Feydhoo case accepted as High Court considers 13 election-related complaints

A panel of High Court judges have overruled a decision by the court’s registrar to reject a case filed by a losing candidate seeking annulment of the results for the Feydhoo constituency in the March 22 parliamentary polls.

The registrar’s decision regarding the Feydhoo constituency was overturned after the claimant – opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nihad – appealed the decision.

Of the 16 election-related complaints submitted to the High Court before the deadline last Friday (April 11), the court has rejected three cases and commenced proceedings on 12 others.

Following the decision to accept Nihad’s complaint, a first hearing of the Feydhoo constituency case has been scheduled for 2:15pm tomorrow (April 17).

Electoral laws stipulate that the High Court must conclude election-related cases within 30 days of the announcement of the official results, which was made on March 28.

In addition to complaints submitted by its candidates, the main opposition party has challenged the results in three constituencies.

Tagged ballot papers

Briefing members of the MDP’s national council yesterday, former Human Resources Minister Hassan Latheef – a member of the party’s legal committee – explained that that the party filed cases concerning the Villigili, Isdhoo, and Gemanafushi constituencies.

As both the constitution and electoral laws stipulate that voting must be conducted through secret ballot, Latheef said the Elections Commission (EC) was responsible for ensuring secrecy of the ballot.

Based on precedents established by the High Court and Supreme Court, Latheef explained that the MDP has asked the High Court to declare that ballot papers tagged with a symbol or mark would be invalid.

In the Gaaf Alif Villigili constituency election, Latheef said that about 300 ballot papers were tagged, all of which were counted as valid votes for the Progressive Party of Maldives’ (PPM) candidate.

Similarly, in the Laamu Isdhoo constituency, Latheef said the number of tagged ballot papers was more than 150 while there were more than 100 tagged ballot papers in the Gemanafushi constituency.

Latheef noted that in all three constituencies, the margin between MDP and PPM candidates was smaller than the number of tagged ballot papers identified by observers.

The party has submitted witnesses in all three cases, he said.

Under a precedent established by a Supreme Court ruling, Latheef said that if the number of ballots whose secrecy was compromised exceeds the margin of victory, the poll would not be valid.

As compromising the secrecy of the ballot in any election was illegal, Latheef contended that tagged ballot papers should be considered invalid votes.

Hearings have nearly concluded in all three cases, Latheef continued, and judges have said that verdicts would be delivered at the next trial date if they decide not to summon witnesses.


Following Latheef’s briefing and presentation of the legal committee’s report on the election-related cases, former President Mohamed Nasheed – who was chairing yesterday’s national council meeting following his appointment as the party’s acting president – said that the party’s secretariat requested information of suspected wrongdoing from all election observers.

Detailed information was sent to the party office by MDP observers in the three constituencies where the party has challenged the results, he noted.

“Our biggest aim is to ensure that votes taken in the Maldives in the future are valid, transparent, and trustworthy,” Nasheed said.

Earlier this month, the MDP issued a press release accusing government-aligned parties of unduly influencing the March 22 polls through coercion and intimidation in addition to vote buying.

Some voters were asked to tag their ballot papers with a special mark or symbol for PPM observers and candidate representatives to identify their votes, the party alleged.

Voters were threatened with dismissal from their government jobs if they did not follow the instructions and proved they voted for the coalition candidate, the press release stated.

In the wake of the Majlis elections, NGO Transparency Maldives stated that while the polls were well-administered and transparent, “wider issues of money politics threatens to hijack the democratic process”.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party also blamed its poor showing on bribery and coercion – accusing both sides of such practices.

“We saw it both from the ruling party and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party but we really did not want to buy votes –  instead we tried to change the way people think,’’ Adhaalath Party Spokesperson Ali Zahir told Minivan News.


Jailed MP Jabir denied fair trial, says legal team

Read this article in Dhivehi

The trial and sentencing of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Abdulla Jabir “was in violation of several procedural and factual formalities accorded in the Constitution and statutes of the Maldives,” the MP’s legal representatives have stated.

The Kaashidhoo constituency MP was last week sentenced to twelve months imprisonment after being found guilty of failing to provide a urine sample when arrested as a suspect in a drug related case on November 16, 2012. He is currently in Maafushi jail.

“The number of procedural violations in the whole criminal justice process in regard to this case is highly concerning and we believe that Hon. Abdullah Jabir was denied the fundamental rights that constitutes a free and fair hearing guaranteed to him by Article 42 of the Constitution,” read a press release from Aequitas Legal Consultants.

Additionally, Hassan Latheef – a member of Jabir’s legal team – has told Minivan News today that the court has failed to provide mandatory documents summarising the case, necessary for a High Court appeal.

“At this moment, we’re concerned that he can’t appeal. We were unable to submit the report to the High Court, but today we have sent a letter saying that the court is still refusing,” said Latheef.

He noted that a previous High Court judgement stipulated that the appeals registration process could still proceed as soon as the case was filed – Latheef revealed that the case had been submitted yesterday.

When contacted for a response, Criminal Court officials were unwilling to provide further information on Jabir’s case.

Latheef’s legal firm suggested that Criminal Court Judge Muhuthaz Muhusin had failed to consider procedural issues raised by Jabir’s defence, thereby failing to observe the principles of natural justice.

The statement also suggested that the Jabir’s constitutional rights to adequate time and facilities for his defence – also guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – were not met.

Jabir’s legal representatives noted that the police’s mistreatment of the MP at the time of arrest had been confirmed by the Police Integrity Commission but had not been taken into account by the judge.

After investigating the case – which involved medical records showing injuries sustained by Jabir as well as a video of one officer kicking the MP in the head – the PIC said it could not forward the case to the Prosecutor General as the identity of the officer could not be determined.

During the trial, Jabir had claimed testimony given against him by arresting officers was inadmissible, alleging that the officers in question had been responsible for his mistreatment.

“Based on the serious factual and procedural violations in the trial and sentencing of MP Hon. Abdullah Jabir, who is not only an individual but a representative of five thousand Maldivians at the Parliament, it is regrettable that the Judicial process that we are to respect and obey has shown such a blatant disregard for the principles of justice and the rule of law,” concluded the statement.

A total of 10 people were taken into police custody on November 16, 2012, after police raided and searched Hondaidhoo with a court warrant. Officers alleged they found large amounts of suspected drugs and alcohol upon searching the island.

Jabir was set to re-contest his Kaashidhoo constituency seat in next month’s Majlis elections. Fellow MDP MP and MDP International Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor – also detained and charged with failure to produce a urine test during the same incident -told Minivan News today that Jabir was currently being held in custody.

Asked whether Jabir’s sentence would affect his ability to stand, Hamid said that he believed the law made it clear that an MP could not be disqualified from the Majlis unless they were serving more than twelve months.

“The law is silent on whether he can campaign or not,” added Hamid.


Supreme Court questions MDP Lawyer Hisaan Hussain over alleged contempt of court

The Supreme Court has questioned opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) lawyer Hisaan Hussein today for alleged contempt of court.

On September 24, the Supreme Court suspended Hisaan from defending the Elections Commission (EC) in the apex court’s hearings into a case filed by Jumhooree Party (JP) to annul the first round of presidential elections held on September 7.

The Supreme Court letter posted by Hisaan at the time stated that she had been barred from appearing before the court as her remarks “in the media as well as social media” had allegedly “diminished the dignity” of the court and were under investigation.

The letter also accused Hisaan of criticizing a Supreme Court order to delay the second round of polls until a verdict in the vote annulment case is issued.

The MDP’s Hassan Latheef and Election Commission’s (EC) Husnu Suood were also suspended.

Expressing concern over the Supreme Court’s investigation, Hisaan said: “It is deeply concerning when a court investigates lawyers. The constitution guarantees freedom of speech to all citizens without discrimination.”

Hisaan said she had told the Supreme Court that she respects the court system and that she had not disrespected the courts in any manner.

The Supreme Court had told her they would summon her later to sign her statement, she added.

The Supreme Court annulled the September 7 polls based on a secret police document that the EC was not allowed to respond to and issued several guidelines dictating the electoral process. The EC has criticized the guidelines as “restrictions” that limit the EC’s powers.

EC President Fuwad Thowfeek has also slammed the evidence used by the Supreme Court to annul the vote as “baseless.”

Meanwhile, the UN has conducted an expert UN review of the secret police report and said the September 7 poll was “all inclusive, there was no disenfranchisement and the quality of the voter register met international standards.”

UN Assistant Seceretary General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez- Taranco joined the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in expressing deep concern over the conduct of the Supreme Court.

Several MDP MPs are currently on trial for contempt of court. The Criminal Court held a hearing yesterday against MP Imthiyaz ‘Inthi’ Fahmy for alleged contempt of court.

Fahmy’s lawyer Masthoor Husny said the regulation criminalizing contempt of court had expired in 2011.

Private broadcaster Raajje TV is also under investigation for criticizing the Supreme Court.


Auditor general alleges several inconsistencies in Ministry of Human Resources 2010 audit report

Auditor General (AG) Niyaz Ibrahim has alleged that several inconsistencies in spending have been identified in the Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports’ 2010 audit report.

The discrepancies highlighted in the report (Dhivehi) include a failure to prepare the ministry’s financial statements in accordance to legal standards, as well as certain spending on a number of projects and events.

Speaking to Minivan News today, former Minister of Human Resources, Youth and Sports Hassan Latheef questioned how complete the AG’s research had been, adding that the documents identified as missing in the audit report would have been available.

Latheef who was in charge of the ministry until the controversial transfer of power in February last year, claimed that the AG’s report was misleading.  Although he did not dismiss the report’s conclusions outright, Latheef maintained that the AG’s findings were incomplete and would have been more accurate if it had consulted with staff working at the ministry during his tenure.

Copies of the AG’s report are to be sent to President Waheed and parliament, as well as other relevant authorities. The AG has also called on to the authorities to investigate the findings of the report and take action against those who are found responsible.

In the report, which was released on Thursday (January 3), the AG’s office stated that it did not believe the Human Resources Ministry had spent its budget in compliance with the Public Finance Act (Act No. 3/2006) and Public Finance Regulation.  The findings therefore included recommendations to reclaim the sum of money believed to have been spent outside of the regulations.


Amidst the AG’s findings, the report claimed that the Human Resources Ministry had failed to prepare its financial statement for 2010 as stipulated in the Public Finance Regulation.

“The Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports’ financial statements were not prepared in accordance with the standards set by the International Public Sector Standards (IPSAS) board,” the report stated.

AG Niyaz also alleged that the ministry had failed to recover funds owed to the state by different parties from several outsourced projects, including a project to set up and run a canteen at the Maafannu Cricket Stadium.

The AG claimed that a sum of MVR 487,875 (US$ 31,639.15) was owed to the state as a result of the project, which included rent and fines.  The report added that the Human Resources Ministry had failed to take adequate measures to recover the outstanding sum of money.

In an another claim, the AG alleged that the ministry had failed to recover a sum of MVR 237,000 (US$ 15,369.65) owed to the state as both rent and fines from “Ekuveni Canteen”.  The report recommended the ministry recover money from the parties, calling on authorities to take action against those found to have failed to comply with the laws and regulations.

Illegal transfer of funds

The report also highlighted several cases where funds were transferred by the Human Resources Ministry to projects that the AG claimed were carried out in contradiction to national laws. Included among the highlighted cases was a transfer of MVR 130,000 (US$ 8,430.60) to the Cricket Control Board as a payment for work carried and payment of MVR 14,500 (US$ 940.33) for another company.

The report also raised concerns over sums of MVR 75,000 (US$ 4,863.81) and MVR 50,000 (US$ 3,242.54) transferred to two NGO’s said to have close ties with an unidentified senior ministerial figure. Another issue was a sum of MVR 153,274.80 (US$ 9,940.00) that had been provided to a music band who had not even requested for the money “according to the documents”.

Spending on travel expenses of a parliament member

The AG’s report stated that the Human Resources Ministry budget had also been used to cover an MP’s travel expenses during a trip with then Minister Hassan Latheef to watch the finals of 2010 AFC Challenge Cup held in Sri Lanka.

According to the report, the Ministry spent a total of MVR 15,280.60 (US$ 990.96), which  included a sum of MVR 12,057.60 (US$ 781.95) for pocket money, incidental allowance, accommodation and meals.  The remaining MVR 3,223 (US$ 209.01) was used to cover the MP’s air ticket to watch the football match.

The AG’s office recommended that the ministry bring its budget spending in accordance with the Public Finance Regulations. The report also raised questions as to what capacity the MP had travelled with the minister, as well as the grounds for the government to cover the subsequent travelling expenses.

According to the report, the ministry was advised to retrieve all monies spent by the MP, referring again to measures within public finance laws and regulations.

Former Minister’s response

Responding to the AG’s Office report today, former Human Resources Minister Hassan Latheef said that the MP who travelled with him, as mentioned in the report, was Hamid Abdul Ghafoor of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).  According to Latheef,  Ghafoor – formerly a state minister in the ministry prior to his election to parliament – was accompanying him as a “technical consultant” on the trip.

“Actually it was not just simply a final match. I went there to meet the President of Asian Football Association (AFC) Mohammed bin Hammam. I had sent a letter to Hamid Abdul Ghafoor to accompany me as a technical consultant because I do not possess the technical knowledge of football. So I had requested Ghafoor in official capacity. I even can assure you that a copy of the letter would also be there,” he explained.

Latheef contended that after looking at the numbers, it would be clear that the ministry had spent the minimum required amount for travel expenses and had not intended to “award [MP Ghafoor] a stack of cash”.

“It was neither carried out in a politically motived way nor as a friend. He went as a technical consultant. Now people would ask why Ghafoor was selected. I believe the minister would have the discretion to decide who he would take,” he added.

“This is not something new. For instance, a person who is not even in the government or even in politics went as a chief guest to attend the SAARC Youth Camp held in Addu City in 2011. But it will be our ministry who would be giving his accommodation and travel expenses. How can that be called corruption or politically motivated?”

According to Latheef, the AG had been requested to audit the Human Resources Ministry’s operations back in 2008 shortly after he assumed his position under the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed. According to Latheef, the AG had at the time said that it had already audited the former Employment Ministry and could therefore only look at the youth and sports operations.

“When it was getting delayed, I even sent a letter in 2009 as well asking the AG to audit the ministry” he said.

“I know the AG would only base his report on documents, but if he had asked our collaboration, we would have helped. Things get confusing when you wake up the next morning to see a new government has taken over through a coup. Had we been there when the auditing took place, I am sure the documents which the AG had noted missing would have been found,” he explained.

Amidst other concerns identified in the report, Latheef dismissed claims he had failed to try and retrieve funds spent by the ministry. He added that the ministry, during his tenure, was working on retrieving funds from the said parties and some of the cases were being investigated by police in cases where the ministry had filed for non-payment of rent.

Responding additionally to concerns about providing payment to the band identified in the AG’s findings, Latheef claimed that the report had said it was the responsibility of the National Sports Council to set the procedures for which performers can be paid. Latheef however dismissed the claim, stating that it was the ministry’s responsibility.

“The sports council does not do that. It is the responsibility of the [Human Resources] Ministry.  The Sports Council can set the mechanism on how the sports associations are given money. They don’t have to do that for music bands,” he said.


Participation of UK legal experts in Nasheed trial a “unique challenge”

A Maldivian legal expert has described the use of foreign legal experts in the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed as “unique”, pointing out that the Maldivian legal system makes it particularly difficult for such experts to contribute to proceedings.

Mohamed Shafaz Wajeeh, a practising layer in Male’ and former Director of the Legal Director at the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) said that while foreign advisers to corporate clients was fairly common, foreign experts for a specific criminal case was not.

“From a common law/international standards perspective, I believe foreign legal involvement is very much prevalent, especially if you consider the number of foreign legal experts who would be advising corporate clients operating in the Maldives in resorts, major telecom providers etc,” Wajeeh told Minivan News.

“However, the Nasheed trial is unique in that common law/international standards perspective expertise is being brought in for stated involvement in a specific criminal court case, as part of the defense team, not merely on a corporate/commercial transactional matter in an advisory capacity,” he added.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) revealed earlier this month that it was to add the expertise of two UK-based lawyers to the legal team working on the Judge Abdulla Mohamed detention case.

Sir Ivan Lawrence QC and Barrister Ali Mohammed Azhar were brought in to work alongside Hisaan Hussain, Abdulla Shair. On Thursday, it was announced that Kirsty Brimelow QC – a human rights expert – would also join Nasheed’s defense team.

Azhar is an expert in Shariah law – the Maldives legal system encompasses a combination of common and Shariah legal practices.

“It is not uncommon for foreign legal experts to be involved in transactional matters in an advisory capacities, but virtually never as Shari’ah experts (in recent history),” said Wajeeh. “What’s unique is for foreign legal experts to be involved in a criminal case – in the defence team, and especially in a court case.”

Lawrence, Azhar and Brimelow will work alongside Hisaan Hussain, Abdulla Shair, Hassan Latheef and Ahmed Adbulla Afeef – although the latter two have been barred from appearing in court on technical grounds.

Afeef will not be allowed to attend the hearings in an official capacity after failing to sign the Supreme Court’s new “Regulation on Lawyers practicing law in the courts of Maldives”.

Wajeeh cited this particular regulation as “disturbing” and “dangerous” – further sign, he feels, of the need for major reform of the judicial arm of the state which he described as undeveloped and “primeval”.

Latheef cannot appear as he has been listed by the Prosecutor General (PG) as a witness to the detention of the Judge. Latheef described the inclusion of his name on this list as unnecessary and “irrelevant” as the judge’s detention was not in question.

In the press release announcing Brimelow’s inclusion in the case, appearing on Nasheed’s website, it was acknowledged that legal restrictions would also prevent any of the UK experts appearing in court.

“I imagine they would be severely restricted – if not intentionally, then due to the structure of the legal system,” said Wajeeh.

“Foreign legal experts can’t attend as lawyers, they can’t attend in Nasheed’s stead either (only lawyers may represent individuals in criminal cases),” he added.

“I’m not really sure if they can sit at the bench even. My understanding would be, if the foreign legal experts are to be allowed into the Court room at all, they would have to go in and sit in the public gallery,” he continued.

Latheef explained that Ms Brimelow was the only member of the legal team scheduled to be present in Male’ for the trial, and that the team would be applying for a permit from the Attorney General to allow her to appear in court.

“This has been done once before,” explained Latheed, “although the lawyer involved was married to a Maldivian.”

Wajeeh also noted that there were certain procedural factors which would make it difficult for UK experts to fully participate in the case, in particular the use of Dhivehi in the courts without English translation services being readily available.

“The foreign lawyers would of course be free to offer their views and opinions to the appointed defence team on drafting submissions and responses in defence of Nasheed, given the documents are efficiently translated for their use,” explained Wajeeh.

“This would mean they could play a minimal role in the formal hearing, although could potentially play a crucial role in how the defence argument takes shape.”

Nasheed’s trial continues tomorrow at 4:00pm at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, which is has been temporarily relocated to Male’ for the purpose of the case.


Nasheed adds third British legal expert to defense team

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has further bolstered his legal team by accepting the services of Kirsty Brimelow QC ahead of the continuation of the Judge Abdulla Mohamed detention case on Sunday.

Brimelow will join fellow UK-based legal experts Sir Ivan Lawrence QC and Barrister Ali Mohammed Azhar on  Nasheed’s defence team.

A statement appearing on Nasheed’s website describes Brimelow as a criminal law specialist with international experience who is “particularly sought after in cases with a human rights law element”.

Brimelow was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2011 and has, among a number of high profile cases, acted as Legal Adviser to the Constitution Commission of Fiji. She is vice-chairwoman of the Bar Human Rights Committee and appears regularly on British television and radio.

Earlier this month, the Department of Judicial Administration informed local media that two of Nasheed’s lawyers, Hassan Latheef and Ahmed Adbulla Afeef had been barred from the trial.

Latheef had been barred from the trial as the state had called him as a witness, while Afeef was was barred as he had not signed new behavioural regulations for lawyers recently issued by the Supreme Court, explained department spokesperson Latheefa Gasim.

This leaves just two of Nasheed’s lawyers able to appear in court – former President’s Office Legal Advisor Hisaan Hussain and criminal defence lawyer Abdulla Shair.

Nasheed has stated repeatedly that he feels the outcome of the trial to be pre-ordained, with his conviction designed specifically to prevent him running in next year’s presidential elections.

“On Sunday I will face an extraordinary court, established especially to hear my case,” Nasheed wrote in Britain’s Financial Times this week.

“I am to be tried for abuse of power, in particular for the arrest of a corrupt judge, who was an ally of Mr Gayoom. My conviction is a foregone conclusion. Mohamed Waheed, my former vice-president, may decide to pardon me, but only in a way that ensures I remain barred from seeking office next year,” he wrote.

The issue of Nasheed’s trial was raised in the UK House of Commons this week by Conservative MP Karen Lumley, who asked Alistair Burt – Under Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, about the fairness of Nasheed’s trial.

“We have sought and received assurances from President Waheed of the Maldives that any trial of former President Nasheed will be fair and free from political influence,” replies Burt.

“No trial date has been set. The next court hearing is on November 4 and we expect international observers to be present,” he added.

In response to Lumley’s question regarding the effect of the trial on a sustainable political outcome in the country, Burt said the following:

“The trial process is, of course, a matter for the Maldives, but there is international concern that if it results in the former President being prevented from leading his party into the elections next year, it will be seen as though the process was designed for exactly that object.”

“We urge political stability under all circumstances in the Maldives, and that will no doubt be enhanced if the former President is allowed to lead his party and take part in those elections,” continued the Under Secretary.

The statement on Nasheed’s website noted that the Attorney General’s regulations prevented any of the new additions to his legal team appearing alongside him in court.

“Article 2 (a) of the regulation states ‘a person has to either be a Maldivian citizen or be married to a Maldivian citizen and reside for most part in the Maldives’ in order to practice law in the Maldives,” read the statement.

“This restriction is a hindrance to clients who wish to have foreign legal professionals represent them in courts of the Maldives,” it said.

Nasheed’s legal team raised several procedural issues at the cases first hearing on October 9, all of which were dismissed by the court.

After challenging this ruling in the High Court, and calling for an injunction to halt the trial until the matter was resolved, it was announced last week that the High Court would hold a hearing on the matter on the morning of November 4 – the same day Nasheed’s trial in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate’s Court recommences.

“The party believes that the result of conducting both hearings on the same day will be the defence attorneys losing the opportunity to prepare for the original case at the Hulhumale Magistrate Court’,” a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) statement read.

The party held a march around the capital island Male’ on Tuesday calling for judicial reform. Over 500 protesters marched around Male’ with banners and placards displaying messages arguing the importance of judicial independence and of holding the judiciary accountable.

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was originally taken into custody in January after blocking the Judicial Services Commission’s (JSC) proceedings into his alleged misconduct. A police mutiny and unrest in the capital led to Nasheed’s resignation three weeks later.


Case against Nasheed for defamation of Police Commissioner postponed indefinitely

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team on Sunday stated they had not been officially informed by the civil court of the rescheduling of the defamation case filed by Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz against Nasheed.

A member of Nasheed’s legal team, Hisaan Hussain, said they had seen local news reports that the hearing had been postponed on Riyaz’s request, but had not been officially informed. Hussain said they had no information as to when the hearing had been rescheduled to.

“The procedure is that the person who filed the case has to request for postponement at least one hour before the hearing. We don’t know when Riyaz sent in the request, we saw it in the news around 11:15pm,” Hassan said.

In addition to this, the legal team noted that they had so far not received details of the case and were not aware which action or words of Nasheed had prompted Riyaz to file the defamation case against him.

“We haven’t had any official word as to why the case has been filed. Again, through local media we have heard it was because Nasheed had called Riyaz a ‘baaghee’ (traitor). What we have heard through official means is only that it is a case for defamation, and that Riyaz wants compensation for a loss that this alleged defamation has caused him,” Hassan said.

Another member of the legal team, former Minister of Youth and Sports Hassan Latheef, pointed out that while Riyaz had filed the defamation case in the civil court, the police were continuously arresting people for calling them ‘baaghee’ (traitor) on the streets, and that the criminal court was continuing to provide extensions of detention periods for people arrested under the charges.

“The articles in the penal code against defamation has been removed. Defamation is now considered a civil offence, and yet police continue to arrest people for expressing their opinions on the police force under what can only be perceived as charges of defamation,” Latheef said.

A second  case regarding similar defamation allegations against Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim is also pending.

Hassan added that they believed the police were arresting people under the directives coming from the Commissioner of Police. Emphasizing the contradiction, Hassan further said, “We believe this is something Riyaz needs to answer to the people for. This is because people are continuing to be arrested, jailed and charged for the matter. The Police Commissioner needs to make up his mind whether he perceives defamation as a civil or criminal offence.”

In response to a question posed by Minivan News, Latheef said that Nasheed would respect the decisions reached by the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), referring to the NEC’s decision to not abide by court orders until the changes proposed by international community are brought to the Maldivian judicial system.

“Since President Nasheed is MDP’s presidential candidate, he accepts that a decision by the NEC is one that he, too, would wish to abide by in principle. The NEC, after much consideration, came to that decision. Hence President Nasheed believes that he will act in accordance with it,” Latheef said.

The legal team stated that Nasheed would decide whether or not to attend the hearing once he is officially notified of the rescheduling by the civil court.

MDP International Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today that the MDP would go ahead with the scheduled trip to the atolls, although the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court has placed Nasheed under island arrest with regard to a case against him for the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

“We will be leaving tomorrow for the southern campaign. We will not budge,” he said.

Minivan News tried contacting Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz, but he was not responding to calls.

Maldives Police Services Media Official Sub Inspector Hassan Haneef was also not responding to calls.


Nasheed case proceedings against laws and norms: Nasheed’s legal team

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team has expressed concern that Nasheed is not being given the opportunity to have a fair trial.

At a press briefing held on Wednesday they detailed concerns about the procedural and legal matters around the case against Nasheed, stating much of the proceedings were against both the constitution and the laws of the Maldives.

Nasheed has been currently placed under island arrest, with regard to a case concerning his arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed last year.

Hulhumale’ court’s legality in question

Member of Nasheed’s legal team Hisaan Hussain voiced concerns that the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, tasked with presiding over the case, was formed unconstitutionally. Quoting Article 141 (a) of the Constitution and Articles 53 (b) and 62 of the Maldives Judicature Act, Hisaan stated that it was clear the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was established out of the boundaries of law.

Hassan also noted that there was an existing case in the Supreme Court, where the court had been asked to rule on whether the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court had been formed in accordance with existing laws. She said that although they did not know who had filed the case, it had been filed prior to the decision to have the court preside over the case against Nasheed. The Supreme Court has not yet made a ruling on the case.

However, an official from the Hulhumale’ Court who did not wish to identify himself said to Minivan News today, “We are not officially aware that such a case regarding this court exists.”

He further said that the Department of Judicial Administration was mandated to provide details on similar issues to the media.

However, Department of Judicial Administration’s Spokesperson Latheefa Gasim said that they did not wish to comment on the issue at this point in time.

Panel of Three

Former Minister of Youth and Sports and member of Nasheed’s legal team, Hassan Latheef stated that the panel of three magistrates which are to preside over the case was selected in violation of Article 67 of the Judicature Act, which specifically outlines how magistrates can be assigned to courts. He said that none of the three magistrates assigned by JSC were appointed to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

Latheef said that in contrast to international practices, the magistrates for this particular case had been “handpicked from around the country”. According to him, this was in direct violation of the Maldives Judge’s Act.

In addition to this, Hassan revealed that one of the three magistrates assigned by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) was currently being investigated by the commission on two different offenses, a charge of corruption and of sexual offence.

Latheef further said since the strongest penalty against Nasheed in this case was a 3 year jail sentence, the case could not be considered an offence serious enough to warrant three magistrates to preside over it. He confirmed that this was the first time a case regarding an offence against Article 81 of the Penal Code was being overseen by a panel, rather than a single judge.

The legal team noted that they believed Nasheed was being discriminated against due to his political views. They pointed out that this was in violation of Article 17 of the constitution.

JSC Media Officer Hassan Zaheen spoke to Minivan News today regarding the concerns raised by MDP.

“It is not MDP that gets to decide whether or not a panel needs to be formed. In Islamic Shariah there is nothing to stop us from doing something just because it hasn’t been done before,” he said.

Zaheen further stated that it was constitutional to bring in magistrates from any part of the country to sit on the case and that this was clearly defined in law.

“JSC can bring in judges from anywhere, as long as they are of the same level. It is clearly defined in the Judges Act, or the Judicature Act, or some relevant law. These are all magistrates,” he said.

Zaheen denied that Nasheed was being discriminated against.

“Has another president of Maldives had a criminal case against him? No. Now, if a similar case has not occurred before, there is no room to claim there is discrimination. What are they comparing with?”

Violation of fundamental rights

Nasheed’s legal team expressed concern that the case was being handled outside of all norms.

They pointed out that the Prosecutor General, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights had so far stayed silent on the matter, although it was within their mandate to protect the rights of the people.

Media Official of the Prosecutor General’s Office Hussain Nashid declined from commenting to the media.

“I will not comment about a case which is in the courts currently. The PG office will make whatever necessary statements during court sessions only.”

HRCM and the Human Rights Ministry were unable to comment on the matter at the time of press.

In January, a group of lawyers had forwarded this same case, concerning the arrest and detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed to the International Criminal Court.


“Government cannot be hijacked by taking over army headquarters”: MDP protest enters day five

The government of the Maldives can no longer be “hijacked” by taking over the army headquarters and arresting or assassinating the incumbent ruler as in centuries past, deposed President Mohamed Nasheed said on Sunday night.

Addressing supporters on the third night of the ongoing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ‘Journey to Justice’ protest, Nasheed explained that “the days when this country was ruled by the might of the forearm has been relegated to the past.”

“What we are seeing today is that the Maldivian people will not idly sit by and watch the flame of freedom flicker out,” he said.

He added that taking control of the army headquarters to assume executive power was “an outdated and antiquated way of thinking” in the 21st century.

“The secret or essence behind this is that the government of this country is not the property of the ruler,” he continued. “The government of this country belongs to its people. It can only be stolen from the people after arresting all of them or when there are no longer any people left in this country.”

A Maldivian government could no longer rule over the populace without their consent and respect, he added.

“The days when the Maldivian people could be beaten into submission with electric batons, pepper spray or sticks are long past,” he asserted, adding that “most Maldivians value freedom and despise brutality.”

Nasheed expressed concern with the continued arrest and detention of elected councillors and MDP supporters across the country.

In contrast to fiery speeches by MDP MPs threatening to march the crowd to “reclaim what was stolen,” Nasheed insisted that violent confrontations or the use of force would not be necessary.

He went on to congratulate the protesters for “showing an example to the world” of a peaceful demonstration.

“Shedding a single drop of blood from any Maldivian” would be unacceptable, he added, advising protesters to act “with wisdom and patience.”

Nasheed also urged speakers who take the stage to not abuse the right to free expression by using indecent or “obscene language” or resorting to personal attacks.

Day four

On the following night, former TV presenter Miqdad Adam hosted a panel discussion with former ministers Hassan Latheef and Hassan Afeef along with lawyer Ahmed Abdulla Afeef focusing on the legal issues surrounding the transfer of power.

Hassan Afeef,  former home minister, explained that the coup started with “rebelling or mutinying officers” refusing to obey orders from the former Commissioner of Police and his deputies on the night of February 6.

Shortly before beginning their protest at the Republic Square in the early hours of February 7, a rogue group of riot police attacked the MDP Haruge (headquarters), assaulted former State Minister for Home Affairs, Mohamed ‘Monaza’ Naeem and ransacked the place.

According to eyewitnesses, a police officer hit an elderly man on the head with a chair. Haruge was attacked for a second time after a group of soldiers and police assisted by gang members took over the state broadcaster.

Afeef added that a number of army officers also refused to obey orders from either the Commander-in-Chief or Chief of Defence Forces Brigadier General Moosa Ali Jaleel.

If police officers believed they were given an unlawful order, Afeef continued, they should complain through the proper channels.

Afeef noted that current Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz ‘FA’ had “no legal status” to enter army barracks, negotiate on behalf of the mutinying police or relay demands to President Nasheed.

Local media reported on the morning of February 7, between 10am and 11am, ex-Colonel Nazim addressing the crowd and informing them that President Nasheed had been told to “immediately and unconditionally resign” before 1.30pm.

Afeef claimed that Nazim told President Nasheed that “his life could be in danger” if he refused to comply with demands from mutinying police and army officers.

Former Youth Minister Hassan Latheef referred to opposition politicians meeting then-Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed at 1:00am at his official residence following a night of roving protests.  He added that Dr Waheed evaded questions from cabinet members the next day.

Lawyer Ahmed Abdulla Afeef meanwhile criticised Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz for administering the oath of office on February 7 without looking into whether President Nasheed resigned under duress or not.

Ahmed also noted that the resignation letter was snatched by “the three men with no legal status” who entered the President’s Office with a number of army officers and took the letter to parliament.

Calling for an independent inquiry, Ahmed argued that compromising President Nasheed’s volition or discretion at any point of the process would render the resignation unlawful.

The former ministers also contended that opposition parties resorted to a violent takeover because they were convinced MDP would have won the 2013 presidential election based on delivery of campaign pledges, such as free universal healthcare, housing programmes and a nationwide transport network.