Former Defence Minister Ameen Faisal has been charged with terrorism over the military’s controversial detention of then-MP Abdulla Yameen in July 2010.
The trial was scheduled to begin at 1:00pm Tuesday afternoon but the first hearing was cancelled by the criminal court. The Prosecutor General’s office filed the case on October 24.
Faisal, who also served as national security advisor during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration, was questioned by the police last September about Yameen’s nine-day detention on the presidential retreat island Aarah.
Faisal’s lawyer said the police accused his client of ordering the incumbent president’s “abduction,” an offence that carries a jail term of up to 15 years under the now-defunct Anti Terrorism Act of 1990.
After his interrogation, Faisal insisted that Yameen “was never arrested unlawfully.”
The former defence minister was barred from leaving the country. The chief of defence forces at the time, Major General Moosa Ali Jaleel, was also summoned for questioning in September.
It is unclear whether Jaleel is also facing terrorism charges.
Yameen, who was an MP with the minority opposition People’s Alliance party at the time, was first arrested by the police in late June 2010 on charges of conspiring to topple the government. However, the supreme court declared his arrest unlawful and ordered his release.
Two weeks later, the Maldives National Defence Forces took Yameen into what it called “protective custody” on July 14, 2010, after violent clashes erupted outside his residence between pro-government and opposition supporters. The unrest occurred amid an acrimonious deadlock between the executive and the opposition-majority parliament.
In a phone interview from Aarah, Yameen told a television station that he was being held against his will. He was only allowed access to his family and lawyer.
The MNDF refused to comply with court orders to present Yameen before the criminal court, drawing international concern and leading to the suspension of parliamentary proceedings.
Nasheed said he was “forced” to isolate political leaders and government officials claimed Yameen’s detention was necessary because of risks to his safety by an irate public.
At the time, Yameen and Gasim Ibrahim, the leader of the Jumhooree Party, were under investigation on charges of treason, bribery and corruption. Six MPs of the then-ruling party had accused the pair of offering bribes to vote in favour of impeaching the president.
The pair had been arrested on June 29, 2010, hours after Nasheed’s entire cabinet resigned in protest over what it called “scorched earth tactics” of the parliament, which had passed several laws curtailing the executive’s powers. The next day, the criminal court transferred the pair to house arrest for three days.
Recordings of discussions between Yameen, Gasim and other lawmakers implicating them in apparent bribery were posted on the Internet shortly after their release.
The civil court later ruled Yameen’s detention unconstitutional and ordered the police to pay out MVR244,000 (US$15,823) in damages.
Nasheed was meanwhile handed a 13-year jail sentence in March last year. The opposition leader was also charged with terrorism over the military’s “abduction” of the criminal court’s chief judge.