Court cites jurisdiction to refuse motion to free jailed leaders

Maldives Criminal Court late Friday refused the opposition's request for a 'habeas corpus' motion in a bid to secure the release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

More than a day after the Supreme court ordered the immediate release of as many as nine political prisoners, government has thus far refused to comply.

In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and deposed ruling party leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.

The others named in the order included former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb's brother in law Hamid Ismail.

The opposition legal team had said the habeas corpus motion was filed arguing that the continued imprisonment of the nine named in the court order was illegal.

The criminal court however, has refused to hear the motion saying that it had no jurisdiction to rule on a matter that has already been decided by the apex court.

The court's registrar had dismissed the motion on the grounds that any decision by the court over the motion would delay the implementation of the Supreme Court order while also raising the possibility that a top court decision could be questioned.

The Supreme Court had said the questionable and politically motivated nature of the trials of the political leaders warrants a re-trial and ordered the authorities to immediately free the jailed leaders until a court of law sentences otherwise.

The court has ordered relevant authorities to strictly enforce the order and warned legal action against anyone who refuses to obey the court order.

The court had also annulled its anti-defection ruling and ordered the country's electoral watchdog to re-instate the dozen government lawmakers disqualified over the ruling. The Supreme Court said the anti-defection ruling was issued as a temporary solution to the constitutional dispute case filed by the state but insisted that the relevant authorities have failed to bring to effect an anti-defection law specified in the ruling.

Nearly a day after the Supreme Court issued the order, Attorney General (AG) Mohamed Anil in a brief statement on state TV, said the relevant authorities have consulted chief justice Abdulla Saeed over the court order.

"The chief justice has asked us to implement the court order within the due process," Anil said.

Anil said the chief prosecutor had "concerns" over the court order and would now review the cases of the nine people named in the order before submitting it to the apex court.

"We've been advised [by the chief justice] to carry out things within the due process. PG has now started reviewing the cases in the list and would share the concerns he has over the order and submit it to the Supreme Court to find a way forward," the AG explained.

Once the concerns have been submitted, Anil said the government believes the Supreme Court would then decide on the best way forward.

The united opposition parties have called on their supporters from all across the country to head to the capital Male for a mass protest. Police meanwhile have used brute force to quell any protests in Male using tear gas and pepper spray which has drawn concern from the country's international partners including the United Nations (UN).