Terrorism charge against Nasheed must be overturned, says lawyers

Terrorism charge against Nasheed must be overturned, says lawyers
July 30 12:29 2015

The Prosecutor General must ask the High court to declare the terrorism charges he had filed against former President Mohamed Nasheed as invalid, the opposition leader’s lawyers have argued today.

In an unprecedented move, PG Muthaz Muhsin on July 24 announced he intends to appeal the guilty verdict against Nasheed due to criticism of the trial over alleged procedural irregularities and rights violations.

In a letter sent to Muhsin today, Nasheed’s lawyers provided six arguments as to why the PG must also ask the court to declare the terrorism charge itself invalid.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail on March 13, on a charge of ordering the abduction of a criminal court judge during his tenure. His sentence was commuted to house arrest on July 19.

Hassan Latheef, Nasheed’s lawyer, argued that the military detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012 was not abduction, but an unlawful arrest. Hence, the act cannot be classified as terrorism, he said.

The Supreme Court in January 2012 had declared the military’s detention of Judge Abdulla as an unlawful arrest and ordered his release, he said. The apex court had not classified the act as terrorism, he said.

Latheef also claimed the military must bear responsibility for the arrest, and not Nasheed. Unlawful arrests cannot be criminalized, he argued further, pointing to the arrest of President Abdulla Yameen when he was an MP during Nasheed’s tenure.

The court had ordered the state to compensate Yameen for damages, but had not pressed criminal charges against any individual for the unlawful arrest, he argued.

Hence, filing criminal charges against Nasheed amounts to selective justice. All Maldivian citizens are equal before the law, but no former commander-in-chief has had to bear responsibility for the numerous unlawful arrests committed during their tenure, he argued.

Latheef also argued Muhsin was not authorized to file criminal charges against the former president, as the police had not questioned Nasheed over any terror or criminal charges. Muhsin’s decision to withdraw of initial charges of arbitrary arrest and prosecute Nasheed on harsher charges of terrorism is also unlawful, they said.

A spokesperson at the PG office declined to comment on the letter, and said he had no updates on Muhsin’s decision to file an appeal.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has accused President Yameen of failing to honor a promise to release Nasheed. The MDP said it had backed several government proposals in hope of freedom for Nasheed, including the impeachment of vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and a constitutional amendment setting new age limits for the presidency and vice presidency.

The MDP also issued a free whip on a second controversial amendment to allow foreigners to own land in the Maldives for the first time.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is expected to rule on Nasheed’s imprisonment in September or October. The government has argued that any lapses in due process were not serious enough to render “the entirety of the proceedings as flagrant denial of justice.”

The 19-day trial was criticized by foreign governments and UN rights experts. The UK Prime Minister David Cameron, the EU parliament and high profile US senators have called for his immediate release