Court rejects lawsuit over delayed verdicts for May Day protesters

Court rejects lawsuit over delayed verdicts for May Day protesters
May 23 03:22 2016

The civil court rejected Sunday a lawsuit filed by three May Day protesters against the criminal court’s “unreasonable” delay in delivering a verdict five months after hearings concluded.

Mohamed Laban, Abdulla Rasheed, and Ibrahim Ibad are among 11 men and one woman on trial over the assault of a police officer during the mass anti-government protest on May 1 last year.

All 12 remain in police custody more than a year later.

The trials began on July 8 last year, and the court heard closing arguments at a final hearing on November 30.

The civil court was asked to issue an order compelling the criminal court to deliver verdicts within a month. However, the court’s registrar informed the claimants’ lawyer that issuing “specific instructions regarding ongoing cases” was beyond its jurisdiction.

Nazim Sattar, the lawyer representing the three May Day protesters, said he will appeal the registrar’s decision to the court’s judges council.

Nazim argues that the delays amount to a violation of his clients’ constitutional rights both to a fair trial and expeditious administrative action.

The constitution also requires defendants to be “tried within a reasonable timeframe.”

Nazim said letters asking the court for a speedy ruling went unanswered.

Mushfique Mohamed, a legal consultant at human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network, commented on the matter saying: “Not only protesters, but even in other criminal proceedings, detainees are stuck in limbo due to delays in judges issuing verdicts.”

Of the three claimants, Ibad was charged with assault using a dangerous weapon. Laban and Rasheed were charged with aiding and abetting the assault.

Scores of protesters and two police officers were injured during violent clashes on May 1. The police at the time released video footage showing protesters kicking and hitting a fallen Specialist Operations officer over the head with his helmet and baton.

Sergeant Abdul Rahman Hussain was flown to Sri Lanka for medical treatment after the assault. But lawyers representing the 12 defendants say the policeman only sustained minor bruising.

Laban, the 20-year-old former goalkeeper of football club Eagles, is accused of tackling the policeman to the ground, while Ibad is accused of beating the officer with his baton while Rasheed is accused of kicking him.

Of the 15 charged, verdicts have been issued in two cases and withdrawn in a third. Mohamed Iqbal, 50 years, was found guilty of assault in March and sentenced to seven years in prison. The criminal court acquitted one defendant, Usman Hussain, citing lack of evidence, and prosecutors withdrew charges against Mohamed Shinan.

 

Nearly 200 protesters, including leaders of three allied opposition parties, were arrested on May Day. The 20,000-strong rally was the largest anti-government demonstration in Maldivian history.

Eyewitnesses who saw the policeman being assaulted had told The Maldives Independent at the time that other protesters, including former MP Ahmed Easa, had shoved off violent protesters, helped the officer to his feet, and took him back behind police lines.

The police were meanwhile accused of beating protesters during and after their arrest. Lawyers and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party alleged that the police tortured and threatened to kill suspects arrested in connection with assaulting the SO officer.

After complaints were lodged, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives launched investigations into three cases of apparent brutality and custodial abuse.

A single police officer has yet to be convicted of brutality.