The Supreme Court has concluded a review of former president Mohamed Nasheed’s conviction on a controversial charge of terrorism in March 2015.
In the wake of former President Abdulla Yameen’s heavy election defeat, the court suspended Nasheed’s 13-year jail sentence last month after the Prosecutor General’s office sought a review of the decision to uphold the verdict in June 2016.
A stay order cleared the way for the opposition leader’s return on November 1 after nearly three years in exile.
At the hearing of Nasheed’s case Monday morning, deputy prosecutor general Mariyam Nihaayath told the court the PG office filed the case in the public interest as requested by numerous people.
The subject of the terror conviction was not adjudicated when the Supreme Court previously ruled that Nasheed was afforded a fair trial, she argued.
Nasheed’s defense attorney Hisaan Hussain repeated arguments made in the same court two years ago, including illegal remand orders by the criminal court and due process violations.
Her client was denied adequate time and resources to mount a defence, she added.
Asked repeatedly by the chief justice for her response to the arguments concerning the fairness of the trial, the deputy prosecutor said the PG office was of the view that the case needed to be reviewed.
But she declined to speak about the widely criticised 19-day trial.
Pressed by the judge, Nihaayath said the court had ruled on the due process question. She listed the court’s dismissal of appeal points while flipping through pages of documents.
“I am not asking about what this court ruled before. Reviewing means looking again,” the chief justice said. “The PG is not supposed to only appeal when you lose. Do you believe the trial did not go as it should have?”
Nihaayath asked for more time to respond to the specific arguments by the defence.
In September 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled Nasheed’s jailing was illegal and politically motivated. But former president Abdulla Yameen rejected the “non-binding opinion.”
The previous administration also remained defiant when the UN Human Rights Committee decided in March this year that Nasheed’s right to contest elections must be restored.
Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who defeated Yameen as the joint opposition candidate, was named as an “alternative” candidate to Nasheed. He was barred from contesting due to the terrorism conviction.
– Terrorism by the military –
At Monday’s hearing, the main argument that was extensively debated concerned whether terrorism charges could have been raised against Nasheed.
He was accused of ordering the “abduction” of the criminal court’s chief judge in January 2012.
Criminal charges cannot be pressed against the commander-in-chief for an unlawful arrest by the Maldives National Defence Force, Hisaan argued, adding that individuals could not be held liable for actions by state institutions.
There were civil remedies in cases of unlawful arrest, she noted.
“An act committed by MNDF cannot be criminal. What the PG is essentially saying is that MNDF is a terrorist organisation and what MNDF did amounts to terrorism. This cannot be. At the most, MNDF actions can be unlawful arrest,” she said.
The prosecution also failed to produce any evidence to show Nasheed was either actively or indirectly involved in Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s 22-day detention, Hisaan said.
The judge was detained because he was deemed a national security threat. He was able to quash police summons and block his investigation by the judicial watchdog.
The MNDF was asked for assistance by the police after the High Court quashed a summons to bring the chief judge in for questioning, Hisaan noted.
Numerous complaints were submitted to the Judicial Service Commission, which in November 2011 found him guilty of ethical misconduct. But the Civil Court issued a stay order halting disciplinary action against the judge.
The judge was accused of taking “the entire criminal justice system in his fist.” Police complained he obstructed “high-profile corruption investigations” after two police lawyers were suspended on “ethical grounds.”
Given the chance to address the court, Nasheed insisted he played no part in the judge’s detention.
He asked the Supreme Court bench to expedite its judgment.
But the chief justice said it was not possible to rule on the same day since the bench had to go through the lower court proceedings. A date for delivering the judgment will be announced later, he said.