Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court has decided to re-accept the prosecution case of former President Mohamed Nasheed, who has himself called for any trial against him to be expedited.
Nasheed along with former Defence Minister Tholath Ibrahim kaleyfaan and three Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers are being charged for their alleged role in detaining Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
Abdulla Mohamed, who was a central figure in the downfall of former President Nasheed, was brought under military detention after Nasheed’s government accused him of political bias, obstructing police, stalling cases, having links with organized crime and “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.
The three MNDF officers facing charges are former Chief of Defense Forces Moosa Ali Jaleel, Brigadier-Retired General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi and Colonel Mohamed Ziyad.
General Didi, who was serving as the Male’ area commander at the time of Judge Abdulla’s arrest, penned his“premature” resignation” after 32 years of service in the military upon the PG’s decision to prosecute him.
Ex-Chief of Defence Force Jaleel had also retired following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, while Colonel Ziyad has maintained he would be present in his uniform to defend himself in the court.
Initially the magistrate court refused to proceed with the trial stating that it did not have the jurisdiction to deal with such cases under the Judicature Act.
Magistrate of the court, Moosa Naseem at the time told Minivan News that they had “studied” the case and had identified that the court “did not have the jurisdiction to deal with the case” referring to article 66 of Judicature Act.
According to article 66(b) of the act, Naseem contended that the Hulhumale’-based court could only accept the case after the Chief Justice issued a decree in agreement with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Judicial Council.
Article 66(b) of the Judicature Act states that: “in accordance with section (a) of this article, if additions or omission to the jurisdictions stipulated in schedule 5 of this Act has to be carried out, the modification has to be done in agreement with the Judicial Service Commission and the Judicial Council and by a decree issued by the Chief Justice.”
The Magistrate court’s decision to overturn its initial refusal follows the High Court’s invalidation of its decision, following appeals from the authorities.
In invalidating the magistrate court ruling, the High Court stated the case was based on the “unlawful detention” of a person, adding that magistrate courts in the country had the jurisdiction to proceed with such cases.
The ruling also said that as the incident occurred in Male’ area, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court again had the jurisdiction to proceed with the case.
An official from the Prosecutor General’s Office told Minivan News today that the case was submitted yesterday afternoon along with that of the other MNDF officers.
The Judicial Administration department today announced that the hearings of the case will be conducted in the Justice Building, located in Male’.
An official from the department told local media that the decision was made after considering the fact that holding the trials in the Justice Building would ease the administrative process and that the facilities available would also be an advantage.
“The trials will proceed at the hall in the ground floor of the building,” he added.
Following High Court’s decision, ex-President Nasheed stated in a press conference held last Friday that he had sent a letter requesting the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court to expedite the case.
Initially, the magistrate court denied the receipt of Nasheed’s letter but later in a press statement acknowledged the reception of the letter and stated that steps were being taken to commence the trial as soon as possible.
Nasheed maintained that he is willing to be present at court to defend his decision to arrest the Judge, reiterating that if he should return to power again, he would still do the same, alleging that Judge Abdulla was central to the flawed criminal justice system of the country.
In April, Nasheed told the UK’s Guardian that he did not like arresting a judge, but he “just couldn’t let him [Abdulla Mohamed] sit on the bench.”
“There is a huge lack of confidence in the judiciary, and I had to do something and the constitution calls upon me to do that. It’s not a nice thing to do. And it’s not a thing that I would want to do. And it’s not a thing that I liked doing. But it had to be done,” he added.
Nasheed, who is also now the presidential candidate of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), stands charged with violating Article 81 of the Penal Code, which states that the detention of a government employee who has not been found guilty of a crime is illegal.
If found guilty, Nasheed and Tholhath will face a jail sentence or banishment for three years or a Rf 3000 fine (US$193.5), a sentence that would bar him from contesting the elections.
The opposition MDP has claimed that the case is politically motivated by Nasheed’s opponents in an attempt to bar him from running for future elections.
Home Minister Mohamed Jameel in a post on social media service Twitter has said the “historic criminal trial” is the “first step towards the national healing process.”
Meanwhile, the MDP claimed it expects the trial – whether in Hulhumale’ or another court – to go ahead regardless of legality. The party has alleged the case serves solely as a mean to convict the former president and potentially prevent him from contesting in the next presidential election.
MDP Spokesperson MP Imthiyaz Fahmy did not respond to calls at time of press.
The chief judge was detained by the military, after he had opened the court to order the immediate release of the current Home Minister and deputy leader of the Dhivehi Quamee Party Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.
Jameel was arrested after President’s Office requested an investigation into “slanderous” allegations he made that the government was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.
The judge’s whereabouts were not revealed until January 18.
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 Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office to obtain an arrest warrant from the High Court, Muizz said, claiming the MNDF and Nasheed’s administration “haven’t followed the procedures, and the authorities are in breach of law.They could be charged with contempt of the courts.”
He then ordered the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) to investigate the matter.
Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked three weeks of anti-government protests, beginning in January, while the government appealed for assistance from the Commonwealth and UN to reform the judiciary.
As protests escalated, elements of the police and military mutinied on February 7, alleging Nasheed’s orders to arrest the judge were unlawful. A Commonwealth legal delegation had landed in the capital only days earlier.
Nasheed publicly resigned the same day, but later said he was forced to do so “under duress” in a coup d’état. Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has taken to the streets in recent months calling for an early election.
Judge Abdulla was released on the evening of February 7, and the Criminal Court swiftly issued a warrant for Nasheed’s arrest. Police did not act on the warrant, after international concern quickly mounted.