The Supreme Court of the Maldives has denied local media reports suggesting that it issued advice to the Prosecutor General (PG), following his decision to submit former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Criminal case to Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
The Supreme Court in an official statement stated it was a responsibility of the Prosecutor General to file criminal charges, but insisted the court did not give any advice regarding Nasheed’s case.
Following investigation by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz has filed charges against Nasheed, former Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, former Chief of Defence Force Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel, Brigadier Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and Colonel Mohamed Ziyad for their alleged role in detaining Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed in January.
Brigadier Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, key figure who defended the Maldives in the coup of 1988, has resigned from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) over the matter.
“I’ve always respected the military uniform during my entire 32 years of service in the military. It’s my belief that I must be present in court after removing the uniform. I do not wish to face the court while wearing this uniform,” Didi was quoted as saying.
An official from the Prosecutor General’s office told local newspaper Haveeru that the decision to submit the case to Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was because the case involved a Criminal Court Judge, and that there was a conflict of interest were the case were to be held in Criminal Court.
In normal practice, all criminal cases are referred to the Criminal Court of the Maldives, one of five superior courts of the country with High Court and Supreme Court above them in hierarchy.
In an earlier case prior to the arrest of Judge Abdulla in January 2012, concerning harassment the judge, the Prosecutor General stated that the Supreme Court had advised him to submit a criminal case to Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
Regarding the charges against Nasheed, neither the Prosecutor General nor the Supreme Court have stated that any advice was given by the Supreme Court – contrary to claims in local media.
A Supreme Court official said he did not wish to speak about the issue, and referred Minivan News to the Department Judicial Administrations (DJA).
However, officials from the DJA told Minvan News that their Spokesperson Latheefa Gasim had not reported to work and therefore could not provide any information.
Sources linked to the case earlier suggested that the charges levied against Nasheed related to violation of article 46 of the Constitution, particularly violation of Article 12 clause (a) of Judges Act (Act no 13/2010).
Article 44 of the Maldives Constitution states: “No person shall be arrested or detained for an offence unless the arresting officer observes the offence being committed, or has reasonable and probable grounds or evidence to believe the person has committed an offence or is about to commit an offence, or under the authority of an arrest warrant issued by the court.”
Article 12 clause (a) of the Judges Act states that a judge can be arrested without a court warrant, but only if he is found indulging in a criminal act. The same article also states that if a judge comes under suspicion of committing a criminal act or being about to commit a criminal act, they can only be taken into custody with a court warrant obtained from a higher court than that of which the judge presently sits on. This warrant has to be approved by the prosecutor general.
However the Prosecutor General is now levying charges of breach of article 81 of the Penal Code: “Arresting an innocent person intentionally and unlawfully by a state employee with the legal authority or power vested to him by his position is an offence. Punishment for a person guilty of this offence is imprisonment or banishment for 3 years or a fine of MVR 2000 (US$129.70).”
If Nasheed is found guilty of the charges, his candidacy for a presidential election could be invalidated, depending on the sentence he may receive as per the article 109(f) of the Constitution, which dictates the qualifications of a president.
Article 109(f) of the Constitution states: “[Candidate should] not have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months, unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release, or pardon for the offence for which he was sentenced;”
Detention of Judge Abdulla
The Chief Judge was detained by the military, after he had opened the court outside normal hours to order the immediate release of former Justice Minister and current Home Minister, Deputy leader of the Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP) Dr Mohamed Jameel.
Jameel had been arrested on successive occasions for allegedly inciting religious hatred, after he published a pamphlet claiming that the government was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives. The President’s Office called for an investigation into the allegations, and requested Jameel provide evidence to back his claims.
In late 2011 Judge Abdulla was himself under investigation by the judicial watchdog for politically bias comments made to private broadcaster DhiTV.
The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) was due to release a report into Judge Abdulla’s ethical misconduct; however the judge approached the Civil Court and successfully filed an injunction against his further investigation by the judicial watchdog.
Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked three weeks of anti-government protests starting in January, while the government appealed for assistance from the Commonwealth and UN to reform the judiciary.
As Judge Abdulla continued to be held, Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz later joined the High Court and Supreme Court in condemning the MNDF’s role in the arrest, requesting that the judge be released.
The police are required to go through the PG’s Office to obtain an arrest warrant from the High Court, the PG said at the time, claiming the MNDF and Nasheed’s administration “haven’t followed the procedures, and the authorities are in breach of the law. They could be charged with contempt of court.”
He then ordered the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to investigate the matter.
As protests escalated, elements of the police and military mutinied on February 7, alleging that Nasheed had given them “unlawful orders”.
Nasheed publicly resigned the same day, but later said he was forced to do so “under duress” in a coup d’état. Nasheed’s MDP have taken to the streets in the months since, calling for an early election.
Judge Abdulla was released on the evening of Nasheed’s resignation, and the Criminal Court swiftly issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest. Police did not act on the warrant, after international concern quickly mounted
Spokesperson of the Department of Judicial Administration, Latheefa Gasim, yesterday told local media that Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court has accepted the case and the hearings will be held after the first 10 days of Ramadan.
She also said that the Magistrate Court had space limitations and therefore they have been talking to the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) located in Hulhimale about holding the hearings in the reception hall of the HDC office.
“We have been negotiating with HDC to see if they could give us their reception hall to hold the hearings. After the HDC response, we will decide on a date to hold the hearings,” she said at the time.