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Courtroom chaos ahead of state of emergency expiry

The criminal court was busy Wednesday as the authorities scrambled to keep “coup plotters” in custody after a 45-day state of emergency expires this week.



The criminal court was a hive of activity Wednesday as the authorities scrambled to keep “coup plotters” in custody when a 45-day state of emergency expires this week.

Remand hearings for former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his son-in-law Mohamed Nadheem, Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, judicial administrator Hassan Saeed, MP Faris Maumoon, ex-police chief Ahmed Areef and Villa company boss Ibrahim Siyad Gasim were all scheduled for midday.

Lawyers called the schedule “impossible” and “designed for maximum inconvenience” amid delays throughout the day as their clients were brought to Malé from the nearby Dhoonidhoo detention island.

Dismissing legal and constitutional arguments about their arrests under emergency powers last month, the court ordered the high-profile detainees to be held for the duration of upcoming trials.

Gayoom’s lawyers said they will appeal as his detention was “unlawful” and “arbitrary” with constitutional rights and criminal procedures suspended until the state of emergency ends Thursday night.

The orders come after terrorism and bribery charges were raised against 11 detainees accused of conspiring to overthrow the government.

The opposition contends the charges are politically motivated. Briefing the press outside the courthouse, MP Ali Hussain accused the chief public prosecutor of doing the government’s bidding by publicly alleging guilt and disclosing evidence before it was presented at court.

Remand hearings for MP Faris, ex-police commissioner Areef, and Siyad, son of exiled Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, concluded late Tuesday night, hours after they were brought to court. They were also detained until the conclusion of trials.

Gayoom’s son-in-law Nadheem was reportedly brought to Malé around 5:30 pm but the remand hearing concluded around 1:20 am. MP Sinan was taken back to Dhoonidhoo around midnight after his hearing was cancelled.

Top opposition lawyers were meanwhile reprimanded by the court over critical statements in the media.

Former president Gayoom’s lawyer Mohamed Faisal was summoned after he told reporters that court officials refused to let him meet his client on Tuesday.

The 80-year-old was kept waiting for seven hours and told that the hearing was cancelled. He was brought back to the capital Wednesday afternoon.

Former attorney general Husnu Suood was suspended by the court while his co-counsel Hisaan Hussain was asked to sign an apology for calling the chief justice’s obstruction trial arbitrary.

In a statement Tuesday, the court threatened action against those who “spread lies about the court and incite hatred towards its judges.”