President Nasheed’s legal team withdrew their counsel on Monday, stating that inherent biases in Nasheed’s trial mean it is impossible to mount a proper defence.
The four person legal team said they had completely withdrawn from the case because the Criminal Court has given them woefully little time to prepare.
President Nasheed’s surprise trial for ‘terrorism’ started just over two weeks ago. The court bench has repeatedly denied the lawyers’ requests for more time to prepare their case.
During his trial, President Nasheed has repeatedly been denied access to legal counsel, denied medical attention in court and his right to appeal has been blocked.
In other high profile cases, defendants have been given over a month to find legal representation, and the appeals process has lasted more than a year.
For the fourth time since he was arrested on 22 February, President Nasheed appeared in the dock on Monday without legal counsel.
In court on Monday, President Nasheed repeatedly asked the bench – over the course of the 1.5 hour hearing – for access to legal counsel, stating that he required time to appoint a new legal team. The judges repeatedly refused his request.
Also on Monday, the judges ruled that the witnesses President Nasheed had submitted in his defence would not be heard. The judges said they did not believe the witnesses would negate the witnesses produced by the state, and therefore they are unnecessary.
Speaking in court on Monday, President Nasheed said:
“I want a lawyer… This is not a court of law. This is injustice. This is the biggest circus in this country’s constitutional history.
“I call on all Maldivian people to stop this disgrace. The three of you [judges] are breaking the law. You should be brought before a court and tried.”
Two of the Judges Appear in Prosecution Video Evidence
Monday’s hearing consisted of going through documentary evidence submitted by the prosecution. Ironically, this evidence included a recording of President Nasheed expressing concerns about the judiciary’s lack of integrity and qualifications.
Of the three judges on the bench in President Nasheed’s trial, one has been educated only to 5th Grade (age 11); while the other two face allegations of sexual harassment, corruption and political bias.
Another prosecution video showed the scene in 2012 when Judge Abdulla Mohamed was isolated by MNDF officers. In the video, standing in Abdulla Mohamed’s house are Judges Bari and Didi – two of the three judges presiding over President Nasheed’s trial.
Speaking on the behaviour of the Criminal Court judges, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said:
“The court is rushing through the trial at breakneck speed, in order to reach a pre-determined guilty verdict.
“President Yameen has instructed the judges to quickly find Nasheed guilty, and the judges are dutifully obeying.”
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 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.