The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the regime of President Yameen for placing former President Nasheed under ‘island arrest’, meaning he is unable to leave the capital island of Male’ without court approval.
The MDP also condemned the restart of former President Nasheed’s trial — which recommenced on Tuesday in Male’ and had been on hold since May 2013 — labelling the proceedings as farcical and highly irregular.
MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said:
“During Tuesday’s hearing, we had the extraordinary spectacle of the judge limiting the time President Nasheed’s defence team could speak to just 10 minutes. The judge said he was using his stop-watch to time how long the lawyers spoke for. The proceedings were more like a TV game-show than a court hearing. Clearly, the judge wanted to rush the proceedings through as quickly as possible.”
The MDP maintains that the trial against President Nasheed is nothing more than a cynical attempt by President Yameen to prevent his political opponent from competing in the 2018 President Elections.
President Nasheed faces up to three years in jail if found guilty of charges of ‘unlawful arrest’.
The judiciary — which is highly politicised and de facto controlled by the executive — is rushing the proceedings in order to convict President Nasheed before the new penal code comes into effect in April this year. The new penal code does not include the charge of ‘unlawful arrest’.
The Supreme Court, also in a highly irregular move, recently reduced the number of days in which a defendant has to launch an appeal from 90 to 10. The MDP believes this ruling is specifically aimed at speeding up President Nasheed’s trial, so he can be convicted before the new penal code takes effect.
The MDP also condemned plans by President Yameen to use his majority in parliament to place an upper age limit on those who can run for president. This move appears to be an attempt by Yameen to bar opposition figure Gasim Ibrahim from contesting the 2018 presidential elections.