Maldives Restarts Politically Motivated Trial against President Nasheed

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the regime of President Yameen for restarting a trial against former President Nasheed, which could see him jailed for up to three years and prevented from contesting the 2018 presidential elections.

President Nasheed’s legal team was abruptly informed on 28 January that his trial – which has been on hold since May 2013 – will resume on 3 February.

MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said:

“The resumption of this trial is a cynical and cowardly attempt by President Yameen to silence his political opponents. The Maldives is witnessing political repression not seen since the dark days of the 30-year Gayoom dictatorship.”

The resumption of President Nasheed’s trial – on charges of ‘unlawful arrest’ – comes amid the growing politicisation and corruption of the nation’s judiciary, which is now de facto controlled by the executive.

Furthermore, the Maldives’ new Penal Code will come into effect in April 2015. The new Penal Code does not include the charge of ‘unlawful arrest.’

During the 2013 presidential elections, the Supreme Court repeatedly meddled in the elections process, annulling results that favoured President Nasheed, threatening the Elections Commission, and ensuring long delays that favoured Yameen’s candidacy.

The United Nations, European Union and the Commonwealth have all repeatedly voiced concern over the politicisation of the Maldivian judiciary. UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul expressed concerns over politicization of the judiciary and stated as a result the judiciary is subjected “to all sorts of external influence and has consequently been unable to function properly”. Furthermore the report raised serious concerns over fairness of the proceedings of President Nasheed’s trial and stated the trial “seems to have been set up in an arbitrary manner, without following procedures set by law.”