Court holds hearing on Nasheed’s terror conviction as talks remain at a stalemate

Court holds hearing on Nasheed’s terror conviction as talks remain at a stalemate
March 06 16:19 2016

The Supreme Court held today a second hearing into an appeal filed by the state over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s terrorism conviction.

Today’s hearing, just the second since the appeal was filed nearly five months ago, comes in the wake of the opposition boycotting government-initiated all-party talks over the sentencing of leading politicians.

Nasheed’s lawyers urged the apex court to overturn the conviction, as recommended in September by a UN human rights panel that ruled Nasheed’s 13-year jail sentence politically motivated and illegal.

The former president was sentenced over the military detention of then-Chief Judge of the criminal court Abdulla Mohamed. The state argues Nasheed had ordered the judges’ “abduction” in January 2012.

Nasheed’s lawyers asked the apex court to summon former Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin to testify about being politically pressured to prosecute the former president.

Lawyers also argued against a retrial by the High Court – which had upheld the criminal court’s verdict without hearing oral arguments – saying the five judges at the Malé branch were no longer eligible to hear the case.

The judges could not deliver a fair judgment as two of them were part of the criminal court bench that sentenced Nasheed, while the remaining three had made up the panel that ruled on the appeal, lawyers said

There was no evidence to suggest that the former president ordered Judge Abdulla’s arrest, lawyers argued, adding that the act did not constitute as an act of terror, but an unlawful arrest.

They went on to reiterate concerns over due process violations, including inadequate time to mount a defence, presiding judges having acted as the prosecution’s witnesses, and the court’s refusal to call defence witnesses.

The hearing was cut short some two hours in when state prosecutors said they had to attend a hearing at the criminal court over terror charges against former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.

Hearings may resume tomorrow, Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed said.

The first hearing was held a month ago.

President Abdulla Yameen has refused to address concerns over the trial, claiming he has no influence over an “independent” judiciary.

Nasheed is now in London on government-authorised medical leave.

The appeal was filed at the Supreme Court soon after the government said it would not abide by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s call for Nasheed’s release.

The Supreme Court would however take into account the UNWGAD’s opinion, the government said. Prosecutors are asking for the apex court’s opinion on whether Nasheed’s rights were respected by the courts.

The opposition leader’s trial had plunged the Maldives into turmoil. Hundreds of opposition supporters were arrested from protests and key opposition figures were jailed or forced into exile.

The crisis has been exacerbated by allegations of corruption and money-laundering against Yameen’s administration.

Nasheed, who had insisted on a political solution instead of a judicial remedy, made a U-turn and filed his own appeal at the apex court in late December. It is not clear if his appeal will be heard separately.

Nasheed and his heavyweight international lawyers have launched a campaign calling for targeted sanctions on officials involved in human rights abuses in the Maldives.

An overwhelming majority of the European Union parliament backed the call in December, while Prime Minister David Cameron said that the UK is prepared to impose sanctions if political prisoners including Nasheed are not freed.

The Commonwealth has also called for the release of jailed politicians.