Abbas: Multiple issues with judiciary in delay of May 6 trials

Abbas Faiz speaks to press on October 24, 2023. (Photo/President's Office)

There are multiple issues within the judiciary leading to the delay in the trials of the suspects arrested in the 2021 assassination attempt on former president Mohamed Nasheed, says Abbas Faiz, the special envoy appointed by the Maldivian government to monitor the investigation, prosecution and trial process of the case.

In a press conference at the President’s Office on Tuesday, Faiz said he found the delay in the trials deeply concerning.

“Expectations that May 6 trials needs to have been expedited are legitimate, because of the far-reaching impact of this criminal act on society, social harmony and political and economic health of the country,” he said.

Faiz said that there were a range of reasons causing the delay, including the recusal of several judges at the Criminal Court.

“First, it was the recusal of several judges. There were therefore several changes to the allocation of judges as a result of the recusals. Compounded also, by the promotion of a judge to a higher court. Which left her position vacant for some time. These changes exacerbated the delays in the trials,” he said.

Faiz said he raised his concerns with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), which told him that it was a complex process for the JSC to handle.

“I expressed my concern that this was not an acceptable reason. The JSC explained to me that they have to find a happy medium between the need for trials to be expedited and respect for the legitimate boundaries for the independence of the judges. They agreed to prompt the court within their own legal powers and in compliance with the court’s internal procedures to hear the cases,” he said.

Faiz said that though a more detailed scheduled for the trials was subsequently issued by the Criminal Court, the pace of the trials remained slow.

He said that the Maldives needs to establish a mechanism where judges can be questioned and the causes for delays in trials identified.

“I found that the JSC did not have the authority to inquire about that. Because we want to know actually why the judges recused themselves. Was that something personal? Was that a motive other than something personal. Because the judicial system has got to be a clean judicial system,” he said.

Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem, who joined Faiz in the press conference, said that the recusal of the judges in the case hadn’t been questioned back then.

Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem speaks to press on October 24, 2023. (Photo/President's Office)

‘It wasn’t subject to questions before. So, we didn’t ask the court why a specific judge recused themselves,” he said.

Both Shameem and Faiz expressed concern over the lack of space at the Criminal Court.

“The court building in use had collapsed. The replacement building had limited space with only less than 10 judges being able to hold court at a time, while a new court building was being built,” he said.

Faiz said that resolving such issues is crucial to the future of the Maldivian justice system.

The attack targeting Nasheed with a homemade remote-controlled IED took place on May 6, 2021, as he exited his residence. Nasheed sustained multiple shrapnel wounds, while three members of his security detail and two bystanders sustained minor wounds.

The May 6 trials has produced only two convictions so far, that against Adhuham Ahmed Rasheed, Hiyaa, V. Thinadhoo, who confessed to detonating the IED. He signed a plea deal with the prosecution and received a reduced sentence of 23 years in prison in 2021.

And that against Abdulla Ali Manik, Bahaaruge, HA. Molhadhoo, who received five years for supporting a terror organization.