Today’s Criminal Court hearing for a case involving ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for Thimmarafushi Mohamed Musthafa was cancelled after the MP refused to accept the court summons on the grounds that the court’s judges were unlawfully appointed.
Musthafa added that Thimarafushi island council had advised against his attending the hearing.
Musthafa’s comment came after the Criminal Court today ordered the release of a man arrested for carrying a knife as protesters spread throughout Male’ on Friday evening.
Hassan Areef, who has prior convictions for violence, was arrested in Henveiru ward by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) before being handed over to police.
Appearing in court today, Areef claimed he had been preparing a meal using a butter knife when he went outside to see the commotion, unintentionally carrying the knife with him, according to local media.
The criminal court accepted Areef’s version and ordered his release. Police have announced their intention to appeal the verdict.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the court, Musthafa justified his refusal by citing President Mohamed Nasheed’s position that lower court judges were not appointed in accordance with Article 149 of the constitution, therefore their rulings held no legal weight.
According to Article 149, “A person appointed as a Judge in accordance with law, must possess the educational qualifications, experience and recognised competence necessary to discharge the duties and responsibilities of a Judge, and must be of high moral character.”
The article further requires judges to be a Sunni Muslim of at least 25 years of age, who has not been convicted of an offence and is of sound mind.
Musthafa has been charged for bounced cheques.
The MP faces multiple charges of cheque fraud, notably over transactions made by his company Seafood International Pvt Ltd.
Citing deception by food supplier General Meat Ltd, Musthafa threatened legal action against the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) in November if it did not pay the US$500,000 that the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) owed Seafood International.
Musthafa alleged that the sum was due to be paid to his company according to a 1991 London court ruling.
Citing MMA as the “live branch of BCCI in the Maldives,” Musthafa previously stated that “the debt of a dead person has to be paid by a living legal parent. If the MMA does not pay us within seven days we will sue the MMA in court and when we sue, we will ask the court to take the amount of money for the loss we have had for the past 20 years as a cause of not having this money.’’
Meanwhile, a case filed in 2009 by opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Vice President Umar Naseer claims Musthafa must be removed from Parliament due to a decreed debt which is in violation of Article 73(c)1.
The Supreme Court was due to rule on a case against Musthafa on October 20, however proceedings were interrupted when MDP called for a nation-wide protest against the judiciary during an emergency meeting.
Speaking to Minivan News at the time, MDP MP and spokesperson for the party’s Parliamentary Group, Mohamed Shifaz, said judges had been blackmailed and that the party would protest the politicised judiciary indefinitely.
This month, the opposition took up the protest baton and demanded the release of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed from military detention. The Judge was arrested on January 16, 2012. Protestors have demonstrated against the government since that date.
Contending that the judge was lawfully arrested, the government has requested international legal assistance to resolve what has been labelled a “judicial crisis”.