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Court rejects defence witnesses from Gayoom and judges

Obstruction of justice carries a jail term of almost five months.

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The Criminal Court decided Sunday not to hear defence witnesses in the trial of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and two Supreme Court justices.

After five prosecution witnesses concluded their testimony, Judge Hassan Najeeb declared that he saw no reason to call witnesses for the defence, local media reported.

There would be closing arguments at the final hearing on Tuesday, he announced.

Gayoom, along with Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed, were charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly refusing to hand over their mobile phones for a police investigation. All three have dismissed the charges as “politically motivated.”

The charge carries a prison term of nearly five months.

The three were without legal representation during Sunday night’s hearing after their lawyers boycotted the trial over  “grave procedural defects.” They reportedly declined to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses.

Judge Najeeb, who was appointed to the bench in early May, rejected appeals to delay the hearing until new lawyers could be appointed.

He also dismissed Gayoom’s pleas to reschedule to allow for worship and prayer on Laylat al-Qadr, the night when the first verses of the Quran are believed to have been revealed.

Four policemen told the court that the three refused to hand over their phones when they were arrested shortly after a state of emergency was declared on February 5.

Police were unable to find the mobile phones after searching Gayoom’s home and the Supreme Court.

According to the testimony, Saeed and Hameed called the police officers that stormed the court “criminals” and refused to hand over their phones, which could not be found on the premises.

The court also heard secret testimony from an anonymised witness, prompting objections from Gayoom.

Citing the Prophet’s (pbuh) teachings, Gayoom argued that it was contrary to Islamic shariah, which prohibits false testimony. But prosecutor Aishath Reesha noted that secret testimony was allowed by the criminal procedures law.

Gayoom and the justices are also standing trial on terrorism charges over an alleged coup plot. Saeed and Hameed have been convicted on separate charges of obstruction and influencing official conduct.

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