Former President Mohamed Nasheed has further bolstered his legal team by accepting the services of Kirsty Brimelow QC ahead of the continuation of the Judge Abdulla Mohamed detention case on Sunday.
Brimelow will join fellow UK-based legal experts Sir Ivan Lawrence QC and Barrister Ali Mohammed Azhar on Nasheed’s defence team.
A statement appearing on Nasheed’s website describes Brimelow as a criminal law specialist with international experience who is “particularly sought after in cases with a human rights law element”.
Brimelow was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2011 and has, among a number of high profile cases, acted as Legal Adviser to the Constitution Commission of Fiji. She is vice-chairwoman of the Bar Human Rights Committee and appears regularly on British television and radio.
Earlier this month, the Department of Judicial Administration informed local media that two of Nasheed’s lawyers, Hassan Latheef and Ahmed Adbulla Afeef had been barred from the trial.
Latheef had been barred from the trial as the state had called him as a witness, while Afeef was was barred as he had not signed new behavioural regulations for lawyers recently issued by the Supreme Court, explained department spokesperson Latheefa Gasim.
This leaves just two of Nasheed’s lawyers able to appear in court – former President’s Office Legal Advisor Hisaan Hussain and criminal defence lawyer Abdulla Shair.
Nasheed has stated repeatedly that he feels the outcome of the trial to be pre-ordained, with his conviction designed specifically to prevent him running in next year’s presidential elections.
“On Sunday I will face an extraordinary court, established especially to hear my case,” Nasheed wrote in Britain’s Financial Times this week.
“I am to be tried for abuse of power, in particular for the arrest of a corrupt judge, who was an ally of Mr Gayoom. My conviction is a foregone conclusion. Mohamed Waheed, my former vice-president, may decide to pardon me, but only in a way that ensures I remain barred from seeking office next year,” he wrote.
The issue of Nasheed’s trial was raised in the UK House of Commons this week by Conservative MP Karen Lumley, who asked Alistair Burt – Under Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, about the fairness of Nasheed’s trial.
“We have sought and received assurances from President Waheed of the Maldives that any trial of former President Nasheed will be fair and free from political influence,” replies Burt.
“No trial date has been set. The next court hearing is on November 4 and we expect international observers to be present,” he added.
In response to Lumley’s question regarding the effect of the trial on a sustainable political outcome in the country, Burt said the following:
“The trial process is, of course, a matter for the Maldives, but there is international concern that if it results in the former President being prevented from leading his party into the elections next year, it will be seen as though the process was designed for exactly that object.”
“We urge political stability under all circumstances in the Maldives, and that will no doubt be enhanced if the former President is allowed to lead his party and take part in those elections,” continued the Under Secretary.
The statement on Nasheed’s website noted that the Attorney General’s regulations prevented any of the new additions to his legal team appearing alongside him in court.
“Article 2 (a) of the regulation states ‘a person has to either be a Maldivian citizen or be married to a Maldivian citizen and reside for most part in the Maldives’ in order to practice law in the Maldives,” read the statement.
“This restriction is a hindrance to clients who wish to have foreign legal professionals represent them in courts of the Maldives,” it said.
Nasheed’s legal team raised several procedural issues at the cases first hearing on October 9, all of which were dismissed by the court.
After challenging this ruling in the High Court, and calling for an injunction to halt the trial until the matter was resolved, it was announced last week that the High Court would hold a hearing on the matter on the morning of November 4 – the same day Nasheed’s trial in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate’s Court recommences.
“The party believes that the result of conducting both hearings on the same day will be the defence attorneys losing the opportunity to prepare for the original case at the Hulhumale Magistrate Court’,” a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) statement read.
The party held a march around the capital island Male’ on Tuesday calling for judicial reform. Over 500 protesters marched around Male’ with banners and placards displaying messages arguing the importance of judicial independence and of holding the judiciary accountable.
Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was originally taken into custody in January after blocking the Judicial Services Commission’s (JSC) proceedings into his alleged misconduct. A police mutiny and unrest in the capital led to Nasheed’s resignation three weeks later.