President Nasheed’s constitutionally-guaranteed right to an appeal is being systematically undermined by the Maldivian courts, Nasheed’s legal team have said.
In the latest legal twist, the Criminal Court is refusing to release the full case report of President Nasheed’s trial — information the legal team needs to lodge an appeal against his conviction.
On Thursday 19 March, the Criminal Court released a judgement summary. But the full case report includes much more information, such as: statements of witness testimonies given in court; the closing statement submitted by the prosecution; and detailed findings of the judges with reference to the evidence.
On Monday 23 March, the Criminal Court said they had not released the full case report because President Nasheed had not signed the statements of witness testimony. However, as President Nasheed pointed out on the evening of 13 March when the statements were presented to him, they contain serious errors. For example, the statement of witness testimony from the Chief of the Defence Force contains things he did not say in court. The Criminal Court has so far refused to correct these errors.
MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said:
“The courts are using every procedural trick in the book to deny President Nasheed’s right to appeal. “The Criminal Court conducted a disgraceful and blatantly politicised trial, and now they are busy trying to hamper the appeal.”
President Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail on 13 March, ostensibly for ‘terrorism.’ The international community has roundly criticised his sentencing.
Amnesty International labeled it a ‘travesty of justice’, while the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, said it made a ‘mockery’ of the Maldives’ constitution.
In new rules rushed in by the Supreme Court just ahead of Nasheed’s trial, the period in which an appeal can be lodged was reduced from 90 to 10 days.
In the absence of any clarification from the courts, Nasheed’s legal team assumed the appeals deadline was Sunday 22 March. The High Court has since clarified that the 10 days does not include holidays, meaning President Nasheed now has until Thursday 26 March to lodge an appeal against his conviction.
Tourism Minister Say Nasheed Could Be Jailed for “60 Years”
Tourism Minister Adeeb, meanwhile, raised the prospect of President Nasheed being held in jail for 60 years, at a political party rally in Male’ on Sunday 22 March.
According to local media, Adeeb said: “Who will be able to increase this sentence from 13 to 60 years? This is the news that I hear today. Its true. There are still cases [to be brought against Nasheed]. A lot of them.”
President Nasheed is the Maldives’ first democratically-elected president. He was elected into office in 2008, bringing to an end the 30-year dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
In February 2012, President Nasheed was ousted in a coup, after mutinying police and army personnel overrun the institutions of state.
In the first round of presidential elections in 2013, President Nasheed received 45% of the vote to Yameen’s 25%. But the Supreme Court constantly meddled in the election – repeatedly annulling, cancelling and postponing the ballot in order to favour the candidacy of Yameen, Gayoom’s half-brother, who went on to assume the presidency.
On January 24 2015, Gasim Ibrahim, who polled third in the first round of the 2013 elections with 24% of the vote, and his party the JP, quit Yameen’s coalition government and sided with President Nasheed and his party, the MDP.
In quitting the governing coalition, Gasim cited President Yameen’s continued attempts to undermine the rule of law and institutions of democracy, including the sacking and harassment of members of the Elections Commission.
On March 8 2015, the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party quit President Yameen’s ruling coalition because of the President’s increasingly authoritarian actions.
Of the four political parties that made up the ruling coalition, only Yameen’s PPM and the small Maldivian Development Alliance remain.
On February 10 2015, Yameen’s Defense Minister, Colonel (Ret.) Mohamed Nazim, was arrested following a power struggle within government. He faces charges of treason.