrest warrant at the High Court.

Nasheed’s legal team member Hisaan Hussain also confirmed that all lawyers representing the former president – including Ibrahim Riffath, Ahmed Abdulla Afeef, Abdulla Shaairu and herself – have also been registered at the court this afternoon.

On Monday (February 23), the Criminal Court informed Nasheed’s lawyers that they had to register at the court two days in advance despite being unaware of the trial until the former president’s arrest the previous day.

Former Human Resource Minister Hassan Latheef will not be representing Nasheed at the trial as he had provided a witness statement to the authorities regarding the arrest of the judge.

The second hearing of Nasheed’s trial is scheduled for tomorrow night (February 26) at 8:00pm.

The PG’s office withdrew charges against Nasheed on February 16 after initially filing charges under Article 81 of penal code for detaining a government employee who has not been found guilty of a crime.

Hours before his arrest on Sunday (February 22), Nasheed was charged under Article 2(b) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1990, which criminalises kidnappings and abductions and carries a jail term between 10 and 15 years.

Nasheed’s lawyers yesterday named two of the three judges overseeing the terrorism trial as witnesses for the defence, and requested the pair’s recusal from the bench.

The former president’s lawyers stated that the two judges witnessed a conversation between Judge Abdulla Mohamed and military officers on January 16, 2012, and could testify that he had not been kidnapped.

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Civil Court rejects Nasheed stay order on Hulhumalé Court bench changes

The Civil Court has decided “there are no grounds” to grant a stay order asking the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to halt the process of reappointment of the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court.

The order was requested by former President and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader Mohamed Nasheed, who is challenging the assembly of the bench tasked with trying him for the detention of judge Abdulla Mohamed while in office.

In the hearing held yesterday (February 15) at 4pm, the presiding judge stated that the stay order cannot be granted as the court has not found that the JSC is bringing changes to the Hulhumalé Court bench.

Meanwhile the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) has expressed concern over the “sudden resumption” of Nasheed’s trial, noting that the committee is closely monitoring the developments.

The BHRC said it had closely followed the case for almost two years. Previous observation of the case led the committee to describe the Hulhumalé court bench as “cherrypicked to convict”, prompting calls for “fundamental reform of the judiciary and its administration in the Maldives”.

In answering Nasheed’s stay order request, the JSC has previously denied that it is bringing any changes to the court, also claiming that it does not currently exist as the two out of three of the magistrates first appointed have now been promoted to superior courts.

Saturday’s trial saw the JSC raise a procedural issue, stating that while the commission has the authority and power to allocate and transfer judges, the Civil Court does not have the jurisdiction to deliberate on the legality of the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court bench as the bench was appointed on the Supreme Court’s advice.

The JSC lawyers also contended that the decision was not made by the Judicial Council as claimed by Nasheed’s lawyers, as the responsibilities and authority of the council have been taken over the Supreme Court.

Procedural issues

Nasheed’s lawyers asked whether the JSC is claiming that the Civil Court cannot deliberate on the matter because the commission interprets the Supreme Court’s advice on appointing the bench as a court ruling or because the JSC does not believe Civil Court has jurisdiction on the matter.

The JSC lawyers responded by stating that the “procedural issue is based on Supreme Court’s decision”.

In Nasheed’s challenge at the High Court regarding the legality of the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court bench, the JSC raised a similar jurisdictional issue, with the High Court deciding that it did not have jurisdiction to look into the matter, saying it could only deliberate on decisions taken by lower courts.

In reply, Hisaan Hussain from Nasheed’s legal team explained that Article 43 (C) of the Constitution afforded every citizen the right to appeal against any administrative decision and that “therefore we are appealing JSC’s administrative decision to convene the magistrates panel”.

Subsequently, the JSC clarified that the procedural issue was based not on jurisdictional grounds but because the commission believes that the Supreme Court’s advice on appointing the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench is the court’s ruling.

At that point, the presiding judge stated that the Supreme Court had issued a circular that “changes the composition of the Civil Court by 12am tonight (by 15th February)”, explaining that “I cannot assure you that I will be sitting on this appeal after the said changes; therefore I cannot give out court summons for the next hearing.

Nasheed’s legal team also requested more time to discuss the case with the legal team and lawyers based outside Maldives.

The controversial court was formed specifically to oversee Nasheed’s trial for the January 2012 detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed. Legal challenges to the court have seen the case stalled since April 2013.

Nasheed’s lawyers have previously challenged – unsuccessfully – the establishment of a magistrates court in the Malé suburb, arguing that Hulhumalé is considered to be part of Malé City under the Decentralisation Act and therefore does not require a separate court.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul has also noted that the “appointment of judges to the case, has been set up in an arbitrary manner outside the parameters laid out in the laws”.

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