Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyer Hassan Latheef has been barred from meeting clients in jail for posting messages from the opposition leader on social media.
Home Minister Umar Naseer informed Latheef in a letter today that he will not be allowed visit Nasheed or any other inmate for one month.
Lawyers are allowed to meet detainees to consult on ongoing cases or appeals, Naseer said, but it is not an opportunity to convey political messages on behalf of their clients.
Latheef’s statements on behalf of Nasheed on social media “could harm public interest and the state’s dignity,” the letter stated.
In several tweets on October 19, Latheef said Nasheed has urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit the Maldives to “disentangle us from the mess we are in.”
Speaking to The Maldives Independent, Hisaan Hussain from Nasheed’s legal team condemned the home minister’s decision as “illegal,” contending that he did not have the authority to suspend a lawyer.
“There are procedures to look into disciplinary issues of lawyers within the Supreme Court and the Attorney General’s office. Any complaints must go through those mechanisms,” she said.
The legal team will challenge the move at the civil court, she added.
A lawyer’s responsibility was not limited to representing a client at court, Hisaan said, but includes actively seeking to protect the client’s interests through all available avenues.
She added: “This is nothing but an effort to pressure and intimidate lawyers and a continuation of the campaign by the government to prevent president Nasheed from launching a full and comprehensive appeal of his sentence.”
Nasheed’s lawyers have previously complained over infrequent access. Lawyers were denied access to the former president for two weeks earlier this month.
In late May, the home minister complained that Nasheed’s lawyers were “having fun, laughing and joking, and entertaining him” during visits to the Maafushi jail.
Nasheed was convicted of terrorism in March and sentenced to 13 years in jail. He was found guilty of ordering the arrest of a judge during his tenure.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) ruled last month that his imprisonment was illegal and called for his immediate release.
The government now says the Supreme Court will have to consider the WGAD opinion and decide whether Nasheed was given a fair trial in accordance with the Maldives’ obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The prosecutor general had filed an appeal at the Supreme Court on September 19 after the High Court decided it could not hear the case since it was not filed by Nasheed.
The apex court is yet to decide whether to accept the appeal.