THE Maldives’ first elected president says he does not expect a fair hearing as he went on trial in a case that could see him banished to a remote island and disqualified from future elections.
Nearly eight months after he was toppled as leader of the Indian Ocean archipelago, Mohamed Nasheed is due to appear in the dock on Monday over accusations that he abused his power by ordering the arrest of a senior judge during his tenure.
The arrest fuelled already simmering anti-government protests which culminated in a police mutiny in February and led to Nasheed’s deputy being installed as president.
The climate change campaigner, who was tortured during previous stints in jail for his political activism, insists that he was threatened by armed rebel officers and forced to announce his resignation on television.
“The judiciary in the Maldives is so deeply politicised, there is no chance of a fair trial, particularly in a case as political as this,” Nasheed told AFP by email over the weekend.
The 45-year-old became leader after the Maldives held their first democratic elections in 2008 following three decades of autocratic rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The country is made up of 1192 tiny coral islands scattered across the equator and is better known as a honeymoon hotspot rather than a hotbed of political activism.
A conviction could see Nasheed handed a jail term of up to three years in prison or banishment to an small islet, a move that would disqualify him from running for office.
The case centres around Nasheed’s decision in January to send the military to arrest the head of the country’s criminal court, Abdullah Mohamed, on charges of corruption, misconduct and favouring then-opposition figures.
Nasheed justified the arrest saying that the judicial service commission had failed to take action against the judge, who had a string of allegations against him.
Nasheed said that he had failed during his three and a half years in office to reform the judiciary which he said still owed its allegiance to Gayoom who remains a powerful political player.
“It was still made up of the same old judges hand-picked by Gayoom many years ago. The judges were grossly under-qualified – many had only completed primary schooling,” he told AFP.
“Many had criminal records, many were corrupt and nearly all remain loyal to Gayoom. These same judges are still, for the most part, in place today and there is precious little we could do to change that situation.”
Nasheed was replaced by his deputy Mohamed Waheed who has rebuffed any suggestion that his predecessor was forced into resigning and that the trial is politically motivated.