Legal Politics

Abrupt change of presiding judge in opposition MP’s remand appeal

Dhiggaru MP Faris Maumoon arrives at the Criminal Court for his preliminary hearing. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED/MIHAARU

The High Court on Monday appointed Judge Shujau Usman as the presiding judge of Dhiggaru MP Faris Maumoon’s remand appeal trial.

While the High Court has ended the appeal hearings for the Criminal Court’s verdict to detain MP Faris until the end of his trial, an additional hearing with the new judge was scheduled for Monday. However, the hearing was abruptly cancelled.

Judge Ali Sameer had presided over MP Faris’s case initially; the rest of the panel hearing his case remains the same with Chief Judge of the High Court Abdullah Didi and Judge Abdul Rauf Didi on the panel.

Judge Shujau Usman was recently moved to capital Male’s branch of the High court from his post at the Southern branch in Addu City. The Supreme Court had ordered the transfer of three judges from the Southern branch, following a backlog of cases at the High Court in the capital.

The reason for the hearing’s cancellation was not divulged. However, it is procedure to hold a hearing before announcing the verdict if the presiding judge of a case has been changed after the official hearings have been concluded.

The lawmaker son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was arrested and remanded under a court order until the end of his trial. He was arrested for allegedly bribing lawmakers to garner support for the opposition lobbied censure motion against the parliament speaker in March.

However, the official charges initially forwarded by the Prosecutor General’s Office to the Criminal Court indicted MP Faris under Section 510 (a) of the Penal Code, which is “Accepting Bribe”. The PG Office later amended the indictment to Section 510 (b) of the Penal Code, which is “Offering Bribe”. The change was made without withdrawing the case from court.

His lawyer Maumoon Hameed had protested the decision on Sunday and declared that the statue of limitations for changing the charge had already passed when the prosecution amended it.

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