Supreme Court wraps up Nasheed’s terror appeal

Supreme Court wraps up Nasheed’s terror appeal
March 07 18:03 2016

The Supreme Court has concluded hearing today an appeal filed by the state over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s terror conviction, one that threw the Maldives into crisis nearly a year ago.

Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed said the apex court will issue a ruling at the next hearing if no further clarification is needed.

A date has not been set for a verdict.

The opposition is demanding the release of jailed politicians, including Nasheed, as a confidence-building measure before it joins talks to end the crisis.

The Supreme Court’s ruling will show a way forward, as President Abdulla Yameen has refused to consider clemency until Nasheed exhausts all appeal processes.

The opposition leader is now in London on government-authorised medical leave. He was sentenced to 13 years in jail on a charge of ordering the military detention of former Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Nasheed’s lawyers are arguing that the Supreme Court must overturn the sentence, as a specialised UN agency, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, had found the verdict to be illegal and politically motivated.

Lawyers contended today that the Maldives is obliged by treaties it had signed – the United Nations Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – to abide by the WGAD’s opinion.

The government had rejected its ruling in September claiming it was non-binding, but said the Supreme Court would consider the WGAD’s opinion during the appeal.

Today’s two-hour hearing was convened because the Supreme Court cut Sunday’s hearing short as state prosecutors had to attend former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s terror trial at the criminal court.

Lawyers had detailed due process violations during the rushed 19-day trial and argued that Judge Abdulla’s arrest did not constitute an act of terror, but an unlawful arrest.

State prosecutor Ahmed Hisham Wajeeh said they would not respond to Nasheed’s arguments, contending that they did not address the issues raised by the prosecutor general. However, when questioned, Hisham was not able to specify which argument was beyond “the scope of the appeal.”

The prosecutor general’s office, when it filed the appeal, had asked the Supreme Court to review whether Nasheed’s rights had been assured during trial.

Nasheed’s lawyers have 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 on Sunday.

The state had filed the appeal nearly five months ago, but a first hearing only took place a month ago.