The government will ensure former President Mohamed Nasheed’s right to appeal his conviction on terrorism charges if he believes the Criminal Court did not follow due process, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali has said.
The opposition leader was sentenced to 13 years in jail last night for ordering the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012.
“I believe the Criminal Court would have afforded due process in the conduct of Nasheed’s trial. If you study this case, from the beginning to the end, it is clear the charges are not politically motivated,” Muaz said.
“Nasheed can still appeal at High Court.”
The government has no power over the courts, he added.
“We have a system of separation of powers. In a democracy, the head of state does not interfere in judicial proceedings and is not to blame for court proceedings,” Muaz said.
“Political leaders in other countries, such as Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, have been summoned and tried in court as well.”
Delivering the guilty verdict last night, Judge Abdulla Didi said the prosecution’s evidence proved beyond reasonable doubt that Nasheed as commander-in-chief ordered the arrest or “forceful abduction” of Judge Abdulla.
Reacting to Nasheed’s conviction, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP “Ibu” Mohamed Solih said today the party would not be disheartened by President Abdulla Yameen’s alleged attempts to imprison his opponents.
“President Yameen is trying to jail his opponents before the next election. But even though Nasheed is convicted he still is the leader of MDP and he will contest in the 2018 presidential elections,” Ibu said on opposition-aligned Raajje TV.
However, Muaz denied that the president wished to prevent political rivals from contesting the 2018 election.
“President Yameen does not want to jail opposition politicians or plunge the country into civil unrest. He has an economic agenda. We respect the court’s verdict.”
Addressing the party’s supporters alongside the parliamentary group leader on Raajje TV, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed meanwhile said the party would do everything in its power to free Nasheed.
“Our main work from now on will be to free President Nasheed. He will come back. So meanwhile stay united, don’t lose hope and pray for him,” Waheed said.
Following Nasheed’s arrest on February 22, MDP supporters have protested every night calling for his release.
Muaz said the government would allow the public to peacefully express their views, but stressed that protests should take place within bounds of the law.
“But we will not allow unrest in the country. Our aim is to establish peace and order in the country. We welcome freedom of expression and assembly, but they must be practiced within the bounds of the constitution. Our appeal to the public is not to disrupt public order,” he said.
Nasheed was charged with “enforced disappearance” under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1990, which carries a jail term of between 10 to 15 years.
Prior to a hearing on March 9, all four of Nasheed’s lawyers quit in protest of the Criminal Court’s refusal to grant sufficient time to examine the prosecution’s evidence and mount a defence.
The presiding judges had denied the lawyers’ request for adequate time, stating the legal team has had the case documents for three years.
Nasheed was first charged in 2012 with arbitrary detention under article 81 of the penal code, which carries either banishment or a jail term of up to three years.
On February 15, Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin withdrew the charges filed at the Hulhumalé Magistrate Court. Nasheed was arrested on February 22 shortly after the PG filed terrorism charges at the Criminal Court.
Meanwhile prominent figures from both the international community and within the country have condemned the Criminal Courts verdict.
Husnu Suood, former judge and Attorney General – who was also a senior member of the team which drafted the anti-terrorism law in 1990 – tweeted: “Mohamed Nasheed is not a terrorist. Whatever act he did was certainly not terrorism. The charge not suitable, the trial was flawed.”
Mohamed Nasheed is not a terrorist. Whatever act he did was certainly not terrorism. The charge not suitable, the trial was flawed.
— Husnu Al Suood (@hsuood) March 13, 2015
Deputy Attorney General Ahmed Usham also questioned Criminal Courts decision to jail Nasheed.
“Infringing the rights of one person in the name of giving justice to another person is in itself an injustice,” Usham wrote on his Facebook page.
Infringing the fundamental rights of a person in the name of giving justice to another person is in itself an injustice.
— Ahmed Usham (@a_usham) March 13, 2015
MP Ahmed Mahloof, who was expelled from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) recently after he criticized President Yameen, tweeted: “21 days for Judge Abdulla, 4745 days for President Nasheed. Is this what they call justice? Why not jail all opposition leaders and rule the country.”
Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla – who played a pivotal role in the 2012 protests against Nasheed’s administration – tweeted: “Nasheed’s trial was not conducted justly.”
Related to this story