Supreme court upholds verdict against Maldives ex-president

Supreme court upholds verdict against Maldives ex-president
June 27 14:59 2016

The supreme court has upheld former President Mohamed Nasheed’s 13-year jail sentence on charges of terrorism.

The judgment dismissed widespread concern over trial irregularities, raised by United Nations, the United States, the European Union, the Commonwealth and others.

Nasheed now lives in the United Kingdom. He had sought political asylum when he was allowed to travel there for medical treatment in January.

“We have now exhausted all domestic avenues, and do not believe we can obtain justice through the Maldivian judiciary. The only avenue left is international pressure,” said Hisaan Hussain, the lead defence counsel for Nasheed.

The opposition leader was found guilty of ordering the abduction of a top judge.

President Abdulla Yameen – who has rejected calls to grant Nasheed a pardon saying he will wait on a supreme court verdict – published on June 16 new rules on clemency, stating that inmates convicted of terrorism can only be eligible after having served half of their sentences.

Nasheed’s lawyers had previously said the Clemency Act grants the president wide authority to pardon any prisoner because of a clause that permits leniency based on the offender’s status and circumstances, age, medical status and on humanitarian grounds.

The June 16 rules regulate how the president may exercise this discretionary authority.

The supreme court’s ruling consisted of two main points: judges said the appellate high court was right to reject an appeal on the grounds that it was lodged by prosecutors and not the former president. At the time, Nasheed said the criminal court had thwarted his appeal by failing to handover case documents within the timeframe set by the supreme court.

The ruling also said Nasheed’s rights were protected by the lower courts, and that he was given access to a lawyer, adequate time for the preparation of his defence and allowed to examine witnesses against him.

It differs with the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a panel of independent human rights experts, who had ruled Nasheed’s imprisonment “politically motivated” and “arbitrary,” and called for his immediate release.

The government had failed to explain how the arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed, carried out by the Maldivian National Defence Forces under an order by a third party, could constitute terrorism, the group had said last September.

Rejecting the non-binding opinion, the government at the time said the supreme court would consider the WGAD’s findings during the appeal process.

Nasheed’s jailing triggered mass protests and a political crisis that saw the breakup of the ruling coalition and the jailing of other political leaders.

Yameen’s former deputy, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, has teamed up with Nasheed and set up a coalition to oust him.

In the past week, the supreme court threw out an appeal filed by former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim against a weapons smuggling charge, and also issued its first death sentence.

Reporting by Hassan Moosa