Former President Nasheed appeals for clemency

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyers have appealed to President Abdulla Yameen to reduce the 13-year jail sentence of the opposition leader.

In a letter sent to the president yesterday, lawyer Hassan Latheef noted that the clemency law gives the president the “full power and discretion” to reduce the sentence.

“The president has the discretion, on the president’s own initiative, to commute the sentence of a person convicted of a criminal offence, based on their age, health, treatment they are currently undergoing, their status and circumstance, or from a humanitarian perspective,” reads article 29(c) of the Clemency Act.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told Minivan News that the office attends to letters in accordance with procedures and declined to comment on whether President Yameen would consider the appeal.

Despite the lapse of a 10-day deadline for filing appeals, the prosecutor general and the government have insisted that Nasheed could still appeal at the High Court. President Yameen has maintained that he does not have constitutional authority to pardon convicts before the appeal process is exhausted.

Nasheed was found guilty of terrorism on March 13 over the military’s detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012. The former president’s conviction drew widespread international criticism over the apparent lack of due process in the 19-day trial.

Latheef contended that Nasheed was denied the right to a fair trial as guaranteed by both domestic law and the Maldives’ obligations under international conventions.

The former human resources minister noted that foreign governments, international human rights organisations, and the UN have condemned the trial.

Amnesty International called the conviction a “travesty of justice” while the UN human rights chief said Nasheed was sentenced after a “hasty and apparently unfair trial” and noted “flagrant irregularities.”

The UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers noted “serious due process violations” such as denial of the opportunity to present defence witnesses, which led her to believe “the outcome of the trial may have been pre-determined.”

The European parliament in April adopted a resolution condemning the “serious irregularities” of Nasheed’s terrorism trial while US secretary of state John Kerry said during a visit to Sri Lanka that Nasheed was “imprisoned without due process”.

“This is an injustice that needs to be addressed soon,” he said.

Last week, US senators John McCain and Jack Reed urged their government to press for the release of all political prisoners in the Maldives.


Lawyers ‘entertaining’ Nasheed during daily visits, complains home minister

Home minister Umar Naseer has advised former president Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyers not to use their visits to “entertain” the imprisoned opposition leader.

In a letter to Nasheed’s attorney, Hassan Latheef, the home minister said that the legal team was “having fun, laughing and joking, and entertaining him” during daily visits to the Maafushi jail.

“I advise you to make proper use of the opportunity to meet lawyers,” Naseer stated.

The letter was dated May 3, but the legal team said it was only delivered yesterday.

Nasheed is serving a 13-year jail sentence following his conviction on terrorism charges on March 13 over the detention of a judge during his tenure. The 19-day trial was widely criticised by foreign governments, the UN, and international human rights organisations over its apparent lack of due process.

In a tweet last night, Latheef called Naseer’s letter “insane.”

“Stupidity to the max!” the former labour minister tweeted.

Latheef told Minivan News that Naseer did not have the authority to “determine whether we can laugh or not.”

The consultations with Nasheed were “none of Naseer’s business,” he continued and expressed concern with the home minister’s knowledge of confidential meetings between lawyers and a client.

“We fear that the meeting areas may be bugged,” he said.

Latheef said the legal team was only allowed to meet Nasheed once a week for two hours, which poses difficulties as the lawyers were also communicating with the former president’s international legal team and providing documentation.

The lawyers were able to meet other clients on any day at their convenience, he continued, but visits to Nasheed were authorised under strict supervision of the home minister.

In his reply to the home minister – shared on social media today – Latheef said the legal team’s efforts are intended to “save” the former president from the jail sentence and prove his innocence.

“As such, a case has been filed at the UN working group of arbitrary detention,” Latheef noted.

Former first lady Laila Ali lodged the petition last month requesting a judgment declaring Nasheed’s detention arbitrary and illegal.

Latheef said the conduct of the criminal court judges and proceedings at the court were amusing.

“Therefore, laughing at times while talking about the case is only natural,” Latheef wrote.

Latheef urged the home minister not to use his complaints “as an excuse” to narrow or deny the former president his constitutional right to legal representation.



Nasheed calls on prosecutor general to appeal terror charges

Former president Mohamed Nasheed has called on the prosecutor general to appeal his terrorism conviction and 13 year jail term amid growing international criticism of the flawed trial.

Nasheed’s lawyers say they were unable to lodge an appeal at the high court within the shortened ten day period due to the criminal court’s failure to provide a full report of case proceedings, but say the PG can lodge an appeal at any time, “without discussions, without permission.”

Lawyer Hassan Latheef said PG Muhthaz Muhsin has an important role in “bringing an end to the distresses of the international community on his own initiative.”

The PG can uphold the constitution and “save the Maldives from the storm that is about to come from international pressure,” he added.

The UN office of the human rights commissioner on Friday said Nasheed’s trial “was vastly unfair and his conviction was arbitrary and disproportionate.”

The EU parliament last week urged the government to free Nasheed immediately, while US secretary of state John Kerry said Nasheed’s imprisonment is an “injustice that needs to be addressed soon.”

Nasheed’s wife, Laila Ali, has also asked the UN working group on arbitrary detention to rule Nasheed’s imprisonment illegal.

PG Muhsin, however, has dismissed Nasheed’s call, saying the high court would accept an appeal despite the expiration of the appeal period.

“The High Court regulation allows Nasheed to appeal the case still. Why doesn’t he do it himself? I personally think this case has a high possibility of being accepted at the high court since Nasheed is a former president, since it is related to a judge and since it is a terrorism charge.”

Muhsin said Nasheed’s lawyers are now politicizing the case.

The Supreme Court had shortened the appeal period  from 90 days to 10 by annulling provisions in the judicature act, just a month before Nasheed’s arrest. The high court has previously said judges have the discretion to accept late appeals, but lawyers say the apex court’s ruling had removed the discretionary powers.

Nasheed’s lawyers had previously called on President Abdulla Yameen to reduce Nasheed’s sentence and release him under special provisions in the Clemency Act. But the president’s office has refuted the claims.

On Friday, in Geneva, a legal advisor to the UN, Mona Rishmawi also noted the clemency act provided an avenue for Nasheed’s release.

Following a visit with Nasheed in late April, Rishmawi said Nasheed “seemed to be in good spirits, but was not relaxed as he was facing 13 years in prison; he also worried a lot about his safety.”

According to the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, tens of thousands have signed a petition calling on the president to release Nasheed. Supporters attempted to deliver the petition to the president’s office on Thursday, but were turned back by the police.

The opposition’s daily protests over the imprisonment of Nasheed is continuing. Two former defence ministers and an MP have also been jailed on various charges last month.


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. 



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.

Related to this story:

Nasheed’s lawyers name Judges Didi, Yoosuf as witnesses, request their withdrawal from terrorism trial

Police deny brutalising Nasheed

Commonwealth, Canada express concern over denial of legal representation for former President Nasheed

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Nasheed denied right to appoint lawyer and appeal “arbitrary” arrest warrant, contend lawyers

Police arrest former President Mohamed Nasheed ahead of terrorism trial


High Court cannot deliberate on Hulhumalé court bench

The High Court has decided today (February 9) that it does not have the jurisdiction to deliberate on the process in which the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court’s bench was formed.

The ruling was made with regards to a procedural issue raised by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) after former President and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader Mohamed Nasheed had challenged the legality of the bench.

The judicial watchdog had raised a procedural issue, claiming that the High Court does not have the jurisdiction to oversee the case as the bench had been formed on the advise of the Supreme Court.

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.

The opposition leader today urged Maldivians to take direct action against persistent injustices in the courts, while his legal team claimed today’s decision contradicted prior decisions by the High Court to consider related cases.

In the ruling, the High Court bench presiding over the case unanimously decided that under regulations governing the relevant procedure, “there are no grounds on which the case can proceed in this court any further”.

The High Court’s decision read that, under the regulation, the court can deliberate on decisions of the lower courts, but not on their composition.

Today’s hearing was immediately concluded after Judge Abbas Shareef – presiding over the case – read out the ruling.

Nasheed’s legal team has subsequently submitted the case to the Civil Court, again challenging the composition of the Hulhumalé court bench.

“It is not a trial that is being conducted here”: Nasheed

Speaking to press after the hearing, Nasheed said the “trial is being hastened without due process in order to prevent me from getting the protection of the new penal code which would be enacted in April”.

He also accused the government of using the judiciary to threaten and intimidate political opponents, stating that the Maldivian judiciary is unable to deliver a “free and fair trial, especially with regards to cases against me”.

Nasheed claimed that the father of one of the High Court judges was ordered by a lower court to pay a substantial amount of money owed, suggesting undue influence in the case to produce a specific ruling.

Nasheed told press that he will consult both his and other international lawyers regarding his impending trial.

“It is not a trial that is being conducted here,” commented Nasheed, urging Maldivians to stand up against injustice by “protesting and going on strikes” as “this might happen to anyone tomorrow, although it happened to me today”.

Meanwhile, a statement by Nasheed’s legal team argued that the decision of the High Court had contradicted its earlier ruling which found it had the jurisdiction to deliberate on the legality of the Hulhumalé Magistrates Court.

“The High Court had previously decided that the case can be heard in the court and the decision was announced during the trial,” read the statement, noting that two of the three judges present today had delivered the previous ruling.

Judge Ali Sameer and Judge Shuaib Hussain Zakariyya had presided over the case along with Judge Ahmed Shareef before the latter was demoted to the Juvenile Court in August 2014 and replaced by Judge Abbas Shareef.

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 previously 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”.

Related to this story

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Hulhumalé Magistrate Court case to resume hearings on February 3

The High Court has today informed both President Mohamed Nasheed and the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) as to how the case on the legality of the Hulhumalé Magistrates Court bench will proceed.

Nasheed’s legal team member Hassan Latheef told Minivan News that today’s meeting was conducted by High Court Judge Abbas Shareef, with the JSC and Nasheed’s representatives informed that a hearing of the case would be held on February 3.

They were also informed that each party would receive a ten minute opportunity to summarise their responses during this hearing, and to raise further points regarding procedural issues raised before hearings halted in April 2013.

The judicial watchdog has raised a procedural issue claiming that the High Court does not have the jurisdiction to oversee the case.

The resumption of the case, which challenges the legality of the bench assembled to try Nasheed for the January 2012 detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, was announced one week ago after repeated requests from the former president to expedite proceedings.

Hassan Latheef that Nasheed’s legal team raised several points today, including the small amount of time that each party will be given to present arguments in the next hearing and also the need for further time to review and research the case after recent developments in the judicial system.

“There have been significant changes to the whole judiciary, judges have been transferred, benches reduced and High Court now has two new branches. All this has an impact on the procedural issue raised by JSC. This is why we need more time”, said. Latheef.

He also said that judge Abbas Shareef has agreed to reconsider the request by Nasheed’s legal team for a one and a half month delay of the trial after discussion with the two other judges presiding over the case – Judge Ali Sameer and Judge Shuaib Hussain Zakariyya.

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 previously 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”.

Related to this story

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High Court rejects Nasheed’s request to delay Hulhumalé court bench trial

The High Court has rejected a request from former President Mohamed Nasheed to delay the hearings of his case challenging the legality of Hulhumalé Magistrate Court’s bench.

The Maldivian Democratic Party leader had asked to delay the hearing, scheduled for Wednesday (January 28), by one and a half months as his legal team requires time for further research.

In the letter written to high court by Nasheed’s lawyer Hassan Latheef, it was noted that no hearings had been scheduled since April 1, 2013, and that during this period significant changes have been brought to the judicial system.

High court spokesman Amin Faisal told Minivan News that the court has informed Nasheed’s legal team it is unable to postpone the trial as requested.

A statement from Nasheed’s office expressed concern that a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for this week, despite the 2011 High Court regulations stating that the court’s registrar has the authority to schedule preliminary hearings only before the commencement of trial hearings.

“It was also requested that the High Court conduct hearings of the trial of the case submitted by President Nasheed instead of the scheduled preliminary hearings”, the statement read.

Full of Surprises

Speaking to Minivan News, Hassan Latheef revealed that although the summons chit specified that a preliminary hearing is scheduled on Wednesday, the court has since said that a meeting was to take place with the presiding judges to discuss how the trial will proceed.

“This is neither a preliminary hearing as stated in the summons nor a hearing but an administrative meeting of sorts,” said Latheef.

Latheef noted that such meeting were unheard of at this stage of proceedings, noting that Nasheed’s trial has been “filled with surprises that the legal history of this country has never seen before”.

The case itself will investigate the manner in which appointments were made to the Hulhulamalé Magistrates Court – a body created to conduct the trial of Nasheed and senior figures in his government for the 2012 detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

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 Magistrates Court.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul has previously 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”.

Latheef today noted that the legal team required more time to do research on the case due to the changes brought to the Maldivian judiciary after recent amendments to the Judicature Act.

“While major changes have been brought to the judiciary from April 2013 up to this day, the High Court’s ruling on this matter is likely to have significant implications on the case in the lower courts regarding President Nasheed. This is why we need more time”, he said.

Amendments to the Judicature Act passed on December 10, 2014, changed the composition and structure of the High Court by establishing two additional branches in the northern and southern regions of the Maldives.

As per the amendments the two new branches can only adjudicate the rulings of the magistrate courts. The nine-member High Court is to be divided among the three branches with three judges in each branch.

Related to this story

High Court to rule in appeal on Hulhumale’ court legitimacy

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Home Ministry dissolves Bar Association

The Ministry of Home Affairs has dissolved the Maldives Bar Association (MBA) for failure to change its name as per a Supreme Court ruling and appoint a governing committee.

A Home Ministry letter also said the organisation had failed to submit an annual report as per regulations.

The Bar Association – formed in April 2013 to empower, lobby, and advocate on behalf of legal practitioners – is headed by veteran lawyer and former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood.

On April 9, Supreme Court told the Home Ministry to ask the organisation to change its name within 14 days, claiming the Bar Association title could only be used for an official  body regulated by law with the participation of the entire legal community and judicial sector.

Speaking to Minivan News, Suood he believed the government had dissolved the Bar Association claiming it posed a threat to national security.

“We are aware that one of the reasons for dissolving the Bar Association is that it poses a threat to national security and sovereignty of the Maldives as per national security intelligence,” he said.

Suood said the organisation would challenge the Home Ministry’s decision at court and condemned the limited space for civil society in the Maldives.

“We feel that there is no space for civil society in the Maldives. It has come to our knowledge that the Home Ministry has temporarily suspended registration of NGOs until they have received legal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office,” he added.

The Bar Association had refused to change its name, but said it would step aside should new legislation on the legal profession provide for a Bar Council.

A 2013 UN report recommended that a “self-regulating independent bar association or council” be established to oversee the legal profession.

Suood noted that the MBA currently has over one hundred members, representing around one fifth of the country’s practising lawyers, with a full membership drive waiting until new legislation is completed.

The Supreme Court’s initial letter to the Home Ministry came in the aftermath of a Bar Association statement calling for the suspension of Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed pending an investigation into the judge’s alleged appearance in a series of sex tapes.

Hameed’s continued presence on the Supreme Court bench contravenes the Islamic Shariah and the norms of justice, the organization said.

“Given the serious nature of the allegations against Ali Hameed, that the judge continues to hold trial contravenes norms of justice, conduct of judges, and established norms by which free and democratic societies deal with cases of this nature,” the statement read.

Suood was on a watchdog Judicial Service Commission’s sub committee to investigate the matter. The Supreme Court had suspended Suood from practicing law in January for alleged contempt of court.

Meanwhile, lawyer and former Minister of Youth and Sports Hassan Latheef condemned the Home Ministry’s decision as a violation of the right to freedom of association.

“I believe this is an attempt to stop us lawyers from advocating in our defense,” he added.