The Maldives Chief Justice, Abdulla Saeed, suspended 56 lawyers last night, banning them from attending court. The announcement of the lawyers’ indefinite suspension was made through a late-night edict issued by the Department of Judicial Affairs, which Saeed heads.
The Joint Opposition alleged that “no due process was followed.”
The ban was issued hours after a petition, calling on the government and judiciary to uphold the rule of law and signed by the 56 lawyers, was delivered to the Attorney-General. The Supreme Court had previously refused to accept the lawyer’s petition.
The petition included a string of complaints by lawyers against the government and judiciary, including frequent irregularities in conducting trial proceedings, the misuse of the Terrorism Act, and the Supreme Court’s exercise of power beyond that permitted by the Constitution.
The 56 suspended lawyers practice a wide-range of law, ranging from human rights to family and commercial law. They represent over 30% of all lawyers
permitted to practice law at the Criminal Court. The opposition is effectively left with no legal defence. Those banned include former President Mohamed Nasheed’s entire legal team, all senior lawyers representing opposition leader Gasim Ibrahim, lawyers representing the 13 MPs currently facing prosecution; and the lawyers representing 3 MPs who have been unconstitutionally stripped of their seats by the Elections Commission.
The joint opposition called on the international community to consider imposing targeted travel and financial sanctions specifically on Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed.