The verdict in the trial of a Raajje TV cameraman charged with obstructing police officers was delayed Monday.
Adam Zareer was told the judge overseeing his case had called in sick and postponed the verdict to February 27 when he turned up at the criminal court at 2pm.
Zareer was arrested in March 2015 during the opposition-aligned station’s coverage of an anti-government protest. The court heard closing arguments in Zareer’s case on November 29.
The 29-year-old cameraman has denied charges, contending that he was at protest to report. He said he was carrying his camera and had an accredited press pass.
Prosecutors are requesting a prison sentence of four months and 24 days, but defence counsel have appealed for the judge to impose a fine in lieu of imprisonment if Zareer was found guilty.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, Zareer previously said he was willing to risk jail to continue reporting. “I am not guilty of a crime, I know it and the whole world knows it. Why should I hide?’
Meanwhile, Mohamed Wisam, a journalist at Raajje TV who was arrested along with Zareer, was also charged over the incident. Hearings in Wisam’s trial have been stalled as the prosecution’s witnesses were out of the country, but are expected to resume on Wednesday.
Prosecutors are expected to present testimony at the next hearing.
The criminal court has previously found Wisam and a third journalist at Raajje TV, Leevan Ali Nasir, guilty of obstructing office officers.
After delivering the guilty verdict, the judge unexpectedly delayed sentencing the pair to January 24.
Wisam and Leevan are the first journalists to be convicted in more than a decade.
Wisam and Leevan were arrested on November 2, 2015 along with another journalist while covering a bomb scare in the capital. They were accused of tackling a police officer to prevent the arrest of Hussain Fiyaz Moosa, Raajje TV’s chief operating officer.
All three later alleged physical abuse in custody.
The prosecution of the three journalists stand in stark contrast to the lack of justice for crimes committed against the press, including the disappearance of Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan, the arson attack on Raajje TV, the near-fatal beating of the station’s former news head, Asward Ibrahim Waheed, and the mass death threats sent via text messages to journalists.