The Supreme Court has accepted the state’s appeal of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s terrorism conviction following a procedural hearing today.
The apex court met with officials from the Prosecutor General’s office at 2pm today, nearly two months after the state appealed the conviction. Nasheed’s lawyers were not invited.
The move comes a day before a mass protest in Malé aimed at pressuring President Abdulla Yameen to release all political prisoners including Nasheed. His imprisonment, over the arrest of a top judge during his tenure, triggered mass protests earlier this year, and drew international criticism.
Nasheed’s lawyers have questioned why they were not called to the hearing today.
President Nasheed’s legal team was not informed of the procedural hearing that is underway at SC. We have not had access to PN since 12 Nov
— Hisaan (@hisaanhussain) November 25, 2015
A UN human rights panel has ruled Nasheed’s imprisonment arbitrary and illegal, but Yameen says only the Supreme Court can release him.
The PG took the dispute to the apex court after the High Court threw out the appeal, saying it was inadmissible because it had been filed by the state and not the former president.
Further, judges, without hearing oral arguments, went on to rule that the criminal court had upheld Nasheed’s rights.
The 19-day trial was criticized for lack of due process, including the court’s refusal to grant Nasheed access to a lawyer or summon defence witnesses. World leaders including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and UK Prime Minister David Cameron have urged Nasheed’s release.
Yameen has insisted he would not bow down to foreign pressure and release Nasheed. The former president must exhaust all appeals processes before being eligible for clemency, he said. The government also claims any lapses in due process were not serious enough to render Nasheed’s detention illegal.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a panel of five independent experts, said Nasheed’s conviction was politically motivated and violated international treaties the Maldives is signatory to.
The WGAD, comprising of five independent experts, said the Maldivian government was unable to demonstrate the legal basis for the terrorism charge.
“[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 read
The government was further unable to produce evidence that Nasheed had ordered Judge Abdulla’s arrest, the panel said.
Explaining their view that, the WGAD said:
“In the view of the Working Group, there are several factors which, taken together, strongly suggest that Mr. Nasheed’s conviction was politically motivated. These include: (i) the history and pattern of proceedings brought against Mr. Nasheed, including his arrest and detention in 1994 which was declared by the Working group to be arbitrary and solely motivated by the will to suppress his critical voice, (ii) the sudden way in which charges were reinstituted against Mr. Nasheed after the original case had been inactive for 2.5 years when the Government lost a key coalition partner in the parliament, (iii) the fact that, two weeks after Mr. Nasheed was sentenced, the Government adopted a law banning all prisoners from being members of political parties, and (iv) the fact that Mr. Nasheed will not be able to participate in the 2018 presidential election as a result of his conviction. In this case, the Working Group considers that Mr. Nasheed’s detention has resulted from the exercise of his rights as a political opposition leader to express views contrary to the Government, to associate with his own and other political parties, and to participate in public life in Maldives . . . The Working Group concludes . . . that he was targeted on the basis of his political opinions.”
The opinion also highlighted several violations of due process during the 19-day trial, including the rushed nature of the trial, and conflict of interest on the part of then-Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin and two of the three presiding judges.
The panel also found that the criminal court’s refusal to allow Nasheed to call defence witnesses and the absence of legal representation during key points of the trial constituted as violations of due process.
Additional reporting by Hassan Mohamed