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Lawyers for Maldives ex-president say trial unfair

March 9, 2015

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Lawyers representing the former president of Maldives in his fight against a terrorism charge withdrew from the case Monday saying their client is not being given a fair trial.

Attorney Hassan Latheef said the court hearing the case against Mohamed Nasheed has denied the legal team enough time to prepare their defense and is rushing the trial. He said it would be unfair and against professional ethics to continue representing Nasheed.

Maldives is an Indian Ocean archipelago nation known for its luxury resort islands.

Nasheed was arrested last month for allegedly ordering the arrest of a top judge when Nasheed was president three years ago. The state charged him under the country’s terrorism law, saying he had the military kidnap the judge and hold him for weeks.

Nasheed has denied ordering the arrest and his supporters say the charges are politically motivated, aimed at eliminating him as a challenger against President Yameen Abdul Gayoom in the 2018 presidential election.

Nasheed appeared in court Monday for on the ninth night of the hearing. He was without lawyers and requested that the hearing be postponed until he retains legal representation, but the court refused.

Nasheed has been in police custody since his arrest about three weeks ago.

He became the country’s first democratically elected president in 2008, defeating Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whose authoritarian rule lasted 30 years. He is the current president’s half-brother.

The country’s transition to democracy has been difficult, with institutions like the courts often being perceived as loyal to the Gayoom family.

Gabriela Knaul, a United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said after a visit to the Maldives in 2013 “the perception that the justice system is a remnant of the old regime, equally authoritarian, archaic and corrupt, should be overturned by concrete actions based on the democratic concepts and values introduced by the Maldivian constitution.”

A conflict with the judiciary ended Nasheed’s presidency, just over three years old, in 2012 when he allegedly ordered the arrest of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed, leading to weeks of public protests and forcing his resignation.

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