Nasheed’s legal team files High Court case to defer trial until after elections

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team filed a case with the High Court today (March 24) regarding the deferment of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court criminal case until after the September presidential election.

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

Nasheed’s legal team previously requested the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court delay the trial until the end of the scheduled presidential elections in 2013, and in a separate request, asked the Hulhumale’ court for a delay in proceedings by four weeks, during the March 7 Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court hearing.

At the same hearing, state prosecutors said they did not object to delaying the trial until presidential elections scheduled for September this year are over.

The Hulhumale’ court 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 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 decided by the Elections Commission after it opened the opportunity to file presidential candidates.

Filing of presidential candidates is expected to take place in July.

High Court case submission

Nasheed’s legal team submitted a case to the High Court at approximately 10:20 this morning (March 24) to defer the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court criminal case until after the September presidential election, MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz ‘Inthi’ Fahmy told Minivan News.

“Now the court has to formally accept the case, which will happen at a later date,” stated Fahmy.

“We expect that prior to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court hearing, the High Court should have a decision and will ask the lower court to halt the case,” he added.

Nasheed’s legal team confirmed with Minivan News that the case has been submitted to the High Court.

“This is not an appeal. We submitted a case to the High Court for the deferment of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court case until the election is over,” said one of Nasheed’s lawyers, Hifaan Hussain.

“The court accepted the documents, but we are waiting for the court to accept and register the case,” she explained.

Hussain explained a reply from the High Court will likely be issued within three days and once the case is accepted it should take about a month to complete.

She expects the High Court to grant the deferment of lower court’s case against Nasheed until the presidential election is over.

President Nasheed’s Spokesperson MP Mariya Didi is also confident the High Court will grant the deferment.

“The prosecution has said they have no objection to deferment of the trial until after the elections,” Didi stated.

“I don’t see any reason why the court should not grant deferment when the prosecutor has no objection to it,” she added.

Politicising  justice

The 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.

Speaking during a party rally held earlier in March, 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”.

Didi also highlighted the large number of Maldivians continuing to support Nasheed, speaking with Minivan News today.

“It is clear that 46,000 Maldivians have decided President Nasheed is their presidential candidate. Our campaigns show that President Nasheed will win the elections with a clear majority.

“The coup has set us back not only with regard to democracy and human rights, but in regard to investor confidence and development.

“Our international development partners have also urged the government to take account of the wishes of the people and to hold an inclusive election with – as the European Union put it – the chosen candidate of MDP Mohamed Nasheed being able to contest the elections.

“We cannot waste another five years with a government that lacks a democratic mandate,” Didi declared.

Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court legitimacy questioned

During the early-March MDP rally, 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.

Parliament’s Independent Commissions Oversight Committee has been investigating the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, specifically the appointment of judges by the JSC.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim told local media on Friday (March 22) that a notice had been sent to Gasim Ibrahim – who is a Majlis-appointed JSC member and also the presidential candidate for Jumhoree Party (JP) – regarding a case to remove him from his JSC post.

The parliamentary committee summoned all members of the JSC to attend the committee on Wednesday (March 20) to face questions regarding the manner in which judges were appointed to the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench.

Another committee meeting is scheduled to take place tonight (March 24).

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, also raised concerns over the politicisation of the JSC during her investigative visit to the Maldives this February.

As part of a wider review of the Maldives justice system, Knaul claimed that the JSC – mandated with the appointment, transfer and removal of judges – was unable to perform its constitutional duty adequately in its current form.

As well as recommendations to address what she said were minimal levels of public “trust” in the nation’s judicial system, Knaul also addressed matters such as the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed is currently facing trial for his detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court last year, charges he claims are politically motivated to prevent him from contesting presidential elections later this year.

Knaul maintained that the former president, like every other Maldivian citizen, should be guaranteed a free and independent trial.


Colonel Mohamed Ziyad denies charge of illegally arresting judge

Former Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) Head of Operations Directorate Colonel Mohamed Ziyad has denied the charge levied against him by the state over the former government’s detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed.

Colonel Mohamed Ziyad is charged for arresting the chief judge in January 2012, alongside former President Mohamed Nasheed, his Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, former Chief of Defense Force retired Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel and former MNDF Male Area Commander retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi.

All are facing charges under Article 81 of the Penal Code, for the offence of “arbitrarily arresting and detaining an innocent person”.

Article 81 states – “It shall be an offense for any public servant by reason of the authority of office he is in to detain to arrest or detain in a manner contrary to law innocent persons. Persons guilty of this offense shall be subjected to exile or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding MVR 2,000.00”.

During the hearing held at Hulhumale Magistrate Court on Monday, Colonel Ziyad denied the charges while his defence lawyer Mazlaan Rasheed raised two procedural points.

In the first procedural point, Ziyad’s lawyer informed the court that the Prosecutor General (PG)’s decision to press charges against his client while not pressing charges against the MNDF officers who actively took part in bringing the judge to custody violated the principle of fairness and equality.

In his second procedural point, Rasheed questioned the court as to how the state had decided on the innocence of Judge Abdulla.

State Prosecutor Aishath Fazna argued that following orders at the time from the Commander in Chief, President Mohamed Nasheed, Colonel Mohamed Ziyad as the Head of Directorate took part in the operation carried out by the MNDF in arresting the judge.

Responding to the charges, Ziyad’s lawyer contended that the charges lacked fairness and equality while Article 81 of the Penal Code – which the charges are based on – had “constitutional issues”.

He stated that the article conflicted with powers of the police to arrest a suspect of a crime. This, he explained would arise if a person is arrested and then later released by court, which would deem that his arrest was unlawful and all officers who took part in the arrest should be prosecuted.

The state in response argued that it was at the sole discretion of the Prosecutor General to decide on whether to press charges or not, and said that Ziyad had been charged over the extent of his involvement.

The prosecutor further claimed that it was Ziyad who had given the briefings to the officers before the arrest was made and had also requested two MNDF lawyers to see if the action could be legally defended.

The state attorney said that the reason for not pressing charges against officers who actively took part in the action was that those officials were obliged to follow orders and that the officers were not in a position to determine whether their orders were lawful or not.

She also posed several questions to the defendants, including on what charges the judge was arrested, why he was not brought before a court of law within 24 hours as stipulated in the constitution and why he was not released after the Supreme Court had ordered to do so.

In response, Colonel Ziyad’s lawyer argued that his client was not in a position to call for the release of judge and had several other higher-ranked officers.

Responding to the claim, State Attorney Abdulla Raabiu – who also was in the state prosecution team – said that Ziyad was being charged because he took part in discussing on how the judge should be arrested, days before the arrest was made.

“When speaking about fairness, where was Abdulla Mohamed’s right to life, when he was detained in Girifushi Island for 22 days? Where was his right to freedom?” Raabiu questioned.

In concluding today’s hearings, Chief Judge of the three-member panel of judges stated that it would later decide on the procedural points taken by the defendants, as the court required time to review the PG’s procedures.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, former Defense Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu and retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi all denied the charge of arbitrarily detaining Chief Judge of Criminal Court AbdullaMohamed.


An investigation led by Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) found the former President as the “highest authority liable” for the military-led detention of the Judge. The HRCM also identified Tholhath Ibrahim as a “second key figure” involved in the matter. Others included Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi and Chief of Defense Force Moosa Ali Jaleel.

Judge Abdulla Mohamed was taken into military custody after the former Home Minister Hassan Afeef wrote to Defense Minister Tholhath asking him arrest the judge as he posed a threat to both the national security of the country and a threat to the country’s criminal justice system.

Minister Afeef at the time of the judge’s arrest accused him of “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist”, listing 14 cases of obstruction of police duty, including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts.

In July 2012, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz pressed charges against the parties who had been identified in the HRCM investigation as responsible for the arrest.

Following the charges, former President Nasheed’s legal team challenged the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court in High Court, but the Supreme Court intervened and dismissed the claims by declaring the magistrate court was legitimate and could operate as a court of law.


Maldivian Democracy Network observing former President Nasheed’s trial

Local NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) is observing the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed on charges of illegally detaining Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

MDN said in a press release on Sunday that it was “conducting the observations of the trials in partnership with a representative of the Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) of the Bar Association of England and Wales in the United Kingdom.”

On conclusion of the trial, MDN said it plans to produce a report based on the observations.