PG to appeal former president’s terrorism conviction

Citing irregularities and rights violations in the terrorism trial of former president Mohamed Nasheed, the Prosecutor General has announced today that he will appeal the criminal court’s verdict.

The decision comes amidst rumors that President Abdulla Yameen will pardon the opposition leader ahead of July 26, the day Maldives marks 50 years of independence from the British.

In a brief statement issued at 6pm, PG Muthaz Muhsin said: “As various parties are raising questions about how the trial proceeded, and as Mohamed Nasheed has said his rights were violated, and that he did not have sufficient time to prepare for the case, and that he did not receive the case documents for an appeal, and since Mohamed Nasheed has asked the prosecutor general to appeal the case, the Prosecutor General’s office has decided to appeal the terrorism conviction against Mohamed Nasheed at the Maldives’ High Court under authority granted to the prosecutor general by article 233(i) of the Maldives’ constitution.”

Article 233 authorises the PG to appeal any judgment, verdict or decision in a criminal matter.

It may take days for the appeal to begin with state offices closed until July 29 for independence day celebrations. The criminal court will now have to issue a trial record and the High Court registrar will then make a decision on accepting the appeal.

Nasheed was found guilty on terrorism charges over the military’s detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih, MP of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said he could not comment as Nasheed’s lawyers were presently discussing the development.

The Attorney General Mohamed Anil today dampened talk of an imminent pardon for Nasheed saying: “Such matters will be dealt with through established procedures in the criminal justice system… It will not happen without my knowledge. I have not received any information yet.”

On June 20, President Yameen rejected Nasheed’s appeal for clemency, urging him to exhaust all appeal processes first. The opposition leader’s lawyers say that the Clemency Act grants the president the discretion, on the president’s own initiative, to commute the sentence of any individual convicted of a criminal offence.

The next day, Nasheed was transferred to house arrest for eight weeks.

The MDP and the government subsequently began talks on clemency for Nasheed and other jailed politicians and withdrawal of charges against some 1,400 opposition supporters.

The opposition has backed several government proposals in hope of freedom for Nasheed, including the impeachment of vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel and a constitutional amendment setting new age limits for the presidency and vice presidency. The amendment allowed President Yameen to replace Jameel with the influential tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

The MDP also issued a free whip on a second constitutional amendment to allow foreign freeholds in the Maldives. Some 19 opposition MPs, including ten MDP MPs, voted to pass the amendment.

At the fourth meeting of talks last week, Ibu had suggested that Nasheed may be released before July 26.

The UN working group on arbitrary detention is expected to rule on Nasheed’s imprisonment in September or October. In a response to the UN, the government insisted Nasheed must appeal the sentence.

The opposition leader’s lawyers maintain they have no legal avenue to file an appeal as the Supreme Court had shortened a 90-day appeal period to 10 days, weeks before Nasheed’s trial began.

The High Court, citing lateness, last month rejected an appeal filed by the Prosecutor General over a murder acquittal. Public prosecutors blamed the delay on the criminal court’s failure to issue a trial record, as had happened in Nasheed’s case.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court last week acquitted a convicted drug trafficker citing irregularities similar to that raised by Nasheed’s lawyers.

In the unprecedented ruling, the apex court said the accused was not given access to a lawyer or the opportunity to call defence witnesses.

In a separate development, only four of the nine High Court judges are eligible to hear Nasheed’s appeal. This is because of two factors; three judges were transferred to a newly created appellate court branch in the south on June 23 and two of the three presiding judges in Nasheed’s prosecution were promoted on June 8 to fill two vacancies at the High Court.

Since the Judges Act states that an odd number of judges must preside over appeals, Nasheed’s appeal can still proceed with three judges.

An appeal filed by ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim was stalled at the High Court when the Supreme Court transferred judges overseeing his appeal to the southern branch.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the European parliament, and influential US Senators have called for Nasheed’s immediate release.

Reporting by Ahmed Naish and Shafaa Hameed. Writing by Zaheena Rasheed.


Broadcasting Commission to investigate Criminal Court barring Rajje TV from court proceedings

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) is to investigate the Criminal’s Court’s decision to bar Raajje TV journalists from court proceedings.

The opposition aligned broadcaster was barred from the Criminal Court after a Rajje TV journalist and cameraman videotaped an alleged meeting between Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf and Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin at Café Layaali in Malé on Sunday night.

“Raaje TV has been barred from attending hearings because they are spreading lies about judges, meddling in judges personal affairs and engaging in actions that may harm judges,” a Criminal Court official told media yesterday.

MBC has also decided to investigate whether Rajje TV journalists had breached codes of ethics by videotaping Muhsin and Bari at the café.

Muhsin has denied the meeting took place, claiming he had been at the café for a separate meal with his family. The PG has said he would resign if the meeting could be proved.

Raajje TV crew said they were forced to delete the footage after a ruling party MP and gang members arrived at the café and threatened them.


PG travels to Russia for extradition deal

The Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin has left for Russia today where he will sign multiple agreements, officials from the PG’s Office have revealed.

“One would be regarding extradition and the other on mutual legal assistance between the two countries,” said a spokesman.

It is not clear whether the two countries would sign an agreement or an MOU, he added.

Muhthaz got the invitation to visit Russia last November when the Russian PG Yuri Chaika visited the Maldives.

President Abdulla Yameen had pledged to introduce a bilateral extradition treaty after the controversial detention of Russian national Roman Seleznyov in July last year.

The alleged hacker was detained by Maldivian authorities before being transported to the US military base in Guam, with Russian authorities calling it a “kidnapping” by the US Secret Service.

Despite a decline of 13 percent in the number of Russian arrivals last year – partly caused by the fall in the rouble – over 65,000 Russian tourists visited the Maldives in 2014, placing it fourth in terms of market share.

PG Muhthaz left with Deputy PG Mahmood Saleem and legal affairs director Mohamed Iyas. The delegation will return to the Maldives on March 15.

The PG’s trip comes during the state’s controversial prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.


Ex-Defence Minister calls for an open, public trial

In a letter to President Abdulla Yameen, former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim has appealed for open and public hearings in an ongoing illegal weapons trial.

The retired colonel alleged his charges were based on fabricated evidence and said he has no confidence that Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin would uphold his constitutional rights.

Article 223 of the Constitution states the PG must assess evidence presented by investigating bodies before pursuing charges, oversee legality of preliminary investigations, and review the circumstances and conditions under which any person is arrested or otherwise deprived of freedom prior to trial.

“I cannot depend on the Prosecutor General to uphold his constitutional responsibilities. Hence, I believe the only means to ensure my rights are defended is a just trial open to the public,” he said.

Nazim was arrested on February 10 on treason and terrorism charges after police discovered a pistol and three bullets in the then-defence minister’s bedroom during a raid on January 18.

At a first hearing on a separate illegal weapons possession trial, state prosecutors alleged Nazim had conspired with opposition leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group to harm senior government officials, according to documents found in a pen drive confiscated during the police raid.

Some of the documents are to be kept confidential, state prosecutors have said. Nazim’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed has described the move as one that would obstruct the former minister’s right to a free and fair trial.

“We will not be able to respond to any of the confidential documents, which hampers his right to justice. We will object to this, and we will do everything within our means to protect Nazim’s rights.”

The Criminal Court at a subsequent hearing cited national security reasons, and ruled Nazim be held in police custody until the trial’s conclusion.

In today’s letter, Nazim offered to bear the expense for a public trial at the Dharubaaruge Convention Center in Malé if the state was unable to do so.

He noted the state had held public trials at Dharubaaruge over the 2003 Maafushi Jail custodial deaths and the 2005 terrorism charges against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The largest courtroom at the Criminal Court, used for Nazim’s trial, only accommodates twenty members of the public, including journalists.

Pointing to the thousands of opposition supporters who had marched on the streets of Malé on February 27 urging President Yameen to release all political prisoners, Nazim said a public trial was in the public interest.

Nazim’s family in a statement last week urged the international community to step up pressure on President Yameen’s administration, claiming, “there is no hope that Nazim can expect a fair trial” due to a “notoriously politicised judiciary.”

“Nazim never expected to be where he is now. But he has fallen foul of a political conspiracy, one in which powerful forces within the Maldivian government have sought to destroy him and thus prevent him from challenging for the leadership of the ruling party,” Nazim’s family explained in a letter to the international community.

The Maldives Police Services have denied planting evidence and framing the former minister, insisting officers had acted professionally during the midnight raid.

The government has maintained the arrests and charges against Nazim demonstrate “no one is above the law,” and say it has no influence over the trial, claiming charges were initiated by an independent Prosecutor General and tried through an impartial judiciary.

On February 24, Nazim filed civil charges against PG Muhthaz Muhsin, alleging the office had failed to protect the former minister’s constitutional rights.

Nazim’s lawyers on February 12 filed defamation charges at the Civil Court and a complaint at the Police Integrity Commission against the Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed for spreading false information.

Waheed at a press conference following Nazim’s arrest said the police had found an improvised explosive device in a bag confiscated from his apartment.

But lawyers say a police document detailing items confiscated from Nazim’s apartment right after the raid did not list an IED.

Related to this story:

No hope for fair trial, says former defense minister’s family

Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials

Ex defense minister’s wife charged with illegal weapons possession

Nazim remains in custody as High Court rejects appeal

Former Defence Minister Nazim remanded for 15 days

Police deny framing Nazim as former Commissioner alleges politicisation

No forensic evidence against Nazim, says legal team


Nazim accused of conspiring with Villa group to harm state officials

State prosecutors have accused former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim of conspiring with opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group to harm state officials.

At today’s first hearing on an illegal weapons charge, State Prosecutor Adam Arif said documents on a pen drive confiscated from Nazim’s house during a January 18 raid show the former defence minister was planning individual and joint operations, financed by the Villa group, to cause bodily harm to “senior honourable state officials.”

The pen drive was confiscated along with a pistol, live bullets and an improvised explosive device during the early morning raid, police have previously said.

Presiding Judge Sujau Usman denied Nazim legal representation at today’s hearing stating the Prosecutor General’s Office had not yet decided which documents from the pen drive were to be kept confidential and which were to be made public.

However, Nazim’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed was allowed inside the courtroom as an observer.

The former defense minister pleaded not guilty. Judge Usman gave Nazim three days to re-appoint a lawyer and answer charges. He is to be kept in police custody until the trial ends.

Nazim’s trial comes amidst heightened tension in Malé. Former President Mohamed Nasheed is also in police custody pending a verdict in terrorism charges over the military detention of a Criminal Court Judge in January 2012. Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party and Gasim’s JP formed an alliance shortly after the weapons find at Nazim’s house and have pledged to overthrow President Abdulla Yameen’s government.

Nazim’s wife, Afaaf Abdul Majeed, was also in court today on the same charges. But Arif told the court the PG’s office was withdrawing charges, claiming the confidential documents had brought to light new information.

Obstacle to justice

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Hameed said the state’s decision to present confidential documents present “a major obstacle in ensuring a fair trial for Nazim.”

“We will not be able to respond to any of the confidential documents, which hampers his right to justice. We will object to this, and we will do everything within our means to protect Nazim’s rights.”

According to Hameed, the court has not yet provided lawyers with any case documents on charges against Nazim or Afaaf.

“We believe there is no basis to charges against Colonel Nazim’s wife, in the same vein, we believe there is no basis to prosecute Nazim as well,” he said.

Afaaf was sent a summons to attend today’s trial on Monday, despite having received no indication she was under suspicion for possessing illegal weapons.

When the trial began, she was sitting next to Nazim at the defence stand, but was later transferred to the observer stand.

When Nazim left the courtroom he passed by the observer stand, and said to his family, “your mother is now free.”

“My freedom alone won’t do,” Afaaf replied.

Hameed said the Criminal Court in a separate remand hearing ruled Nazim posed a threat to society and must be kept in police custody until the trial ended.

Hameed said he would appeal the ruling as well as a February 11 ruling in which Nazim was remanded for 15 days on additional charges of treason and terrorism.

Despite the controversial weapons find on January 18, the police made no moves to arrest the former minister, and Nazim continued to fulfil his ministerial duties the next day.

President’s Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali at the time told media that President Abdulla Yameen continued to have “full confidence” in Nazim.

The following day (January 20) Nazim was dismissed. On February 9, police submitted files to the PG Office requesting charges be pressed against Nazim for illegal weapons possession.

Within hours, at 12:30am on February 10, police arrested Nazim on new terrorism and treason charges.

The former minister’s defence team said the weapons were planted at his residence, alleging police officers spent ten minutes inside Nazim’s apartment alone after they herded the retired colonel and his family into the living room.

The former Police Chief Abdulla Riyaz claimed Nazim is being framed.

Police have repeatedly denied framing Nazim, describing allegations as a “baseless” attempt at discrediting the force.

Despite Nazim’s detention on new charges, the police have not questioned the former minister even once, Hameed claimed.

State prosecutors did not offer substantive evidence to either arrest Nazim or keep him in detention, Hameed contended.

The allied opposition parties have described the state’s prosecution of Nazim and Nasheed, as well as alleged economic sanctions against Gasim as part of President Yameen’s plan to establish authoritarian control.

The government, however, claims it has no influence in the charges against Nasheed and Nazim, stating the trials were initiated by an independent Prosecutor General and tried through independent courts.

Related to this story

Ex defense minister’s wife charged with illegal weapons possession

Nazim remains in custody as High Court rejects appeal

Former Defence Minister Nazim remanded for 15 days

Police deny framing Nazim as former Commissioner alleges politicisation

No forensic evidence against Nazim, says legal team

Police raid Defence Minister Nazim’s home in early hours


Opposition questions PG’s independence as Gasim comments investigated

The Jumhooree Party (JP) and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have questioned the independence of Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin.

Speaking at a joint press conference today, JP Deputy Leader and former transport minister Ameen Ibrahim said that Muhsin had become “someone who just rings a bell when a certain party asks him to”.

Muthuthaz told media outlets yesterday that his office was looking into comments made by JP leader Gasim Ibrahim regarding the recently resumed hearings in the MDP leader Mohamed Nasheed’s case against the assembly of the Hulhumalé Magistrate’s Court bench.

The conclusion of the High Court case – stalled since April 2013 – would clear the way for Nasheed to be tried for the 2012 detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Speaking at press conference at JP’s headquarters in Maafannnu Kunooz last night, Gasim called upon the PG to retract the case against the former president, saying he had already been punished for the judge’s detention by choosing to step down after being given a public ultimatum of releasing the judge or resigning.

The PG swiftly responded by saying that Gasim, as an individual citizen, could not ask for the retraction of a criminal case, accusing him of going against the spirit of the Constitution.

“Gasim is saying that the public offered Nasheed an ultimatum to resign or release Judge Abdullah. However, it is illogical that Gasim is saying that by resigning Nasheed has been punished for arresting the judge,” Muhsin told Haveeru.

“Are we to believe that if the police commissioner resigned tomorrow after illegally arresting a lot of people, that he has been punished?” he asked.

He further criticised Gasim, saying that he would not have a problem if the argument had been made from an academic background: “However, I am not aware that Gasim has the academic background, I see the talk as political.”

Gasim’s legal opposition to the first round results of the 2013 presidential elections – praised by international observers – led to their eventual annulment, before his endorsement of Abdulla Yameen brought the Progressive Party of Maldives’ candidate’s victory.

Muhsin was appointed in July last year, more than six months after the previous post-holder Ahmed Muizzu resigned shortly before parliament was set to debate an MDP-initiated no-confidence motion against him.

Muizzu was criticised by the MDP for failing to take action against mutinying police and military officers, who Nasheed has alleged caused him to resign under duress on February 7, 2012.

Speaking at today’s press conference, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed condemned the remarks made by Muhsin, pointing out that Gasim was the biggest businessman in the Maldives who has set up one of the few higher educational institutions.

Meanwhile, a press statement released by Nasheed’s lawyers today noted that freedom of expression is a fundamental right guaranteed in Article 27 of the Constitution, as long as it does not go against the tenets of Islam.

“We urge the prosecutor general to not take any action against the Constitution, by taking action against honorable Gasim Ibrahim expressing his opinion under rights guaranteed in Article 27 of the Constitution,” read the statement.

The MDP-JP alliance to defend the Constitution began with MDP pledges to defend the Maamigili MP from attacks on his person and business.

Minivan News was unable to obtain a response from the PG’s Office regarding the matter at the time of publication.

Related to this story

High Court rejects Nasheed’s request to delay Hulhumalé court bench trial

MDP and JP to begin official talks tonight

MDP and JP reach agreement on defence of Constitution


PG submits Thinadhoo terrorism cases for the second time

Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin has submitted terrorism charges against 89 individuals from Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo Island for the second time.

Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla first threw out the Thinadhoo cases on Saturday (November 22) after state prosecutors failed to attend a hearing scheduled for 10am.

Mushin resubmitted the cases yesterday, but the Judge Abdulla refused to accept the cases claiming he was uncertain if state prosecutors would cooperate with the trial.

The PG office submitted a letter assuring Judge Abdulla of their cooperation, and has appealed his decision to reject the case at the High Court.

The 89 are accused of setting fire to government buildings on Thinadhoo following former President Mohamed Nasheed’s ouster in February 2012.

Judge Abdulla had last week ordered 55 of the 89 defendants be held in detention pending the outcome of the trials, claiming the accused were intimidating witnesses. All have since been released.

Nasheed has called on Muhsin to respect the judge’s decision stating: “Abdulla Mohamed has decided the case is invalid. When the prosecutor general submits the same cases to his desk again saying he has the power and authority of the state, that is an affront to the rule of law and courts.”

The former president also said that the military’s detention of the judge during his tenure was “wrong”.


PPM MPs to vote Muhthaz for PG in defiance of party leader’s appeal

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MPs have decided to vote for Criminal Court Judge Muhthaz Muhsin as the new Prosecutor General (PG) despite the party’s leader, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, urging ruling party MPs to vote for his nephew Maumoon Hameed.

Majority Leader MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News today that 33 out of 38 MPs present at a parliamentary group meeting this afternoon voted in favour of Muhthaz.

Nihan – parliamentary group leader of the PPM – also confirmed that a three-line whip has been issued for all 43 PPM MPs to vote for Muhthaz’s approval to the vacant PG post.

The decision comes after PPM Leader Gayoom sent a letter yesterday – subsequently leaked on social media – appealing for the party’s MPs to vote for Maumoon Hameed, son of former Atolls Minister Abdulla Hameed.

Gayoom noted that President Abdulla Yameen had declared at a PPM rally that he wished to appoint Maumoon Hameed to the post and that the president had “sent a message through the PPM’s official viber group” requesting the party’s MPs to vote for the lawyer.

Vetting process

Following a vetting process, parliament’s independent institutions oversight committee had rejected both of President Yameen’s nominees last week.

While a minimum score of 75 marks was required for the committee to recommend a nominee for approval, Hameed received 33 percent and Muhthaz received 67 percent.

The committee’s evaluation report has been tabled in the agenda for debate at Monday’s sitting of parliament, after which the nominees will be put to a vote.

Meanwhile, Gayoom sent a letter to MP Nihan – also leaked on social media (page one and two) – last week demanding an explanation of the PPM-majority committee’s decision.

The oversight committee – chaired by PPM MP Ali Saleem – is comprised of five PPM members, one MP from coalition partner Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA), three opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs and two Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs.

In his letter, Gayoom contended that a committee meeting held on July 10 where the nominees were interviewed – where the chair had “acted arbitrarily” – was conducted in violation of parliamentary rules of procedure.

Gayoom said he had learned that the nominees were summoned without a vote by members and that an assessment criteria had not been passed prior to the interviews.

Moreover, he added, the marks sheets were not tallied in the presence of committee members.

Gayoom also argued that a sitting judge could not stand for the post of PG, citing article 151 of the constitution – which requires judges to “devote his full time to the performance of the responsibilities of a judge” – and a “legal norm” whereby judges who leave the bench must wait two years before practicing law.

While article 26(a) of the Judges Act stipulates that a judge who stands for a political post specified in law or the constitution would no longer be a judge, Gayoom noted that Muhthaz had not done so.

However, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has since said that judges could apply for posts in independent institutions.

Vacant PG post

Meanwhile, following the PPM parliamentary group’s decision today, MDP MP Rozaina Adam tweeted, “Could President Yameen publicly humiliate President Gayoom more than this? Yameen’s choice is very clear.”

She also alleged that Yameen had conspired for the previous parliament to reject Maumoon Hameed in April by ensuring that several PPM MPs would be absent for the vote.

Several pro-government MPs – including PG Leader Nihan who was with President Yameen in Japan and MDA Leader Ahmed Siyam – were conspicuously absent at the sitting, which saw  Hameed fail to garner the required 39 votes after falling just three votes short.

According to article 221 of the constitution, “The President shall appoint as Prosecutor General a person approved by a majority of the total membership of the People’s Majlis from the names submitted to the People’s Majlis as provided for in law.”

A majority in the 18th Majlis is 43 seats. In addition to its 43 MPs, the PPM’s coalition partner MDA has five MPs. The minority party announced today that its MPs would also vote for Muhthaz.

Following the previous parliament’s rejection of Hameed, President Yameen refused to submit a new nominee and opened up a third call for applicants, announcing his intention to nominate Hameed for a second time to the newly elected 18th People’s Majlis.

The PG’s post has been vacant since November 25 following the resignation of Ahmed Muiz ahead of a scheduled no-confidence motion in parliament.

Meanwhile, Acting PG Hussein Shameem’s resignation in early May brought the criminal justice system to a halt after state prosecutors went on strike, citing concerns of a lack of accountability in the absence of a PG.

However, the Supreme Court ordered prosecutors to resume work “without any further excuse” and ordered the seniormost official at the PG office to assume the PG’s responsibilities.