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#Maldives: International media assist ex-President Nasheed's in move to block his trial for human rights abuse

#Maldives: Days before ex-President Nasheed's trial for human rights abuse, international media and countries have stepped up efforts to assist Nasheed to block the trial. While international media such as AFP have reported the trial as a politically motivated, it is in fact a criminal case brought by the country's first independent Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizzu, for violation of human rights in the military arrest of the Chief Judge of the Criminal Court in January this year. The Prosecutor General's case is built upon an independent investigation by the country's Human Rights Commission, an independent institution headed by a 5 member panel appointed by the Parliament. The current Human Rights Commission consists of 5 members nominated to the Parliament by Nasheed himself. 

The Report of the HRCM on the investigation of the Judge's arrest and subsequent solitary confinement at a military training camp for 22 days determined the said actions to be blatant violation of human rights committed under Nasheed's direct orders and supervision as Commander in Chief. The HRCM reported that Nasheed had bypassed military hierarchy and was physically present at military Headquarters in directing the military operations to arrest Judge Abdullah Mohamed and put him in solitary confinement. The reasons given by Nasheed at the time for the Judge's arrest were unspecified charges of interference with judicial process. The Prosecutor General's case is against Nasheed, his then Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, and three senior military personnel who were instrumental in implementing Nasheed's illegal order.

In his heavily biased article titled "First elected leader faces trial in the Maldives" (30 September 2012), the AFP's Amal Jayasinghe reports that Nasheed "was forced out in a police mutiny". Amal Jayasinghe repeats this allegation further down in the article where he reports Nasheed's "eventual downfall on February 7 after police mutinied". However, an independent investigation by a Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) reported in August 2012 that Nasheed's resignation on February 7th this year was "voluntary and of his own free will" It determined that Nasheed's resignation was "not caused by any illegal coercion or intimidation

The CoNI constituted of a 5 member panel which included a member of Nasheed's party and nominated by Nasheed himself, plus an international legal expert appointed in consultation with international development partners. In addition, two Independent Advisers were sent from the Commonwealth and the United Nations to support the Commission. The function of the Advisers was to observe the conduct of the Commission and advise on the issues as may be required. The final report of the CoNI which was issued at end August was endorsed by the two international Advisors. The findings of the CoNI have been accepted and welcomed by all international partners, including India, the United States, the United Nations and the Commonwealth.

Two other key findings of the CoNI were that the change of President in Maldives on February 7th 2012 was legal and constitutional; and that the events that occurred on Feruary 6th and 7th were, :in large measure, reactions to the actions of President Nasheed".

In the AFP article, Amal Jayasinghe repeats Nasheed's allegation that he has no chance of a fair trial. It is apparent from the article that no effort has been made to check the validity of this argument. Given that this is a criminal case in which one of the victims is a judge of the Criminal Court, the Prosecutor General has ensured that his case is beyond the jurisdiction of the said judge and any judges on the Crminal Court bench by lodging the case in a majistrate court in a subjurisdictional area, Hulhumale' district. In any part of the world, including the US, this is common practice to avoid conflict of interest or bias on the part of judge or jury. Additionally, the Judicial Services Commission, the independent commission which overseas judicial administration in the country, has ensured that conflict of criminal court judges is avoided by appointing a three member majistrate bench to hear the case. 

The Prosecutor General has clearly avoided any conflict of interest in the investigation itself by ensuring that it was carried out by an independent body, without the participation of the Maldives Police Service (MPS) as MPS had also been ordered by Nasheed to participate in the judge's arrest. 

The Majistrate Court has announced that trial hearings will be open and provided opportunity for those interested parties to attend the hearing to the maximum capacity possible at the hearing venue. A period has been given for those interested in attending the hearings to note down their names at the court.

AFP's Amal Jayasinghe also conveniently ignores the fact that the transfer of power from Nasheed to the current President was legal and constitutional. While he repeats Nasheed's charge that former President Gayoom is back in power, the fact of the matter is that the current Government is a coalition of parties, most of of which were in the coalition which won the elections in 2008 which put Nasheed in power. A further inescapable fact is that President Waheed was Nasheed's running mate and won the elections on the same ticket as Nasheed.

On this issue, the CoNI report states that, "With regard to the idea that there was a 'coup d'├ętat', nothing in the Maldives changed in constitutional terms – indeed, the Constitution was precisely followed as prescribed. Moreover, in terms of the democratic intent and legitimacy of the authority of the Presidency, as foreseen in the Constitution, President Waheed properly succeeded President Nasheed. This coheres with the electoral prescription insofar as President Nasheed and his then-Vice President were on the same ballot and so the electorate was fully informed of the persons and exact role of the candidates for whom they voted and who ultimately took the oaths of office to serve under the Constitution. Accordingly, there appears nothing contestable in constitutional terms under the generic notion of a 'coup d'├ętat' that is alleged to have occurred – quite to the contrary, in fact.

Further misreporting by Amal Jayasinghe is where he misreports that Nasheed returned to a "hero's welcome" "sweeping 54 percent of the vote in the 2008 elections". The 2008 election results show that, contrary to the misinformation by AFP, the popular vote was swept in a landlside victory by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who won 40.63 of the popular vote. His running mate was Ahmed Thasmeen Ali of the same party, Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party. The Nasheed / Waheed presidential ticket won only 25.09%, 27,438 votes less rhan Gayoom. Despite receiving the far greater support, Gayoom could not clinch the presidency as that the Constitution dictated that the winner had to have 51% of the vote, thus making a second round of voting mandatory.

In the runoff between the top most contenders Gayoom and Nasheed, all other parties formed ann alliance behind the Nasheed / Waheed ticket while Gayoom / Thasmeen of DRP contested on their own. Hence, Nasheed and his then running mate Dr. Waheed represented a coalition platform of disparate political parties. Individually, they belonged to different political parties. This coalition won the Presidency with 54.21% of the vote. Gayoom / Thasmeen of DRP in their single party bid got 45.79%, 15,101 votes less than the winning coalition. Hence, it is a gross misrepresentation of facts to report Nasheed as singlehandedly sweeping the elections, where in fact he won with the support of all other parties, including four of the major parties in the current Government, Qaumee Ittihad, Qaumee Party, Jumhooree Party and Adhaalath Party. All these parties fell out with Nasheed in the first 6 months of his presidency and exited Nasheed's administration at various stages, except President Waheed and his party Qaumee Ittihad. Qaumee Ittihad now leads a renewed coalition in Government which includes Gayoom's old party DRP and new party Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

The history of Nasheed's coalition government also belies Nasheed's allegations that the current administration is "influenced by Islamic extremists" as AFP reports. This reference is to the participation of the Adhaalath Party in the current administration. However, it is fact that the first political alliance formed by Nasheed in his bid for the presidency in 2008 was with the Adhaalath Party (whom he now calls "Islamic extremists"). In the first round, Nasheed contested on the coalition with Adhaalath, supported by President Waheed's Qaumee Ittihaad and Islamic Democratic Party. Adhaalath Party was Nasheed's first political partner and was the second largest party in the coalition. 

It is also pertinent to note that it was Nasheed who created a separated "Islamic Ministry" in the Government, and promptly handed over the Ministry to Adhaalath Party to run according to their religo-political ideology.

As seen from the above, Amal Jayasinghe's article is factually incorrect and heavily biased in favor of an individual he has sought to promote to the international public. Unfortunately, adherence to the truth and irrefutable facts are swept aside by international journalists when they report from foreign shores since the veracity of their reports are rarely checked by their editors or their foreign readers.

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