Women face charges over airport protest

State prosecutors are preparing to charge 14 women and one man who protested at Male’s international airport earlier last month over the arrest and trial of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

Police have sent the cases to the prosecutor general’s office to send them to trial, an official confirmed to Minivan News.

Another source confirmed that 15 cases were sent to the prosecutor general’s office, while a total of 90 protest-related cases have been sent to the state prosecutor.

Some 14 women and one man were arrested on March 5 while protesting at the airport with posters calling for Nasheed’s release. The protest was co-ordinated by the women’s wing of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The opposition has been holding nightly street protests over Nasheed’s trial, but it is rare for demonstrations to take place at the airport in view of international tourists.

A police spokesperson at the time said the Freedom of Assembly Act bars protests at airports.

Nasheed has since been sentenced to 13 years of prison over terrorism charges, in a trial which was deemed unfair by the UN and Amnesty International.

Among those arrested were Malé City deputy-mayor Shifa Mohamed and MDP women’s wing vice-president Shaneez “Thanie” Saeed.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Shifa said she is yet to be officially informed of the charges, but have heard rumors about it in the media.

“We are already getting punished for protesting. [We] are barred from protesting for 60 days. If they accuse us again we are getting punished for the same crime twice,” Shifa said.

All of those arrested at the airport were released by the criminal court at their remand hearing on the condition they do not participate in further protests for 60 days.

The opposition has argued that the release of those arrested at protests on these conditions violates their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Shifa accused the criminal court of misconduct and bias in their treatment of those arrested at protests.

The remand trial of those arrested at the airport was headed by Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf – one of the three-judge panel who sentenced Nasheed to 13 years.

The deputy mayor said that Bari warned them he would sentence them to two months in detention if they participate in more protests.

“I see this as threat to scare us, and something done to selectively eliminate certain individuals,” Shifa said.

In another high-profile case, MP Ahmed Mahloof, formerly of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, was arrested at a protest last week and detained for five days.

When his detention ended, the criminal court handed him a further five days of house arrest after he refused the court’s condition to stay away from protests for 60 days.

Similarly, MDP MP Ismail Fayyaz was given 15 days’ detention after he refused to accept release under the same conditions.

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A justice system in crisis: UN Special Rapporteur’s report

UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, has expressed “deep concern” over the failure of the judicial system to address “serious violations of human rights” during the Maldives’ 30 year dictatorship, warning of “more instability and unrest” should this continue to be neglected.

“It is indeed difficult to understand why one former President is being tried for an act he took outside of 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 final report to the UN Human Rights Council following her Maldives mission in February 2013.

The report is a comprehensive overview of the state of the Maldivian judiciary and its watchdog body, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC). Knaul examines the judiciary’s handling of the trial of former President Nasheed, the controversial reappointment of unqualified judges in 2010, and the politicisation of the JSC.

Knaul also examines parliament’s failure to pass critical pieces of legislation needed for the proper functioning of the judiciary and “legal certainty”, as well as raises serious concerns about an impending budget catastrophe facing the judicial system.

“The immediate implications of the budget cuts on the judiciary are appalling. For instance, the Department of Judicial Administration only has funds to pay staff salaries until November 2013 and it had to cancel training this year,” Knaul notes.

“The Civil Court reported that it would not have sufficient funds to pay its staff salaries after October 2013; furthermore, existing budgetary resources would not be sufficient to pay for utilities and facilities after June 2013,” she adds.

The Nasheed trial

Former President Mohamed Nasheed is currently facing criminal charges in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court for his detention of the Criminal Court’s Chief Judge, Abdulla Mohamed, days prior to the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.

“Judge Abdulla had allegedly shielded a number of powerful politicians in corruption cases by refusing to issue orders to investigate, and many complaints had been made regarding his conduct and supposed lack of ethics,” Knaul outlined.

“The Judicial Service Commission had completed an investigation on him in November 2011, holding him guilty of misconduct. This decision was appealed to the Civil Court, which ordered that the Judicial Service Commission’s complaint procedure be suspended.

“Although the Commission appealed the Civil Court’s ruling, Judge Abdulla was allowed to continue in his functions,” she added.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintain the case against Nasheed is a politically-motivated attempt to convict and bar him from the September 7 presidential elections, while the new government has emphasised the judiciary’s independence and insisted on its policy of non-interference.

Following Knaul’s visit and her departure statement, several members of the JSC have also challenged the commission’s creation of the Hulhumale’ Court, and its appointment of the bench. The commission includes several of Nasheed’s direct political rivals, including a rival presidential candidate, resort tycoon, Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim.

“The trial of the former President raises serious concerns regarding the fairness of proceedings,” Knaul notes, questioning the constitutionality of the Hulhumale’ Court and the appointment of the three-member panel of judges, “which seems to have been set up in an arbitrary manner, without following procedures set by law.”

“According to the law, the Prosecutor General’s office should have filed the case of Mr Nasheed with the Criminal Court. While the concerns of the Prosecutor General’s office regarding the evident conflict of interests in this case are understandable, since Judge Abdulla sits in this court, it is not for the Prosecutor to decide if a judge is impartial or not,” stated Knaul.

“The Prosecutor should act according to the law when filing a case, as it is the duty of judges to recuse themselves if they cannot be impartial in a particular case,” she explained.

“All allegations of unfair trial and lack of due process in Mr Nasheed’s case need to be promptly investigated, including the claims that the trial is being sped up to prevent Mr Nasheed’s participation in the 2013 elections,” she added.

Knaul noted a decision by the Supreme Court to declare the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court as legitimate after the Commission filed a case with it in 2012.

“The Special Rapporteur was informed that the judge of the Supreme Court who cast the deciding vote in this case also sits as a member of the Judicial Services Commission, whose decision to establish the Hulhumalé court as a magistrates court was under review,” the report noted.

Politicisation of the JSC

Knaul observed that the JSC had a “complicated” relationship with the judiciary, given that the commission “considers that it has exclusive jurisdiction over all complaints against judges, including over criminal allegations, while the Prosecutor General understands that the criminal investigation agencies have the competence to investigate criminal conducts by anyone.”

Knaul underlined that “judges and magistrates, as well as other actors of the justice system, are criminally accountable for their actions. Criminal actions entail consequences and penalties that are different from those resulting from disciplinary or administrative investigations.”

The special rapporteur stated that there was near unanimous consensus during her visit that the composition of the JSC – which draws members from sources outside the judiciary, such as parliament, the civil service commission and others – was “inadequate and politicised”. This complaint was first highlighted in a report by the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) in 2010.

“Because of this politicisation, the commission has allegedly been subjected to all sorts of external influence and has consequently been unable to function properly,” said Knaul.

State of the courts

Conflicts of interest and the resulting impact on judges’ impartiality was also a concern, noted Knaul.

“It seems that judges, and other actors of the State, do not want to fully acknowledge and understand this concept, leading to the dangerous perception from the public that the justice system is politicised and even corrupted,” she said.

Knaul also expressed “shock to hear that many members of the judiciary, including in the Supreme Court, hold memberships in political parties.”

The Supreme Court, she noted, has meanwhile been “deciding on the constitutionality of laws ex-officio, without following appropriate examination procedures, under the understanding that they are the supreme authority for the interpretation of the Constitution.”

The relationship between prosecutors and the judiciary was also difficult, Knaul noted, expressing “serious concern” that some courts “use the threat of contempt of court and disbarment to impose their decisions and superiority over prosecutors.”

“The lack of a centralised case-management system does not facilitate their tasks either. In some places, such as Addu City, one prosecutor covers four courts and is often called to different hearings at the same time,” she observed.

“Symbolic” reappointment of judges

Two months prior to the end of the constitution’s transitional period and the deadline for the appointment of new judges according to moral and professional criteria – article 285 – the interim Supreme Court informed President Nasheed “that all its members would permanently remain on the bench.”

This action, Knaul noted, had “no legal or constitutional basis.”

“The five judges who had been sitting on the transitional bench were appointed to the seven-member permanent bench, leaving many with the perception that the Supreme Court was appointed in a politicised manner,” she noted.

The rest of the courts followed suit several months later at the conclusion of the interim period, with the Commission “opting for interpreting article 285 of the Constitution in a rather symbolic way and [not scrutinising] judges’ qualifications thoroughly.”

“For instance,” Knaul noted, “not all criminal allegations pending against judges were investigated. This resulted in a seemingly rushed reappointment of all sitting judges but six, which in the opinion of many interlocutors corrupted the spirit of the constitutional transitional provision.”

While the 2008 Constitution had “completely overturned the structure of the judiciary”, at the conclusion of the JSC’s work on article 285, “the same people who were in place and in charge, conditioned under a system of patronage, remained in their positions.”

As a result, “many believe that some judges who are currently sitting lack the proper education and training […] A simple judicial certificate, obtained through part-time studies, is the only educational requirement to become a judge.”

Way forward

Knaul’s report contains four pages of recommendations for judicial reform, starting with a “constitutional review” of the composition of the Judicial Services Commission – the same conclusion reached by the ICJ in 2010.

“The Maldives finds itself at a difficult crossroad, where the democratic transition is being tested, while remnants of its authoritarian past are still hovering,” Knaul observed, stating that the power struggle she witnessed during her visit had “serious implications on the effective realisation of the rule of law in the Maldives.”

Among many other recommendations, Knaul called on the government to show “strong and nonpartisan leadership”, by pushing for “constructive dialogue aimed at establishing clear priorities for the country, the adoption of necessary core legislation, and policy measures to consolidate the democracy. Such leadership should be guided by the Maldives’ obligations under international human rights law, which provide for a sound and sustainable foundation for democracy.”

She also noted that “the delicate issue of accountability for past human rights violations also needs to be addressed.”

Read the full report

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JSC asks High Court to expedite case concerning legitimacy of bench in Nasheed trial

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has requested the court expedite the case filed by the defense counsel of former President Mohamed Nasheed, challenging the legitimacy of the three-member bench appointed to his case.

The JSC made the request in a letter sent to the court last week. Lawyers representing the JSC previously requested the High Court dismiss the case, contending that the High Court did not have the jurisdiction to preside on the matter.

The JSC appointed the three member panel consisting of Judges Shujau Usman, Abdul Nasir Abdul Raheem and Hussain Mazeed to hear the former president Nasheed’s criminal trial – concerning criminal charges levied against him over the controversial detention Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

However, following the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Hulhumale-based court was legitimate and could operate as a court of law – dismissing Nasheed’s contention that court was formed extra-legally – the former president’s legal team subsequently filed a case at High Court contesting the legitimacy of the bench appointed to hear the case.

Upon accepting the case, the High Court issued a stay order on Hulhumale Magistrate Court to suspend all criminal trials concerning the arrest of the judge, pending a ruling on the legitimacy of the court bench.

Speaking to local media on Monday, JSC Media Official Hassan Zaheen said the commission sent the letter last week.

“We are the respondents of the case and in that capacity, we requested the High Court to speed up the case,” Zaheen told local newspaper Haveeru.

Zaheen claimed the request made to the High Court was “not a new practice” and that the commission had previously made similar requests.

Meanwhile Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has alleged that the JSC sent the letter to High Court in a bid to influence the outcome of the trial.

In a press statement released by the party, the MDP claimed the JSC had instructed the court to immediately make a ruling on the matter.

“If the JSC, as the respondent in the case, felt the case was being delayed, there is nothing wrong in asking the court to expedite the case. However, the MDP believes this is an attempt to influence the outcome of the case, as the JSC is sending its legal arguments in writing rather than speaking about them in the court room,” read the statement.

The MDP condemned the decision and alleged that the state’s judicial watch-dog was acting beyond its constitutional mandate.

The JSC has come under heavy scrutiny over its appointment of the panel of the judges – which several lawyers and members of JSC itself have claimed exceeded the JSC’s mandate.

Among the JSC’s critics include JSC member Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman – the member appointed from among the public.  Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman previously claimed the JSC had arbitrarily appointed three magistrates from courts across the Maldives to Nasheed’s case after dismissing the three names first submitted to the commission by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

“Moosa Naseem (from the Hulhumale’ Court) initially submitted names of three magistrates, including himself. This means that he had taken responsibility for overseeing this case. Now once a judge assumes responsibility for a case, the JSC does not have the power to remove him from the case,” Sheikh Rahman explained. “However, the JSC did remove him from the case, and appointed three other magistrates of their choice.”

Sheikh Rahman stated that the commission had referred to Articles 48 to 51 of the Judge’s Act as justification.

“But then I note here that the JSC breached Article 48 itself. They did not gather any information as per this article. They stated that it was due to the large amount of paperwork that needs to be researched that they are appointing a panel. However, this is not reason enough to appoint a bench,” he said.

Meanwhile, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid – who is also a member of the JSC – stated that he believed that the judicial watchdog had acted unconstitutionally in assigning magistrates to a particular case.

“In deciding upon the bench, the JSC did follow its rules of procedures. As in, it was voted upon in an official meeting and six of the seven members in attendance voted on the matter. The seventh member being the chair, does not vote in matters,” Shahid explained. “However, whether it is within the commission’s mandate to appoint a panel of judges in this manner is an issue which raised doubt in the minds of more than one of my fellow members,”

Other critics of the JSC include United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, who also argued that the appointment of the judges bench was carried out arbitrarily.

“Being totally technical, it seems to me that the set-up, the appointment of judges to the case, has been set up in an arbitrary manner outside the parameters laid out in the laws,” Knaul said, responding to questions from media after delivering her statement in February.

Speaking to Minivan News previously, Kirsty Brimelow QC, one of three UK-based experts on former President Nasheed’s legal team, contended that the prosecution of his case before the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court fell “below international standards for fair trial procedure”.

JSC Media Official Hassan Zaheen was not responding to calls at time of press.

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“Difficult” to consider elections credible unless Nasheed is allowed to contest: European Union

The European Union (EU) has declared that it would be “difficult” to consider the Maldives’ upcoming presidential elections credible unless former President Mohamed Nasheed is allowed to contest.

Nasheed is currently being tried in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court over his detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed.

His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintain that the charges are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent Nasheed from contesting elections in September, and have condemned the former President’s repeated arrest on the court’s order by squads of masked special operations police.

A number of international institutions including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Judiciary, Gabriela Knaul, and the UK’s Bar Human Rights Commission, have recently expressed concern about the politicisation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court it created, and its appointment of the three member panel of judges overhearing the Nasheed trial.

The JSC’s members include several of Nasheed’s direct political opponents, including rival presidential candidate, resort tycoon and Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim.

Last week, several members of the JSC also testified to parliament’s independent commissions oversight committee that the creation of the court and appointment of the judges were politically suspect.

JSC Member appointed by the public, Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman, last week revealed that the JSC had openly discussed their intent to eliminate Nasheed from the upcoming elections.

Chair of the Commission, Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed, had abused his post and powers as the chair to try and eliminate Nasheed from contesting the elections, said Shuaib, alleging that Adam Mohamed had “used the commission as a political tool”.

“The politics of the majority control the commission, hence the rule of law, due process and due diligence do not exist in the JSC,” Sheikh Rahman stated. “The commission has no amount of respect for constitutional principles.”

“It is common now to hear a lot of MDP and Nasheed bashing in commission meetings. This was not how things usually were before. I believe politically biased comments like this have increased since Gasim joined the JSC as a representative of the parliament,” Sheikh Rahman said.

In a statement on Thursday, the European Union said it “reiterates its view that the participation of the preferred candidates from all political formations in the Maldives is essential to ensuring the success of the forthcoming elections; it would be difficult to consider them credible and inclusive if Mr Nasheed and his party were to be prevented from standing or campaigning.”

“The EU takes note of the acceptance by the prosecution of a defence request to defer the trial until after the upcoming presidential elections in September and hopes that this would offer the means to ensure that ex-President Nasheed is able to participate in the electoral campaign, under the same conditions as other candidates,” stated EU High Representative Catherine Ashton.

In the statement, the EU also reminded Maldivian authorities of their “commitment to ensuring [Nasheed’s] personal safety and security.”

“The EU encourages all parties to exercise restraint, to act responsibly, and to work together to ensure that the outcome of these elections fully reflects the wishes of the Maldivian people, so safeguarding the Maldives’ democratic institutions and enabling its next government to confront the serious economic, social and environmental challenges which the country faces,” the statement concluded.

Following the EU’s comments, President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad tweeted on Saturday (March 16) that “it’s not proper for governments to discredit the independence and integrity of our judiciary. Doing so is undermining Democracy in Maldives.”

Masood added that the 2013 elections would be free, fair and exclusive, but would be “exclusive” of individuals who did not meet the legal criteria.

Nasheed’s trial is meanwhile due to resume on April 4 following a four week recess granted by the court.  The hearing has been scheduled despite the state prosecution stating it had no objection to delaying the trial until after the September 7 elections.

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“No reason” to delay trial for just four weeks, says Nasheed

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has requested state institutions consider the Prosecutor General’s statement to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court during the most recent hearing of his ongoing trial.

During the hearing on Wednesday (March 7), state prosecutors said they did not object to delaying the trial until presidential elections scheduled for later this year are over.

The prosecution told the three-member panel of judges that they “did not have any problem” withholding the trial for four weeks, and “did not object to delaying the election until the end of the scheduled presidential elections in September 2013.”

Nasheed is facing criminal charges over the controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed during the last days of his presidency.

Speaking during a party rally held on Wednesday evening, President Nasheed stated that the four-week break granted by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court until the next hearing was an opportunity for state institutions to decide on the matter.

“Delaying trial for just four weeks has no meaning. There is no reason for it nor does it help anyone. We want the trial to be delayed till the elections are over. [The prosecution] gave one month and said that they did not object to further delays,” Nasheed told his supporters.

Nasheed said that it was very clear that charge of arresting the judge was not a charge against him alone, but several others as well.

He also warned that if the magistrate court issued a verdict that would bar him from contesting the elections, a lot of people would rise up against the decision and trigger a “very dangerous political insurgency”.

“Can remain straitjacketed for another 40 days”: former president

“[The government] and the prosecutor general knows very well that Nasheed of Galolhu Keneryge can remain straitjacketed for anther 40 days. He can do that. The torture he receives from it will not change anything,” Nasheed said.

Nasheed also criticised the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) stating that the problem with Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was not just the panel of judges. He alleged that the JSC had formulated the bench and have now been forcing administrative staff of the court to do specific things to impact the trial.

Elaborating, Nasheed claimed that the current Cabinet Secretary of President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, Abdulla Nazeer – who was a state minister of education – regularly paid visits to the judges and cabinet ministers and regularly contacted the judges to inquire about the progress of the trial.

“Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential hopeful Abdulla Yameen does not talk about the case. Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali does not speak about it. But it is always traitor Waheed who speaks of it,” Nasheed said.

“He will always say it is with the courts. We are seeing today and every other day how much he is trying to influence this trial. It is posing a huge challenge towards a fair and transparent hearing.”

Nasheed further claimed that the current judiciary of the Maldives was being operated for the benefit of a few politicians.

Despite the law stating otherwise, the judiciary was incompetent and inexperienced, and could not guarantee a court room that would deliver justice to the people of the country, Nasheed said.

“They will take us tomorrow. Even then, be courageous. They will take us the day after tomorrow. Even then, be courageous. Next time it would not be just a day, next time it would be 10 days, perhaps a month but still we shall not back down,” he said, as supporters roared in support.

No withdrawal, no objection

Despite Nasheed’s remarks, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz stated that he was not withdrawing the charges against Nasheed, and said that he was still sticking by his decision.

He told local newspaper Haveeru that the state prosecutors will be present any time the court wishes to schedule the trial.

“We told [Nasheed’s lawyers] that we have no problem requesting the court delay the hearing for four weeks. We even told the court that,” he said. “I don’t mind even if the court delays the case. But we don’t have an desire to delay the trial. The court can carry out the trial the way they wish. I have no objection to it; we would follow the schedule they give.”

During Wednesday’s hearings, Nasheed’s legal team requested the court delay the trial until the end of the scheduled presidential elections in 2013, and in a separate request, asked the court for a delay in proceedings by four weeks.

However, the judges dismissed the request to delay the trial until the end of the elections, but agreed to withhold it for four weeks, stating that the panel of judges by majority “have decided to proceed with the trial”.

Nasheed’s lawyers subsequently contested the decision, claiming that continuing the trial could compromise the rights of many people, arguing that Nasheed was the presidential candidate of the largest political party in the country, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

However, the court stated that Nasheed’s claim he was the presidential candidate of a political party lacked legal grounds to support it, as presidential candidates were announced by the Elections Commission after it opened the opportunity to file presidential candidates.

Politicised trial

Speaking to Minivan News, the former President’s Spokesperson MP Mariya Ahmed Didi claimed the court’s decision reflected “how politicised” the trial was.

“The prosecution did say that they had no objection to defer the trial after the election. However, the court opted for a four week [delay],” she said. “We do feel that the fact that the PG has said that he did not object but the court to give only four weeks deferment shows how politicised this trial is.”

Didi added that Nasheed’s legal team had not ruled out the option of appeal and said that President Nasheed and senior members of MDP are currently engaged in discussion with the legal team on whether to do so.

Speaking to Minivan News, Kirsty Brimelow QC, one of three UK-based experts on former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team, said that there remained a “strong argument” in the case that the prosecution of Nasheed was “not in the public interest”.

“It is a strong argument that a prosecution is not in the public interest. The currently constituted court comprises of judges who may be biased or have the appearance of bias. They should recuse themselves,” she argued.

She also contended that the prosecution of Nasheed’s case before the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court fell “below international standards for fair trial procedure”.

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“JSC politicised, trying to eliminate Nasheed and MDP from elections”: JSC Member Shuaib

Judicial Services Commission (JSC) member Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman has spoken out against the judicial watchdog body, declaring it as politicised and attempting to eliminate former President Mohamed Nasheed from the September 7 elections.

The JSC has not only created the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court in which the former President is being tried, but has appointed the three-member panel of judges overhearing the case. The JSC’s membership includes several of Nasheed’s direct political rivals, including Jumhoree Party leader and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, one of Nasheed’s rival presidential candidates.

Sheikh Rahman, the member of the commission appointed by the public, said political influence of the commission had heightened after Gasim had been appointed.

He is the second JSC member to blow the whistle on the Commission, echoing the concerns of JSC member Aisthath Velezinee who was stabbed in the street in early 2011.

Sheikh Rahman made the remarks during a live appearance on local TV channel Raajje TV, just over a week after UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul also aired concerns over the JSC in a statement following a fact finding mission to the Maldives.

Speaking on the show, Sheikh Rahman said the JSC had openly discussed their intent to ensure the elimination of the Maldivian Democratic Party and presidential candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed from the upcoming elections.

Sheikh Rahman alleged that Chair of the Commission, Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed, had abused his post and powers as the chair to try and eliminate Nasheed from contesting the elections, and alleged that Adam Mohamed had “used the commission as a political tool”.

“The politics of the majority control the commission, hence the rule of law, due process and due diligence do not exist in the JSC,” Sheikh Rahman stated. “The commission has no amount of respect for constitutional principles.”

“It is common now to hear a lot of MDP and Nasheed bashing in commission meetings. This was not how things usually were before. I believe politically biased comments like this have increased since Gasim joined the JSC as a representative of the parliament,” Sheikh Rahman continued.

“Gasim even went to the point of asking the UN Special Rapporteur Knaul when she held a meeting with us to state in her report that it was MDP who torched the courts. I heard him say exactly that,” Sheikh Rahman said.

JSC Chair abuses power to continue running unlawful Hulhumale’ Court

Sheikh Rahman further revealed that the JSC had “handpicked” magistrates to preside over the case against Nasheed, for his detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

He said that the JSC’s intention in assigning the case at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court to the three specific magistrates was for the explicitly stated purpose of “sentencing Nasheed”.

According to Sheikh Rahman, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was initially established through misinformation and manipulation of the commission on the part of JSC Chair Adam Mohamed.

“The Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court is actually abolished automatically with the concept of judicial districts coming into effect upon the ratification of Judicature Act on 10 August 2010. And yet, they continue to run the court,” Sheikh Rahman stated.

He went on to say that as the constitution defines Hulhumale’ and Villingili as parts of the capital Male’ city, there was no authorisation to set up separate magistrate courts on these islands.

Sheikh Rahman alleged that despite these facts, JSC Chair Adam Mohamed had invoked the theory that Hulhumale’ and Villingili were separate islands and were therefore qualified to have their own magistrate courts.

Appendix 2 of the Constitution of Maldives which defines administrative divisions, states that Male’ is inclusive of Villin’gili and Hulhumale’.

Sheikh Rahman revealed that he had, as a member of the JSC, submitted a complaint to the commission to review the decision regarding the court on the grounds that it was unlawfully established. He stated that his attempts were in vain as Chair Adam Mohamed had once again abused his powers and refused to schedule the matter during the commission sessions.

Sheikh Rahman stated that he had made multiple requests for a decision on the Hulhumale’ Court, all of which was rejected by the chair. He confirmed that he had not received any written or official responses to the motions he submitted on the matter.

“Another false justification that Adam Mohamed used is that the matter cannot be discussed in the commission as it referred to an ‘ongoing case’,” he said.

UN Special Rapporteur Gabriella Knaul also criticised the ‘arbitrary appointment’ of judges to Nasheed’s case. She also stated that the Hulhumale’ Court did not have the constitutional mandate to oversee the specific case.

Former JSC member Velezinee also repeated her concerns about the politicisation of the JSC at a recent press conference held to share her remarks on the preliminary findings of UN Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul.

Incumbent JSC Member Gasim Ibrahim, meanwhile called Knaul’s findings ‘lies and jokes’ at a JP party rally.

The Hulhumale’ Court meanwhile on Wednesday refused to delay Nasheed’s trial until after the elections, despite the prosecution stating they had no objection to such a decision.

Gasim Ibrahim was not responding to calls at time of press.

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Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court refuses to delay Nasheed’s trial until elections, despite no objection from PG

The Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court has decided to halt the ongoing trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed for four weeks.

The former President is charged with the controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed during the last days of his presidency.

During Wednesday’s hearings, Nasheed’s legal team requested the court delay the trial until the end of the scheduled presidential elections in 2013,  and in a separate request, asked the court for a delay in proceedings by four weeks.

The court stated that the request was made in a letter it had been sent by Nasheed’s legal team.

Following the request, the prosecution told the three-member panel of judges that they “did not have any problem” with withholding the trial for four weeks, and they “did not object to delaying the election until the end of the scheduled presidential elections in September 2013.”

Judges repeatedly questioned the prosecution on this statement.

In response, the prosecution repeated the statement, adding that the phrases “not objecting” and “not having a problem” had two different meanings, but did not explain further.

After a short break, the judges dismissed the request to delay the trial until the end of the elections, but agreed to withhold it for four weeks, stating that the panel of judges by majority “had decided to proceed with the trial”.

Nasheed’s lawyers subsequently contested the decision, claiming that continuing the trial could compromise the rights of many people, arguing that Nasheed was the presidential candidate of the largest political party in the country, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The latest statistics from Elections Commission show the MDP currently holds a membership of more than 46,000 members, in a country with a population of 320,000.

However, the court stated that Nasheed’s claim he was the presidential candidate of a political party lacked legal grounds to support it, as presidential candidates were decided by the Elections Commission after it opened the opportunity to file presidential candidates.

The judges then repeatedly asked the prosecution to state whether they wanted to delay the trial or not. However, the prosecution maintained that it was not their request to delay the trial, but said they would not object to this.

The sitting judges concluded Wednesday’s hearing stating that another hearing would be scheduled after the four week break.

Nasheed’s lawyers after the hearings stated that they would appeal the decision made by the magistrate court in the High Court.

Member of Nasheed’s legal team Abdulla Shairu stated that he was surprised by the decision reached today by the court , as this was the first time it had decided to go on with a trial while both defendants and the prosecution had not objected to a delay.

The hearing was attended by senior members of the MDP, including its parliamentary group members.

Nasheed was also released from police custody as the court order to hold him expired.

Earlier, the former President’s legal team’s appeal to the Criminal Court for a writ of Habeas Corpus demanding his release from custody, however this was rejected by the court without a hearing.

The team made the appeal to the court on Tuesday evening. The Criminal Court subsequently requested police to provide the details of the detention.

In a notice sent to member of Nasheed’s legal team Hisaan Hussain, the Criminal Court stated that former President Nasheed had been arrested as per a court order, therefore could not be released.

Speaking to Minivan News, Kirsty Brimelow QC, one of three UK-based experts on former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team said that there remained a “strong argument” in the case that the prosecution of Nasheed was “not in the public interest”.

“It is a strong argument that a prosecution is not in the public interest. The currently constituted court comprises of judges who may be biased or have the appearance of bias. They should recuse themselves,” she argued.

“There has been no review of the original decision to prosecute in the light of the Parliamentary Select Committee’s findings,” she said. “There has been no disclosure of documents which are essential to allow Mohamed Nasheed to properly defend himself,”

She contended that the prosecution of Nasheed’s case before the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court fell “below international standards for fair trial procedure”.

“The arrest and remand in custody of Mohamed Nasheed was heavy handed and unnecessary. Arrangements could easily have been made, at any time, for him to surrender to the court,” Brimelow added.

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Statement accusing Mulay of interference was forged, says JSC

The High Commission of India in the Maldives has expressed disappointment with the Agence France-Presse (AFP) newswire after it published a story on what the high commission claimed was a “forged” media statement from the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The statement, with JSC header and dubbed an ‘official translation’, said the JSC “regrets the interference of the High Commissioner of India in Maldives in his personal capacity with the judicial process of the Maldives, by keeping former President Mohamed Nasheed within the diplomatic confines  of the High Commission thereby impeding the due process of the Law.

“We appreciate the official stand of the Indian Government to refrain from interfering with the internal affairs of Maldives and respect independence of the judiciary,” read the statement.

It was emailed from an anonymous gmail account, [email protected]

The High Commission of India issued a press release on Sunday (February 17) admonishing the AFP for circulating the report based on the false JSC statement.

“The High Commission expresses its disappointment that a respected news agency like AFP has chosen to give undue publicity to such a cheap gimmick against the High Commissioner in the current sensitive atmosphere, without even bothering to check the veracity of the said letter with the JSC or High Commission of India in Male’,” the statement read.

The high commission statement was accompanied with an email from the JSC Secretariat denying having issued the release.

JSC Secretary General Aboobakuru Mohamed said the letterhead was “forged” and the statement was “false”.

“Regarding the issue of sheltering by the Maldivian ex-president, Mr Mohamed Nasheed within the compound of the High Commision of India, Male’, Maldives, we, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) of Maldives, categorically deny issuing any statement on this regard,” the statement said.

The Indian High Commission called on AFP “to immediately retract its report and issue an apology prominently for the damage caused to the reputation and good will of the High Commissioner and the Indian Mission.”

Various new outlets have reported senior Maldivian government officials echoing the sentiment of the “forged” JSC statement: “The fact of the matter is that some individual Indian diplomats are interfering in our internal affairs. This must stop,” a senior government official told AFP, asking not to be named.

Maldives-India relations

Indian High Commissioner D M Mulay was meanwhile summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday (February 17) – the first time a high commissioner has been summoned by the ministry according to local media.

Mulay reportedly delivered a brief diplomatic note discussing the Indian government’s accommodation of Nasheed.

“We have not interfered with Maldivian politics and have no intention of even doing so. India also wants the Maldives’ judicial process to go on. We also want stability and peace in the Maldives. We want political reconciliation through peaceful dialogue,” Mulay told local media afterwards.

Following India’s initial warning that a failure to allow all political leaders to contest the elections would call into question the integrity of the electoral process and perpetuate instability, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry declared it was “unfortunate that the government of India has decided to comment on the types of candidates that could contest the upcoming Presidential Elections in the Maldives scheduled for September 2013.”

Local newspaper Haveeru quoted an unnamed government official as stating that the “political atmosphere in the Maldives would reach a boiling point” if India allowed it.

Meanwhile, President Waheed Hassan Manik  promised to promote democracy and maintain law and order in a statement issued Saturday (February 16).

He emphasised his “dismay” that Nasheed had sought refuge in the High Commission, instead of heeding his court summons, which expired on February 13.

“There is no reason for him to remain in the High Commission and to instigate street violence. The court order has nothing to do with my government. Upholding the rule of law means nobody is above the law,” Waheed said.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad implied that India was trying to fuel political turmoil in the Maldives.

“Mulay should take direct responsibility for the fresh unrest and violence in the capital,” he told local media.

Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has also expressed his disappointment over the Indian government’s decision to provide refuge to Nasheed in the Indian High Commission.

Nasheed’s trial

Former President Mohamed Nasheed failed to attend the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court hearing on February 10, resulting in a court order for police to produce Nasheed for trial regarding his controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

In response to rumours of Nasheed’s imminent arrest, he entered the Indian High Commission on February 13 seeking India’s assistance.

His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) maintain that the charges – based on his detaining Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed during his final days in office – are a politically-motivated attempt to prevent him contesting the 2013 elections.

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High Court ruling “clearly means I will not be allowed a fair trial”: former President Nasheed

The High Court has ruled in favour of the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court rejecting an appeal filed by former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed is being tried in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court for the controversial detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

The former president had contested the Hulhumale’-based court’s ruling on three procedural issues raised during an initial hearing of his case in October 2012.

Among these issues, Nasheed’s legal team argued that the Hulhumale-based magistrate court could not hold hearings on a nearby island – in this case the capital Male’.  Moreover, a summoning order issued to Nasheed by the court on September 26, 2012, was inconsistent with existing laws, his lawyers claimed.

Finally, Nasheed’s representatives claimed Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was formed in contrast with the Judicature Act.

Issuing a verdict today, the three member judges panel overseeing the appeal ruled that there were no “legal grounds” to declare the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court and its decisions illegitimate.

“Therefore, based on the points highlighted remains as such, the sitting judges unanimously agreed that the High Court had no legal grounds to declare the decisions made by Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court in its ruling no. 397/HMC/2012 on October 9, 2012 illegitimate,” read the verdict.

Responding to the first procedural point raised by Nasheed, the High Court stated that holding a hearing in a spacious venue in Male’ was essential to achieve the purpose of articles 42(c) and 42(d) of the constitution, demanding transparent and open court hearings.

The court also declared that holding such a hearing in Male’ did not compromise the rights of any party and that there existed no law barring a court from holding a hearing in a different venue.

The court also noted that the holding of trials in different venues was a practice carried out by other courts of law.

Regarding the legitimacy of the magistrate court, the High Court said it did not have the authority to overrule a decision by the higher court, despite an appeal by Nasheed’s legal team to the contrary.

The High Court claimed additionally that as per the constitution, the Supreme Court remains the highest authority in deciding legal matters – therefore its decisions are final and binding.

The Supreme Court has previously declared that the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court is legitimate and can operate as a court of law, following a request by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) that it clarify the court’s legality.

Highlighting the third procedural point, the High Court ruled that the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court has the legal authority to issue a summons and that no barrier existed to issuing such orders.

The High Court also stated that principles followed by both itself and the Supreme Court did not limit the magistrate court from issuing such an order.

Immediately following the ruling, President Nasheed was served a summons to attend the Hulhumale’ Magistrate court on February 10.

MDP response to verdict

In a statement following the verdict, Nasheed said the decision “clearly means I will not be allowed a fair trial.”

Former MDP Chairperson MP Mariya Didi noted that the High Court concluded the case after only two successive hearings, adding that it seemed the Hulhumale’ Court “had prepared summons before the High Court judgement was even delivered.”

“Today was a travesty of justice and demonstrates how much President Nasheed’s case is a politically motivated trial,” she said.

Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel – formerly Justice Minister during President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30 year government – has meanwhile told local media that swift prosecution of Nasheed before the Presidential Election was necessary to protect the “political and social fabric of the Maldives”.

“Every single day that passes without a verdict will raise questions over the justice system of the Maldives in the minds of the people,” Jameel told newspaper Haveeru.

Background

The Prosecutor General (PG) pressed charges against the former President in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court on the grounds that holding the trial in Male’ at the Criminal Court represented a conflict of interest on behalf of Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, whom the case concerned.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) appointed the three-member panel of judges to oversee the trial of the former president. The Commission’s members include two of Nasheed’s direct political opponents, including Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid – Deputy of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) – and Gasim Ibrahim, a resort tycoon, media owner, MP and leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP), also a member of the governing coalition.

While maintaining the trial was a politically-motivated attempt to block Nasheed from contesting the election – scheduled now for September 7 – the former president’s legal team raised procedural points challenging the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

They argued that the court was created by the JSC in violation of the Judicature Act, and had no legal or constitutional authority.

The team raised the issue during the first hearing of the trial held on October 2012, along with other procedural inconsistencies, but all were rejected.

The former President’s legal team subsequently lodged an appeal in the High Court challenging the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court’s ruling on the procedural points.

Despite its initial rejection of the points, the High Court later accepted the appeal. It therefore issued an injunction ordering the magistrate court to suspend Nasheed’s trial until a decision on the procedural points raised by Nasheed’s legal team was reached.

Nasheed’s legal team said it was prepared to appeal the case in the Supreme Court depending on the outcome.

Nasheed’s legal team were not responding to calls at time of press.

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