President Nasheed Denied Right to Appeal; Next Hearing Monday Evening

President Nasheed is being denied his constitutionally-guaranteed right to an appeal, in the latest legal twist in his surprise trial for ‘terrorism’.

Since the start of the trial, President Nasheed’s legal team has tried, in vain, to appeal the Criminal Court’s decision to keep him in jail until the end of his trial.

The legal team first tried to file an appeal on Monday 23 February, but the Criminal Court refused to give the lawyers the necessary application form, citing administrative reasons.

The lawyers were finally able to submit the appeal on 24th February 2015.

However, until this day, the Criminal Court has failed to submit the documents to the High Court, where the appeal would be heard.

In a separate legal move, apparently aimed at undermining President Nasheed’s rights, the Supreme Court sent an ‘information note’ on 27 January, narrowing the appeals process. The note overturns the appeal procedure as prescribed under the Judicature Act.

The right to appeal and the right to legal representation are fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Maldives.

Commenting on the matter, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said:

“The Criminal Court is deliberately obstructing efforts to lodge an appeal. The court’s behaviour is unlawful and unconstitutional.

“This trial becomes more ridiculous by the day. It is blatantly politically-motivated. This kangaroo court doesn’t even pretend to be impartial.”

President Nasheed’s trial is due to restart on Monday 2 March at 8 pm local time.

During the first hearing of President Nasheed’s surprise trial for ‘terrorism’, on Monday 23 February, his legal team was barred from entering court.

President Nasheed was also denied medical attention despite obvious injuries, sustained when police forcibly dragged him into court.

In the second hearing, held on Thursday 26 February, the bench refused to allow President Nasheed to sit next to – or near – his legal team, thus effectively denying him the right to legal counsel.

President Yameen steps up pressure on political opponents

President Yameen stepped up his persecution of the political opposition on Sunday. Opposition Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group has been ordered to pay the state US$100 million in taxes within 30 days. The Jumhooree Party is in a political alliance with President Nasheed’s MDP.

The Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) said Villa Group owed the state US$100million in rent and fines for several islands and lagoons leased to the company. Gasim denies owing the money and has said the tax bill is political intimidation by the President’s Office.

Chaos in Parliament

During the President’s annual opening of the People’s Majlis (parliament) on Monday morning, opposition MPs vigorously protested the arrest and continued detention of President Nasheed, drowning out the President’s address.

For more on today’s chaos in parliament, see:

Background information

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.

In recent weeks, President Yameen’s allies in parliament announced plans to put an upper age limit for those running for President, which would bar Gasim from competing in the 2018 presidential elections.

On February 10 2015, Yameen’s Defense Minister, Colonel (Ret.) Mohamed Nazim, was arrested following a power struggle within government. He has been taken to Dhoonidhoo Detention Centre and faces charges of treason.