Jailed ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s lawyers have announced plans to petition the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) after it ruled the Maldives’ former president Mohamed Nasheed’s imprisonment illegal.
Husnu Suood, who represents Nazim, told The Maldives Independent today that he did not believe that justice could be served to his client through Maldivian courts. An appeal of Nazim’s conviction on a weapons smuggling charge has been stalled at the High Court since April.
“We attempted to exhaust local remedies from the Maldivian judiciary, but it seems that the courts have absconded from trial by refusing to hold hearings,” the former attorney general said.
The petition will be filed in early November, he added.
The UNWGAD is a specialised UN agency comprised of five independent experts.
Both Nazim and Nasheed’s trials drew widespread international criticism over apparent lack of due process.
The retired colonel was found guilty by the same bench who had overseen the former president’s case, and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Nazim maintains he was framed by rogue police officers who planted a pistol in his apartment.
The foreign ministry, meanwhile has said the government does not accept the UN WGAD’s decision in Nasheed’s case and “will not be made to act on the basis of a non-binding opinion.”
Nasheed’s high-profile lawyers have said they will pursue targeted sanctions against government officials if the opposition leader is not released.
Nazim’s appeal was stalled after the Supreme Court transferred two of the five presiding judges to a regional branch in the south under controversial changes brought to the Judicature Act in December 2014.
Suood said he has written to the Supreme Court seeking an order for the High Court to reconstitute the bench hearing Nazim’s appeal.
“It has been two or three weeks but the Supreme Court has not replied. The court keeps saying we will give you a call,” Suood said.
Nazim’s case has either been lost in judicial bureaucracy or the “judges have gone into hiding,” he added.
Suood also represents Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla, who has now been in state custody for 150 days while he awaits trial on terrorism charges. Imran was charged with inciting violence at a mass anti-government demonstration on May 1.
The arrest of Nazim and Nasheed in February had triggered a prolonged political crisis. The historic 20,000-strong May Day rally was the second mass protest calling for the release of political prisoners.
Imran’s trial has been stalled since June after two of the three judges presiding over the case – the same three-judge panel that sentenced Nasheed and Nazim – were promoted to the High Court.
Both Nazim and Imran’s families have also expressed concern over their health in state custody.
Nazim’s brother Adam Azim and Suood meanwhile met with officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in New Delhi, India this week to share concerns over Nazim’s health.
According to Indian media, the IRCC is likely to send a team to the Maldives in November.
“My brother’s eyesight is deteriorating rapidly and we are very worried. He could even go blind,” Azim told the New Indian Express.
Azim said the family had sought permission for Nazim to seek treatment in India, but the government only authorised travel to Singapore.
“We have a country which is closest to us with good facilities. Why should we go to Singapore which is more expensive and far away?” he was quoted as saying.
Doctors had specifically recommended the Arivindhia eye hospital in Madurai, he said.
Azim also expressed disappointment with India’s silence in the wake of Nasheed and Nazim’s imprisonment. The US, UK, the European parliament, and the UN human rights chief have called on the government to release Nasheed and other jailed politicians.
“As the biggest democracy, we expected India to take a more active stance,” he said.
Suood meanwhile told the Express that India should use its leverage with President Abdulla Yameen’s administration.”India rubbing shoulders with Maldives government does not give a good message to those who have been tirelessly working towards human rights and democracy,” he said.
“We have heard of criminals missing, but here we had a whole court disappeared,” Suood said.
Azim also said the family has serious concerns over Nazim’s safety in custody as there were “rumours in Malé that Colonel Nazim and Nasheed were being slow-poisoned.”
“We don’t have any solid proof. These are rumours right now,” he said.