Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyers objected last night to the state’s alleged influencing of witnesses in a terrorism trial over the military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
Prosecutor Abdulla Rabiu admitted state prosecutors had met with witnesses, and shared statements they had provided to two separate 2012 investigations both by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) and the police in order to “refresh memories. ”
Rabiu stressed the meetings were routine, but Nasheed’s lawyer Hisaan Hussein said refreshing a witness’s memory amounted to influencing witnesses.
Two of three police officers who testified in Nasheed’s trial so far and Judge Abdulla’s sister-in-law Sobira said they had met with state prosecutors and reread their statements before testifying.
If convicted, the opposition leader faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.
Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked 22 consecutive nights of violent anti-government demonstrations that culminated in a police and military mutiny on the morning of February 7, 2012, forcing Nasheed to resign in what he subsequently called a “coup d’etat.”
Testifying via telephone last night, Judge Abdulla’s wife, Aminath Shareef, and sister-in-law, Sobira, said Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) officers had forcibly taken the judge from his home on January 16.
Despite Judge Abdulla’s mother-in-law’s repeated requests for a court warrant, masked officers pushed the door open and entered the dining room where Judge Abdulla was having dinner.
They took him by the hand, and ordered him to accompany them outside. They refused Judge Abdulla’s request to be allowed inside his room to change clothes, forcing him to change his trousers in the hallway. MNDF officers surrounded him at the time.
Aminath said she refused to let go of her husband’s hand, but an MNDF officer forced them apart.
Sobira said officers did not answer the family’s questions on where Judge Abdulla was being taken.
Despite having said she remembered former Criminal Court Judge and current Prosecutor General Muhthaz Mushin being present during the arrest at their home in her testimony to the HRCM, Sobira last night said she did not remember if he had been present at all. She said she did not know who Muhsin was at the time.
Nasheed’s lawyers objected to witnesses testifying by telephone, but Judge Abdulla Didi said the procedure was routine.
Chief Superintendent of Police Abdul Mannan Yoosuf also testified last night, claiming Nasheed said he would never release Judge Abdulla and would not let the judge within 100 meters of a courtroom during a meeting with the police after the judge’s arrest.
Nasheed objected to Mannan testifying, saying the officer harboured deep animosity towards him.
Judges blocked defence lawyer’s attempts at questioning Mannan on his whereabouts during February 7, when he had received his promotion and whether he had called for Nasheed’s resignation.
Judge Didi said Nasheed should have raised objections before a witness was called to the stand, but lawyers countered stating they had not had adequate time to prepare the former president’s defence.
Lawyers argued Nasheed had first been charged with arbitrary detention, but was now facing new terror charges. They once again requested 30 extra days to prepare for the new charges.
The Criminal Court refused saying the same case documents were used for the new charges and said Nasheed’s lawyers had been provided the documents in 2012.
Judge Didi said witness statements only consisted of one or two pages, suggesting lawyers did not require much preparation before hearings.
Nasheed said he preferred an immediate sentence over a trial without adequate time for defense. His next hearing has been scheduled for 4pm today. The state is to present documentary evidence against the former president.
Judge Didi assured Nasheed he would be allowed to view or hear documentary evidence along with his lawyers before the hearing.
Nasheed had previously contested the credibility of police and military officers as state witnesses, and contended the role of the police and military officers in his February 2012 ouster and Judge Abdulla’s arrest raised questions over their trustworthiness.
On March 2, the presiding bench waved away the concerns of Nasheed’s lawyers, who objected that two of the presiding judges, and the Prosecutor General, had provided witness testimony during the HRCM investigation.
The judges also warned President Nasheed’s legal team not to speak to journalists in a “manner that might defame the judiciary.”
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