Lawyers representing jailed former President Mohamed Nasheed are working round the clock to file an appeal of his terrorism conviction at the Supreme Court by Sunday.
But the government, which has long-insisted Nasheed should exhaust all domestic appeal processes, is now hindering the appeal by barring lawyers from directly handing over legal documents to Nasheed’s hands for private review, lawyers said on Friday.
The Maldives Correctional Services says documents can only be handed to inmates via its head offices in Malé. But lawyers said that the rule breaches lawyer-client protocol as the government may intercept legally privileged communications, thereby endangering Nasheed’s right to fair trial.
“These documents contain our arguments, our strategy. We have no confidence in the MCS, if documents are handed to them, in the three days before they hand over to President Nasheed, they may photocopy the documents,” lawyer Hisaan Hussain told the press on Friday.
Nasheed, whose imprisonment the UN has called illegal and arbitrary, is being held at a high security prison on Maafushi Island, an hour away from the capital by speedboat.
He was sentenced to 13 years in jail in March on a charge of ordering the military detention of criminal court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed. The 19-day trial was widely criticized for lack of due process.
The MCS is now allowing lawyers two-hour visits with Nasheed daily, but they say it is not enough as the appeal documents consist of 50 separate files which amount to more than 800 pages.
Hassan Latheef, another lawyer representing Nasheed, said: “We are once again seeing a repeat of the procedural violations that marked the criminal court proceedings, and led to criticism by the international community.”
Appeal documents must remain confidential until the court delivers them to the prosecutor general’s office, Hassan added.
Nasheed’s international lawyers, Amal Clooney and Jared Geneser, have previously accused the government of spying on their meeting with him in September.
In a statement issued on Friday, the MCS said: “There is no procedure to allow persons visiting an inmate to directly hand over any items. However, there is no obstruction to the inmate filling out and signing forms at the time he or she meets his or her lawyers.”
The government has welcomed Nasheed’s decision to appeal the terrorism charge and said the Supreme Court should consider the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s opinion.
The WGAD said the opposition leader’s conviction was politically motivated and violated international treaties the Maldives is party to.
“[T]he Government has not explained how the arrest of Judge Abdulla, which was carried out by the MNDF (Maldives National Defence Forces) under an order given by a third party, could constitute terrorism,” the opinion read.
The European Union parliament was the latest to renew calls for Nasheed’s release with MEPs passing a resolution on Thursday urging member states to impose targeted sanctions on government officials.
Nasheed’s lawyers have once again called on President Abdulla Yameen to transfer him to house-imprisonment to facilitate the appeal process, noting that the government had commuted his jail sentence in July.
The government denies the claim and says commutation documents presented by Nasheed are forged. The police are now investigating the incident.
Nasheed’s lawyers, who had commissioned an independent forensic analysis on the disputed document, insist on its authenticity, claiming the same state seal had been used on all documents handed by the MCS.