In a major relief for former President Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldivian High Court on Monday stayed temporarily the trial against him in an abuse of power case till it decides legitimacy of the bench of the lower court.

The temporary injunction was granted after Nr, Nasheed’s counsel challenged the legitimacy of the bench, asking the High Court to declare the composition of the Hulhumale Court bench unlawful.

The High Court order comes three days ahead of Mr. Nasheed’s hearing at the Hulhumale Court over the arrest and subsequent detention of Chief Criminal Judge Abdulla Mohamed during his term, Haveeru daily reported.

The composition of the three Judge bench of the Hulhumale Court by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has been up for much debate recently and is also being probed by the Parliament’s Independent Bodies Committee.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has maintained that Mr. Nasheed’s trial is a “politically motivated sham” designed to disqualify him from the upcoming presidential election slated for September 7.

If convicted and sentenced to more than one year in prison, Mr. Nasheed would be barred from leading MDP into the presidential polls.

Mr. Nasheed was arrested on March 5, less than a fortnight after he left the Indian High Commission in Male where he took shelter for 11 days to evade arrest in the case.

After spending 24 hours in detention, 45-year-old Mr. Nasheed walked out of police custody on March 6.

During the last hearing, Mr. Nasheed had sought deferment of trial till the Presidential polls in September. The Prosecutor too had agreed to the proposal.

However, noting that the Elections Commission is yet to announce MR. Nasheed as a presidential candidate for the elections, the Bench had postponed the trial by four weeks.

His arrest led to protests by Mr. Nasheed’s supporters who also indulged in violence.

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