The Progressive Congress Coalition on Tuesday accused the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party of abusing its supermajority for “revenge and antagonism” after parliament impeached the chief justice.
The opposition coalition accused Speaker Mohamed Nasheed and MDP lawmakers of abusing authority and acting unconstitutionally to sack judges. Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi and Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla were removed from the bench after the judicial watchdog probed ethical misconduct related to 17 instances where the apex court violated the constitution or usurped powers of parliament and other state institutions.
“Nasheed, through his seat on the Judicial Service Commission and aided by his supermajority in parliament, has rendered it impossible for judges to operate with independence and impartiality,” the opposition said in an English statement. “Faced with the threat of suspension and removal for disregarding ‘advise’ issued by ministers and the president’s office chief of staff, judges are being forced to aid and abet Nasheed’s plot to eradicate political opposition in his chicanery.”
Judicial reform was a key pledge of both President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and the MDP’s campaign for April’s parliamentary elections. With its landslide victory, the MDP secured well above the two-thirds majority needed to remove judges from the bench.
Defence lawyers representing former president Abdulla Yameen meanwhile accused Nasheed of “repeatedly manipulating” the opposition leader’s money laundering trial to ensure a guilty verdict. Yameen’s lawyers called on the prosecution to withdraw the case as a mistrial on the grounds of Judge Ahmed Hailam’s suspension hours before he was due to pass a verdict on November 5.
On Sunday, a five-judge panel took over the case and denied the defence’s appeal for a fresh trial. A verdict is due on November 28.
The bench also rejected the defence’s motion for presiding Judge Ali Rasheed Hussain – who was appointed acting chief judge after Hailam’s suspension – to recuse himself for violating the code of conduct by giving an interview to the pro-government broadcaster Raajje TV. The judges decided that Rasheed’s response to a question from the media did not constitute an interview, which is prohibited by law.
“While the whole trial has been muddied with Nasheed’s prints, the rejection of our initial appeal for a bench coupled with the last-minute removal of the sole case judge alone suffice in leaving us with no doubt that any subsequent judgment will not be free and fair,” Yameen’s defence lawyers said.