The Supreme Court began reviewing an appeal filed by the state over a controversial 13-year terror sentence against former President Mohamed Nasheed that was criticised by a UN human rights panel as illegal and politically motivated.
The Prosecutor General’s Office and the opposition leader had filed separate appeals at the apex court. Today’s hearing only concerned the state’s appeal.
Public prosecutors are requesting the apex court’s opinion on whether Nasheed’s rights were upheld and due process was followed during the 19-day trial last year.
“This is not a normal appeal case. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and other parties have said that Nasheed’s trial violated due process and his rights. We want to ensure that Nasheed received due process and rights, and are asking the Supreme Court to review the case and make a judgement,” said public prosecutor Ahmed Hisham Wajeeh.
The government had rejected the WGAD’s opinion, but said the Supreme Court would consider it during the appeal.
Nasheed, who was granted 30-days of medical leave from prison in January, is currently in the UK. But he was represented by his lawyers today.
All five judges of the apex court are reviewing the case.
Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed said the bench will decide if Nasheed was a defendant or a third-party later.
“This is not an appeal hearing. This case is based on principle of legality. It is a question of whether due process was followed,” he said.
Prosecutors are asking judges to determine if Nasheed had received adequate time and resources to mount a defence, if his right to legal counsel was protected, if he had been judged fairly and if he had been allowed to present witnesses in his defence.
Hisham also asked the bench for a way forward if a retrial is required.
The terror charges against Nasheed relate to the arrest of a top judge during his tenure.
The WGAD, comprising of five independent experts, said that the government was not able to demonstrate the legal basis of the terror charge or produce evidence that Nasheed had ordered Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s arrest.
“[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, delivered in September, read.
The PG had first appealed the criminal court’s verdict at the High Court. The appellate court refused to hear the case on the grounds that it was submitted by the state and not the former president.
Without hearing oral arguments from both sides, judges had also ruled that Nasheed was not deprived of his rights.
Nasheed, who had insisted on a political solution instead of a judicial remedy, made a u-turn and filed his own appeal at the apex court in late December. His lawyers are arguing that Judge Abdulla’s 22-day arrest does not constitute terrorism.
They also requested the Supreme Court to order the PG to press new charges, if they deem it necessary and if they feel Nasheed should be prosecuted for his actions or lack of action during Judge Abdulla’s detention.
If new charges are to be filed, Nasheed must be charged under the new penal code, they argued. The new code sets lesser punishments than the 1990 Anti Terrorism Act.
Nasheed and his heavyweight international lawyers have launched a campaign calling for targeted sanctions on officials involved in human rights abuses in the Maldives. An overwhelming majority of the European Union parliament backed the call in December, while Prime Minister David Cameron said that the UK is prepared to impose sanctions if political prisoners including Nasheed are not freed.