Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahii
Former President Mohamed Nasheed has been released from custody following the first hearing in the Hulhumale Magistrate Court concerning his detention of Chief Criminal Court Judge, Abdulla Mohamed.
The trial began around 4:20pm this afternoon. The court was packed with attendees, most of whom were Nasheed supporters. Nasheed’s wife Laila Ali and family members were also present.
At the beginning of the trial, the state read the charges.
Responding, Nasheed stated that the trial reflected the “grave” situation that the democracy of the Maldives is in.
“Honorable judges, this charge against me is a deliberate attempt by the prosecutor general to bar the presidential candidate of the largest opposition political party of this country from contesting the next presidential elections,” Nasheed declared.
“The Maldivian constitution explicitly states that the powers of the state derives only from the people and there is no stronger power than that of the power of the people. That power of the people will only be restored through free and fair elections,” he said.
“Honorable Judges, I sincerely ask of you to consider this fact before you proceed with the trial. My lawyers will continue advocating on behalf or me from now on,” he said.
Former President’s member on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) and outspoken whistleblower Aishath Velezinee has maintained that Nasheed’s detention of the judge was justified given the failure of both the JSC and parliament to hold the judge accountable for allegations of serious ethical misconduct.
Lawyers take over
On her opportunity to speak, Nasheed’s lawyer Hisaan Hussain raised procedural irregularities concerning the case that was being heard.
Firstly, she questioned the judges as to whether a magistrate court could hold a trial on an island other than the island on which the magistrate court was established – despite the case been filed in the Hulhumale Magistrate Court, the hearing was held in the Justice Building in Male’.
Hisaan also asked the court to decide on the claim that the magistrate court was formed in contradiction with the Constitution and the laws of the country, before it proceeded with the hearings. The matter is currently being considered by the Supreme Court.
Member of Nasheed’s legal team, Abdulla Shair, also raised a point on procedural irregularities citing that the magistrate court’s order to detain Nasheed was unlawful because such orders should legally only come from a court set up in the locality of the defendant’s permanent address. Nasheed is based in his family home in Male’.
Shair challenged that it should be the Criminal Court ordering nasheed’s detention, as Nasheed’s permanent address was located in capital Male’.
The lawyers asked the court to temporarily suspend the hearings until it had resolved the procedural irregularities. However, court rejected the proposition.
Responding to the procedural issues raised, the court rejected all but one of the issues raised without giving any reasoning.
The court however responded to Nasheed’s lawyer Abdulla Shair’s point of procedure, and stated that the court followed a precedent set by the High Court.
Responding, the state challenged that no lawful authority of the country had decided that Hulhumale’ Court was legitimate, and it was within the power of the prosecutor general to file charges in a court with relevant jurisdiction.
The state presented more than 32 pieces of evidences it claimed proved that Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed was detained unlawfully, including the judge himself.
Other evidence produced included audio and video of the Judge’s detention, and speeches given by Nasheed.
The State also presented an evidence list of figures from both Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and Maldives Police Services (MPS).
In response to the presented evidences, Nasheed’s lawyers asked the three member panel of Judges to give them a time period of 30 days to study the evidences and prepare a defence.
The judges however gave a period of 25 days. They announced that the next hearing would be held on November 4, 2012.
Supporters of Nasheed cheered when he came out of the hearing. With Nasheed’s detention order expired following his attending of the hearing, Nasheed is technically free.
However, the previously imposed travel ban is still in place and Nasheed is confined to Male’.