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

Former President Nasheed arrives in court with arm in makeshift sling

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

Police arrest former President Mohamed Nasheed ahead of terrorism trial


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

Former President Mohamed Nasheed is being denied the constitutional right to appoint a lawyer as well as the right to appeal the Criminal Court’s “arbitrary” arrest warrant ahead of a surprise terrorism trial due to commence today, contends the opposition leader’s legal team.

At a press conference this afternoon, Nasheed’s legal team revealed that the Criminal Court informed the lawyers this morning that they had to register at the court two days in advance despite being unaware of the trial until the former president’s arrest less than 24 hours ago.

“How can we submit forms two days ahead for a trial we did not know would take place two days before? It is clear to any sane person, this is absolute nonsense,” said Hisaan Hussain.

Nasheed was arrested at 2:30pm from his residence Yagoothuge yesterday (February 22). The warrant issued by the Criminal Court stated that Nasheed was being arrested on suspicion that he may abscond from trial.

Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin filed terrorism charges against the former president yesterday over the military’s controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

The court first informed Nasheed’s lawyers – Hisaan Hussain, Hassan Latheef and Ibrahim Riffath – that they could not advocate at the Criminal Court as neither were officially registered.

Hassan Latheef noted that the Criminal Court’s registrar also refused to meet the lawyers before 1:30pm.

Two other lawyers from the five-member legal team – Abdulla Shaairu and Ahmed Abdulla Afeef, prominent criminal defence lawyers who are both registered at the Criminal Court – were then told that they must register again to represent Nasheed.

However, the court subsequently informed the pair that according to court regulations they must submit registration forms two days in advance to be authorised to represent Nasheed at today’s trial.

“We only found out charges had been filed by the Prosecutor General yesterday. There is no way we could have submitted forms ahead of that two day period,” said Shaairu.

“The constitution clearly affords all citizens the right to legal counsel, from the moment they are first accused to the moment the suspicion is resolved. Here, we are speaking of a man who is a former president, a man who has the majority support of the public. If he is not treated justly, what hope is there for the ordinary man?”

Right to appeal

Under new regulations enacted by the Supreme Court this month outlining the appeal process, Nasheed’s lawyers explained that appeal forms must be sent through the trial court to the appellate court.

In order to appeal the arrest warrant, the lawyers explained, the appeal must be filed at the Criminal Court, which would then forward the case to the High Court within a seven day period.

However, the Criminal Court informed Nasheed’s lawyers this morning that the new appeal forms had not been provided to the court.

Hisaan noted that the Criminal Court was unlikely to expedite the process of appealing its own rulings, “especially in cases of unlawful arrest.”

The new regulations deny citizens the constitutional right to appeal court decisions, she asserted.

Ahmed Abdulla Afeef meanwhile suggested that the Criminal Court could use the sample form provided by the Supreme Court and copy the trial court’s letterhead, adding that the legal team was ready with all the paperwork to submit the appeal as soon as possible.


Nasheed’s lawyers also expressed concern over “several irregularities” in the warrant signed by Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf at 12:30pm yesterday, noting the absence of  key information such as place and time period of detention.

Despite the Criminal Court scheduling the first hearing of the terrorism trial for 4:00pm today, the warrant does not state that Nasheed must be brought to trial today.

Moreover, under normal procedure, police request arrest warrants to detain a suspect in an investigation.

However, in Nasheed’s case, PG Muhsin personally went to the Criminal Court yesterday and obtained the warrant, the lawyers revealed.

“We have always noted the state in prosecuting President Nasheed, has previously acted unlawfully. In this instance, we see the Prosecutor General so clearly and publicly flouting the law for political motives. We call on the PG to show independence and to act within the constitution,” said Hisaan.

The legal team also revealed that the Criminal Court has issued a new warrant ordering police to present Nasheed at for the terrorism trial due to begin at 4:00pm.

The lawyers noted the lack of continuity between the warrants, arguing that Nasheed must be released immediately if yesterday’s warrant is now outdated.

“I think police themselves are not clear what to do next. There is no time period in the warrant, so should he be brought before court in 24 hours? But that is done when an individual is arrested in an ongoing investigation, if there is no court order,” explained Hisaan.

“And if there is a court warrant, then the time period in the warrant expires. This case, however, is not an ongoing investigation.
It is not clear to anyone what they are trying to do. All we know is that there’s been serious and several violations of the constitutions, law and norms in issuing this warrant and in arresting the former president.”

“Abscond from trial”

Nasheed was arrested on the grounds that he had attempted to abscond trial during proceedings at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court last year. A police intelligence report was also submitted as evidence to obtain the arrest warrant.

But the lawyers insist Nasheed cannot be held in detention because he “had never absconded from court, nor have taken the opportunity to flee or go into hiding, during numerous opportunities he had in the past few weeks to travel abroad, and that he had expressly informed the judiciary and Prosecutor General that he does not have any intention to abscond from Court or avoid charges being brought against him.”

PG Office Spokesperson Adam Arif told Minivan News that Nasheed’s arrest warrant was different from those issued in instances where an individual refuses to appear at court.

Nasheed had not previously been informed he would be prosecuted on terrorism charges.

Meanwhile, the PG office insisted in a statement yesterday that there was no legal “obstacle” to raising charges against former President Nasheed as a court had not ruled that the case submitted to the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court on September 1, 2012 could not be heard.

After withdrawing the case for further review on February 15, the Prosecutor General decided “the best way [forward] in this case is to change the charges raised against Mohamed Nasheed and the court in which it was filed”.

The PG pressed terrorism charges against the former president under authority granted by the constitution, the Prosecutor General’s Act, and High Court rulings, the statement added.

“Therefore, as the case against Mohamed Nasheed is in the court process, we note that it is not desirable for politicians, some members of the public, political parties, and some media to talk in a way that both creates anxiety among the public about verdicts issued by courts and causes loss of confidence in independent institutions created by the constitution,” reads the PG’s statement.


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.


Nasheed’s lawyer arrested in Addu City

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyer has been arrested by police in Addu City after allegedly disobeying police orders on Wednesday night (March 27).

Hisaan Hussain, who is part of Nasheed’s legal team, told local media that she had been arrested shortly after her husband was detained by police earlier in the evening.

Local media reported that police had conducted an inspection at Hithadhoo Kalhibis beach barbecue area following reports that people had been intoxicated in the area.

According to Hisaan, her husband had been arrested after he had questioned the actions of the police when they turned up to the family event.

Hisaan claimed that she was then later arrested when she went to Hithadhoo Police Station to submit a request to act as her husband’s lawyer.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has since claimed that the arrest of Hisaan – who has now been released by authorities along with her husband – was a direct attempt by police to intimidate Nasheed’s lawyers.

“We see it as pure harassment. The Police are trying to intimidate lawyers who represent the MDP and President Nasheed. It is extremely disturbing that the police have again displayed their complete disregard to the law.

“We urge the Police and the Police Integrity Commission to look into the matter and take urgent action against those officers who continue to violate the law & brutalise Women,” President Nasheed’s spokesperson MP Mariya Didi claimed.

Contrary to reports in local media, a statement from the MDP claimed that police had searched the area under a law relating to gang violence.

The MDP statement further claimed that Hisaan, who is 24 weeks pregnant, had been pushed to the ground by police, while her husband was punched in the face by an officer.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls or text messages from Minivan News at time of press.


High Court grants injunction suspending former President Nasheed’s trial

The High Court today granted an injunction (Dhivehi) temporarily suspending the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed at the contested Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, pending a ruling on procedural points raised by the former President’s legal team.

The former President is facing criminal charges over the military’s controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

At a preliminary hearing on October 22, Nasheed’s lawyers requested an injunction halting the trial pending a ruling by the High Court on three procedural points dismissed by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court: a magistrate court holding a trial on a different island to where it was based; the constitutional legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court; and the legality of the arrest warrant issued by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, as such orders could only be issued by a court in the locality of the defendant’s permanent address.

At the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court’s first trial date on October 9, the court summarily dismissed the first two points and agreed to hear the last issue. The court however ruled that the warrant was issued legally as it was following a precedent established by the High Court.

The ruling was subsequently appealed by Nasheed’s legal team at the High Court.

Concluding the hearing on the appeal on October 22, High Court Judge Shuaib Hussain Zakariya said the three-judge panel would issue a ruling on the injunction at the next hearing on the morning of November 4.

Meanwhile, the second hearing of the trial at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was scheduled for 4:00pm today. Following the court order issued by the High Court however, it has since been cancelled.

In its ruling today, the High Court noted that the Prosecutor General’s Office had not objected to the court issuing the injunction at the October 22 hearing.

The High Court noted that continuing without “determining the legitimacy of the necessary procedural processes” and “ensuring the rights of the defendant” could cause irreparable injury to the claimant.

Moreover, if there was “a delay” in ruling on the request for an injunction, “the court believes that the purpose of the ruling [on the appeal] might not be achieved”.


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.