The Prosecutor General’s office has revised charges raised against MP Faris Maumoon from accepting bribes to offering to bribe fellow lawmakers to back the impeachment of the speaker.
An official from the PG office said the change was made without withdrawing the case from the criminal court, which has since handed over case documents to the defence but is yet to schedule the first hearing.
Faris, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was charged under section 510(b) of the penal code, a class three felony offence that carries a jail term of more than three years. The MP for the Dhiggaru constituency was arrested in the wake of the opposition coalition securing the parliament’s majority with defections from the ruling party.
The revision of the charges last week came after defence lawyers filed a motion seeking his immediate release. The continued detention was in violation of the court order that placed Faris in custody for the duration of a trial on charges of offering bribes, lawyers contended.
Earlier this month, defence lawyer Maumoon Hameed told the press that the bribery charge was based on “fabricated evidence,” citing irregularities in a police forensic report of Faris’s mobile phone that was submitted by the prosecution.
According to the police, the phone was confiscated on June 5, but the report noted photos found on June 15 and screenshots of conversations on July 3, Hameed said.
A High Court hearing of an appeal challenging the legality of Faris’s arrest and detention has meanwhile been scheduled for Monday. The appellate court is expected to deliver a judgment as hearings were concluded in early August.
Before his arrest nearly two months ago, Faris categorically denied the bribery allegations, expressing confidence that the police would not possess “legitimate” video or audio evidence as claimed.
Faris was leading the push to unseat Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed after his father joined forces with the opposition in late March. He was questioned by the police five times ahead of the March 27 no-confidence vote against the speaker and later barred from travelling overseas.
In his speeches at joint opposition rallies, Gayoom has slammed Faris’s detention and prosecution as grossly unfair, repeatedly pointing to the lack of action against a ruling coalition lawmaker who had publicly admitted to “carrying sacks of money” to bribe MPs.
Faris is also on trial over the alleged unauthorised use of the flag and logo of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives at a joint opposition press conference.
The identity fraud trial is due to resume on October 8.
Faris was expelled from the PPM in July last year for voting against government-sponsored legislation at his father’s behest.
The PPM was split into rival factions after an acrimonious leadership dispute former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his half-brother President Abdulla Yameen.
Yameen won the battle for control of the PPM after the civil court stripped the elder Gayoom of his powers as the party’s elected leader and lifted his suspension of the party’s council.
The court ordered Yameen to resume council meetings under his leadership and the governing body promptly put him in charge of the party. But Gayoom reacted by reconstituting the council and appointing loyalists to key posts, maintaining that the PPM charter prohibits a sitting president, who has a symbolic role as advisor, from managing the party.
The 79-year-old former strongman went on to sign a pact with opposition leaders to form a broad coalition in late March.
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