High Court to decide on injunction for Nasheed trial

The High Court will decide on a request by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team for an injunction halting his trial over the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed at a hearing on November 4, the same day the trial at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court is set to resume.

Concluding today’s hearing of an appeal lodged by Nasheed’s legal team, challenging the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court’s ruling on three procedural issues raised at the magistrate court’s first hearing on October 9, 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.

Speaking to press after the hearing, Nasheed’s lead attorney Hisaan Hussain explained that a request was made for a temporary injunction to suspend the criminal trial pending a ruling by the High Court on the procedural points.

“Today we submitted in detail the reasons we are seeking a temporary injunction,” she said. “In response, the Prosecutor General’s Office said they did not have anything further to say about issuing the injunction and to proceed in the way the court decides. That is, they do not object to [the court] issuing the injunction.”

On the High Court scheduling its next hearing for November 4, Hisaan noted that the next hearing at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was scheduled for 4:00pm on the same day.

“We believe seeking an injunction is by its nature a matter of urgency,” she said. “So we have requested that the court expedite its decision on the injunction. We hope the court would make a decision before [November 4]. We will make such a request to the court in writing as well.”

At today’s hearing, Nasheed’s legal team raised the 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 October 9 hearing, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate 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.

Meanwhile, the High Court today allowed the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to enter into the appeal case as third parties on the issue of the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

Lawyers from both institutions were present at today’s hearing. The state was represented by lawyers from the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO).

Requesting the injunction, Hisaan reportedly argued that failure to do so could cause irreparable injury to the rights of the defendant as the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court could conclude its trial and sentence the former President before the High Court ruled on the appeal.

While Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham asked for an opportunity to respond to the request for an injunction, Judge Shuaib said that the three-judge panel had decided that the AGO attorney could not be allowed to argue regarding the injunction.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed also attended the hearing along with MPs, senior members and supporters of the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Almost an hour before the beginning of the hearing, police assisted by officers of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) cordoned off the area surrounding the High Court at the former presidential palace.

“Unfair and unjust”

The MDP secretariat meanwhile issued a statement in the wake of the hearing expressing concern with the High Court’s scheduling of its next hearing for November 4.

“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’,” the statement read.

The MDP statement contended that the defence attorneys could only prepare for the trial based on the decision on the procedural processes.

The party also noted that the High Court has in the past conducted hearings at night and on public holidays to issue temporary injunctions.

“However, while a week has passed since the appeal and request for an injunction on behalf of President Nasheed has been filed at the High Court when the hearing was held today, the party believes that the decision to issue a ruling on the injunction on the same day the original case is to be conducted at the ‘Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court’ is neither fair nor just,” the party said.