Democracy Network alerts Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges on Nasheed’s sham trial

Human Rights group Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has urged the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers to investigate the jailing of former President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges.

The “independence of the judiciary has been lost,” MDN said in a letter to Gabriela Knaul, stating President Abdulla Yameen was using the judiciary as a tool to “oppress the opposition.”

“We fear that without timely intervention, the country will complete its slide back to autocracy. We strongly urge you to investigate the matter further and issue a public statement denouncing this flagrant abuse of rights being perpetuated through the Maldives’ judiciary,” the letter read.

MDN called upon the international community to take serious measures to prevent further human rights violations at the “helm of a corrupt judiciary.”

The former president was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 13 years in prison last night (March 13) over the January 2012 military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Nasheed’s administration detained Judge Abdulla after deeming him a national security threat. Then- Home Minister Hassan Afeef accused the judge of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, links with organised crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.

Delivering the guilty verdict last night, Judge Abdulla Didi said the prosecution’s evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that Nasheed ordered the chief judge’s arrest or “forceful abduction.”

The NGO described the trial as a “political tool designed to disqualify him from contesting future elections and silence his voice of political opposition,” noting that the trial took place at an “uncharacteristically extreme speed.”

“The systematic procedural irregularities in the current proceedings demonstrate that the current charges against Nasheed are a continuation of the same campaign to disqualify him from political office and effectively silence his political dissent in the Maldives, using a corrupt and biased judicial system to realise this goal,” said MDN.

All four of Nasheed’s lawyers quit on March 9 in protest of the Criminal Court’s refusal to grant sufficient time to examine the prosecution’s evidence and mount a defence.

The presiding judges had denied the lawyers’ request for adequate time, stating the legal team has had the case documents for three years.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) said today Nasheed “was denied fundamental rights which guarantee a fair trial by the constitution, and some rights granted by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

HRCM noted that the Criminal Court denied requests made by the commission to observe trials.

Advocacy group Transparency Maldives (TM) also expressed “grave concern” on the guilty verdict, stressing Nasheed was denied legal representation, right to appeal and adequate time to build a defence against new terror charges.

TM also noted that the “serious issues of conflict of interest were prevalent in the case” with two of the three judges presiding over the case having provided statements during the investigation.

“These procedural irregularities raise serious questions about the fairness, transparency and independence of the judicial process followed and the provision of the accused’s inalienable right to a fair trial,” read a TM statement today.

TM called upon state actors to “uphold democratic principles and international conventions”, while urging the public and law enforcement agencies to “exercise restraint and calm in order to mitigate further deterioration of the security situation in the Maldives.”

Knaul had previously expressed concern over lack of due process in a 2012 trial in which Nasheed had been charged with “arbitrarily detaining” Judge Abdulla at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court.

Knaul questioned the constitutionality of the magistrate court and the appointment of the three-judge panel, “which seems to have been set up in arbitrary manner, without following procedures set by law.”

“It is indeed difficult to understand why one former President is being tired for an act he took outside his prerogative, while another has not had to answer for any of the alleged human rights violations documented over the years,” wrote Knaul, in her report to the UN Human Rights council following her mission in Maldives in February 2013.

Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin in February withdrew the lesser charges and re-prosecuted Nasheed on harsher terror charges.

The United States, United Kingdom and the European Union have expressed concern with the lack of due process, while Amnesty International said Nasheed’s sentencing “after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.”

Related to this story

Former President Nasheed found guilty of terrorism, sentenced to 13 years in prison

“This is not a court of law. This is injustice,” Nasheed tells the Criminal Court

US, EU, and UK concerned over lack of due process in Nasheed trial

Nasheed trial “not free or fair,” says Maldivian Democracy Network

Former President Nasheed appears in court with arm in makeshift sling


Foreign minister slams alleged attempts to place Maldives on CMAG agenda

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon has slammed alleged attempts to place Maldives on the formal agenda of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial on terrorism charges.

Speaking to the press at the President’s Office today, Dunya accused unnamed “foreigners” working alongside local opposition politicians of pushing for CMAG action against the Maldives on the grounds that the opposition leader’s trial was unlawful and unfair.

Nasheed’s trial was proceeding in accordance with laws and regulations, Dunya insisted, arguing that the “issue does not necessarily have to be taken to CMAG.”

Dunya also claimed there was “no international pressure” regarding Nasheed’s trial, stating that other countries would not be allowed to meddle with Maldives’ domestic affairs.

“CMAG placed us on their agenda in 2012. We believe it was not the best action and CMAG also has the same views,” said Dunya.

“Commonwealth does not want to go through the same experience. It was a bitter experience.”

Nasheed is  presently on trial at the Criminal Court over the military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Mohamed Abdulla in 2012.

If convicted, the opposition leader faces ten to 15 years of imprisonment or banishment.

Meanwhile, a ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP has proposed amendments to the Prisons and Parole Act that if passed would effectively strip Nasheed of his party membership.

Also speaking at the press conference today, Attorney General Mohamed Anil – who recently flew to Sri Lanka to brief diplomatic missions about Nasheed’s prosecution – said the international community raised a number concerns.

Anil revealed that foreign diplomats inquired as to why the charges against Nasheed were abruptly changed from arbitrary detention to terrorism, while sharing concerns over the swift speed of trial proceedings.

The attorney general said the Maldives delegation responded by explaining that the Judge Abdulla’s detention was not arbitrary detention as he was neither presented at court within 24 hours nor released despite several court orders.

Anil also dismissed Nasheed’s legal team’s claim of insufficient time for preparation, arguing that his lawyers have had access to the prosecution evidence and witness testimony since 2012. The only difference was the charge of terrorism, he said.

Dunya meanwhile said that she recently briefed numerous diplomats regarding the trial during trips to Geneva and the United Kingdom, including Minister of State for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire.

Swire had previously released a statement stressing the importance of following due process and respecting Nasheed’s rights “for international confidence in the Maldives.”

“It is also incumbent upon the Government of Maldives to ensure his safety. We urge calm right across Maldives and we encourage all parties to act with moderation and restraint,” he said.

“The UK will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Maldives was previously placed on the formal agenda of CMAG after Nasheed controversially resigned in February 2012 in the wake of a police mutiny.

Pro-government MPs at the time alleged that the Commonwealth was being bribed by opposition supporters, with MP Riyaz Rasheed claiming that the United Kingdom was “not a democracy” and that the queen was “physically challenged.”

After the Commonwealth Secretary-General released a statement last month expressing concern with denial of legal representation to Nasheed, Dunya issued a counter-statement expressing regret with “the strategic misrepresentation of basic facts in the Secretary General’s statement.”

“I wish to recall that the Commonwealth Secretariat had misread the situation in the Maldives once before, in 2012 and presented it to the CMAG, which took punitive measures against the country,” Dunya said.

“The Maldives, however, emerged from the situation vindicated by the CoNI Report. The government is hopeful that the Commonwealth will not repeat the same mistakes again.”

Related to this story

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Nasheed’s lawyers stage no-show citing insufficient time for preparation

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

EU, UN join international chorus of concern over Nasheed’s arrest, terrorism trial

Australia concerned over civil unrest following Nasheed’s arrest, trial

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Tholhath vowed not to release Judge Abdulla even if he were to be jailed for 30 years, says witness

Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu vowed not to release Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed even if he faced 30 years in jail as a consequence, a state witness testified at the then-defence minister’s trial on terrorism charges today.

Lieutenant Ali Ihusan, who served as Tholhath’s personal assistant, told the court that he heard the minister saying he would not release Judge Abdulla.

Following the arrest, Ihusan said Tholhath called Nasheed concerning orders to release Judge Abdulla from the High Court and was told to ignore and file the orders without the defence minister’s signature.

At the last hearing of his trial, Tholhath claimed the operation to arrest Judge Abdulla – dubbed ‘Liberty Shield’ – was initiated by Nasheed and carried out by then-Malé Area Commander Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, currently opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for mid-Hithadhoo constituency.

Both Nasheed and Didi are also on trial on charges of terrorism along with then-Chief of Defence Forces Major General (Retired) Moosa Ali Jaleel – appointed President Yameen’s defence minister in January – and ex-Colonel Mohamed Ziyad.

Ihusan also said Didi was in charge of the operation and followed instructions from Tholhath and Nasheed.

However, Ihusan said he did not witness Tholhath issuing operational commands, noting that all orders were signed by Didi.

Operation Liberty Shield

Ihusan said he personally delivered two letters to Tholhath from then-Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh and then-Home Minister Hassan Afeef on January 16, requesting assistance from the military in arresting Judge Abdulla.

Tholhath asked Ihusan to provide copies to Jaleel, saying the letters “could save us one day,” Ihusan testified.

Ihusan also said there was a separate attachment with letters from Nasheed’s then-legal secretary, Hisaan Hussain, requesting an investigation of Judge Abdulla’s alleged obstruction of police.

Jaleel said at a hearing of his trial earlier this week that he participated in meetings between the heads of the police and military to discuss challenges posed to law enforcement and domestic security by the Criminal Court’s alleged release of dangerous criminals and refusal to grant search and arrest warrants to police.

Ihusan also revealed that a meeting with all senior military officers above the rank of colonel took place on January 15, 2012, a day before the chief judge’s arrest.

The state’s second witness, Colonel Abdul Raheem Abdul Latheef said he participated in the top level meeting, but could not recall any discussions on detaining the judge.

The meeting was about assisting police operations and investigations, he testified.

Latheef said he visited Judge Abdulla at Girifushi Island five to six times, accompanying visitors including members of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM).

The colonel noted that Tholhath ordered him to be present at some of the meetings.

Latheef revealed that Tholhath himself visited the judge at the military training island, alongside several civilian visitors whom he could not recall.

Concluding tonight’s hearing, the judges said another hearing on the case would be scheduled tomorrow.

Chief of Defence Forces “Uninvolved”

At today’s hearing of former Chief of Defence Forces Jaleel’s trial, four state witnesses reportedly backed up the current defence minister’s claim that he was not involved in the judge’s arrest.

Both Ihusan and Colonel Latheef testified that Jaleel did not participate in meetings concerning the judge’s arrest and was not consulted by Tholhath.

Dr Ali Shahidh, a military doctor, Aishath Zeena, a psychologist, both of whom attended to the judge during his detention also testified to not receiving any orders from Jaleel.

While hearings of Jaleel, Tholhath, and Nasheed took place today, the Criminal Court did not schedule hearings for ex-Colonel Ziyad or MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi’s trials.

Didi was hospitalised on Sunday night after complaining of chest pains. His family told Minivan News yesterday that the retired general would be flown overseas as soon as doctor’s gave approval.

All five defendants have pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges. The charges were filed under Article 2(b) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1990, which criminalizes kidnappings, forced disappearances and abductions and carries a jail term of between 10 to 15 years.

Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked 22 consecutive nights of violent anti-government demonstrations that culminated in a police and military mutiny on the morning of February 7, 2012, forcing President Nasheed to resign in what he subsequently called a “coup d’etat.”

In January 2013, Tholhath told parliament’s Government Oversight Committee that Nasheed had not resigned “under duress.” However, Tholhath had previously claimed that Nasheed’s life was in danger on February 7, 2012 and that the former president had no choice but to resign.

Related to this story

Nasheed ordered Judge Abdulla’s arrest, says Tholhath

Judges Didi and Yoosuf refuse to step down from Nasheed’s terrorism trial

Nasheed denies ordering Judge Abdulla arrest, granted three days to answer charges

Chief Judge “took entire criminal justice system in his fist”: Afeef


Allegations against Chief Judge first sent to Gayoom in 2005

The first complaints filed against Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in July 2005 included allegations of misogyny, sexual deviancy, and throwing out an assault case despite the confession of the accused, Minivan News has learned.

A letter sent to President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom by then Attorney General Hassan Saeed, obtained by Minivan News (page 1, 2), outlined three specific allegations against Abdulla Mohamed.

While presiding over a sexual offence case against Azeem Abdullah of Chaandhaneege, G.A.Kanduhulhudhoo, on May 19, 2005, Saeed told Gayoom that Abdulla Mohamed “made the two children who were summoned as witnesses against the accused stand in front [of the court] and asked them to look at the people present.

“He then made the children identify the individuals they were looking at. Although the children said in court that the accused performed the indecent act he was accused of, the Judge made the children act out the indecent act in the presence of the perpetrator and the rest of the court.”

Saeed’s second allegation concerned the hearing of physical assault case on June 6, 2005, against Ibrahim Ali of H. Saaroakaage.

“The case was submitted based on the admission of the accused that he had committed the assault, but Judge Abdulla Mohamed of the Criminal Court dismissed the case, stating that there was no case against the accused,” Saeed wrote.

In Saeed’s third allegation, concerning a criminal case on June 6, 2005, against Ahmed Naeem of Male’ Municipality Special Register, “after completing the sentencing of the defendant, Abdulla Mohamed said, ‘…very few men ever meet women who love them. You may meet a woman who loves and cares for you. You should not run after a woman who does not love you. It is also stated in Holy Quran that women are very deceptive.’”

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the judicial watchdog, eventually formed a complaints committee to investigate the cases against Judge Abdulla in December 2009, which met 44 times but had failed to present a single report as of March 2011.

Speaking at an opposition rally on January 24 against the detention of Abdulla Mohamed, Saeed acknowledged that he was “not satisfied with Judge Abdulla’s actions either.”

“[But] he did not have to do things to my satisfaction. I submitted the legal points I noticed [related to the judge’s conduct] to the head of the judiciary at the time, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. I could have removed Judge Abdulla from the post through pressure. But I did not do it because it was not my responsibility,” Dr Saeed said.

“The constitution today forbids influencing judges. So, looking at the current scenario, the country has gone ten years backward.”

The current judicial crisis was sparked after Abdulla Mohamed filed a case in the Civil Court which granted him an injunction halting his further investigation by the JSC. This was following by a High Court ruling against a police summons on January 16, which prompted police to request the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) take the judge into custody.

Home Minister Hassan Afeef subsequently accused the judge of “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist”, listing 14 cases of obstruction of police duty including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts.

Afeef accused the judge of “deliberately” holding up cases involving opposition figures, barring media from corruption trials, ordering the release of suspects detained for serious crimes “without a single hearing”, and maintaining “suspicious ties” with family members of convicts sentenced for dangerous crimes.

The judge also released a murder suspect “in the name of holding ministers accountable”, who went on to kill another victim.

Vice President of the Maldives Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan opposed the judge’s detention, stating on his blog that “I am ashamed and totally devastated by the fact that this is happening in a government in which I am the elected Vice President.”

The government then requested assistance from the international community to reform the judiciary. Observing that judicial reform “really should come from the Judicial Services Commission (JSC)”, Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem said the commission’s shortcoming are “now an issue of national security.”

“We have been working to improve the judiciary since we came to power, but we have not succeeded,” said Naseem. “We have asked the international community to assist us in this effort several times, and we find that they are willing to help at this point,” he explained.

A group of lawyers have meanwhile sent a case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), appealing that the judge’s detention is an “enforced disappearance” under the ICC’s Rome Statute.