Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed has denied the “baseless” terrorism charge over an alleged plot to topple the government, local media reported.
The charge sheet was read out at Monday night’s pretrial hearing.
Saeed is accused of unduly using his influence as chief justice to overthrow the government by putting national security and public safety at risk. He is also accused of accepting bribes to issue the February 1 Supreme Court order for the release of nine political prisoners.
Defence attorneys argued the charge cannot be pressed under the anti-terror law as he is accused of attempting to topple the government.
Lawyer Noorusalam Abubakuru said the charge must be pressed under clause 610 of the penal code, which labels coups as an offence.
Assistant prosecutor general Aishath Fazna said Saeed was charged for accepting bribes to issue the order by threatening national security.
Lawyer Hisaan Hussain said Saeed was also on trial for bribery and asked if that part of the charge sheet would become invalid if he was found not guilty of bribery.
A Supreme Court from February 1 order violated legal principles, the state prosecutor said, prompting defence attorneys to ask about the remaining three justices at the top court.
Noorusalam said the ruling, ordering the release of President Abdulla Yameen’s opponents, was unanimously issued by the five-member bench of the Supreme Court but that only two were on trial.
Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed are facing prosecution while Justices Adam Mohamed Abdulla, Abdulla Areef and Dr. Ahmed Abdulla Didi remain on the bench.
Judge Adam Hailam asked prosecutors if the charge applied to the other three, but Fazna said the order was issued after Saeed and Hameed accepted bribes and influenced the other justices.
Hailam decided to continue with the trial. The state presented 16 anonymous witnesses and 32 documents, with some of the evidence secret.
Saeed’s legal team asked the judge to review his arrest, but the judge ruled against it.
Hisaan said the chief justice was being held in custody in violation of the anti-torture law and was not provided with a TV or radio while in isolation at Maafushi prison.
But the prosecutor said he was allowed out of his cell everyday, according to documents provided by the Maldives Correctional Service.
Hisaan refuted the claim and Judge Hailam said the court would look into the matter.
— Confusion and controversy —
Saeed is also on trial for three separate charges of obstruction of justice, obstruction of state functions and accepting bribes. He denies all charges against him.
His hearings have been peppered with confusion, controversy and dissent.
A lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous, previously told the Maldives Independent that “the ongoing politically motivated trials” of the justices and key politicians “prove the recklessness of court procedures.”
“It is alarming that a judge does not know what is happening in a trial he is presiding over,” said the lawyer.
He claimed that such irregularities and questionable decisions are a “result of fast-tracking trials without regard to the laws and regulations.”