Crime Legal Politics

Maldives chief justice found guilty

The country’s highest-ranking judge was Tuesday found guilty of obstruction of state function and sentenced to four months and 24 days in prison.

Abdulla Saeed, who became the first chief justice in Maldivian history to face criminal prosecution, was accused of ordering the suspension of the government’s e-letter management system (GEMS) to block the delivery of three letters.

The letters from President Abdulla Yameen outlined legal concerns with executing the February 1 Supreme Court order to release nine of his opponents and reinstate opposition lawmakers.

Saeed was arrested hours after Yameen invoked emergency powers on February 5, citing a plot to remove him from office and a “constitutional crisis” triggered by the court’s shock ruling.

Several constitutional rights and legal provisions that protected judges from arrest were suspended before security forces stormed the Supreme Court.

Saeed’s conviction will trigger automatic removal from the bench if the verdict is upheld by the appeal courts.

Controversial legal changes were pushed through in March to remove convicted judges without the parliamentary vote called for by the constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority to approve a finding of gross incompetence or misconduct by the judicial watchdog.

Saeed, who denied the “fabricated” obstruction charge, is also standing trial on other charges.

He is accused of terrorism over the alleged plot to topple the government, accepting bribes to issue the February 1 order and obstruction of justice for allegedly refusing to hand over his phone for a police investigation.

He denies the charges, calling the terror allegations baseless and expressing concern at the speed of the trials.

Saeed’s detention was widely condemned as politically motivated.

During closing arguments on Monday, a visibly distressed Saeed contested the obstruction of state functions charge on the grounds that the Prosecutor General lacks the constitutional authority to challenge apex court decisions.

“Abdulla Saeed was there as the chief justice. I can’t be made a criminal. I didn’t enter the Supreme Court illegally,” he told the court.

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Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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