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High Court overturns MP Riyaz’s acquittal

The Jumhooree Party deputy leader was charged with obstruction of law enforcement over his refusal to unlock his iPhone. He has been sentenced to nearly five months in prison.



The High Court on Tuesday overturned MP Abdulla Riyaz’s acquittal on obstruction charges, after the state appealed the not guilty verdict in July last year.

The Jumhooree Party deputy leader was charged with obstruction of law enforcement over his refusal to unlock his iPhone. A three-judge panel of the criminal court ruled in July that criminal intent was not proven and that Riyaz was arrested in contravention of the parliamentary privileges law.

At a separate sentencing hearing, the High Court sentenced the former police chief to four months and 24 days, the maximum jail term for the obstruction charge, Raajje TV reported.

The MP for Thaa Kinbidhoo does not lose his seat as the constitution states that only MPs who are jailed for more than one year will be disqualified. However, he will not be able to attend parliament sittings or committee meetings.

Riyaz was previously detained for an upcoming terrorism trial over an alleged coup plot instigated by the Supreme Court. He was arrested under emergency powers last month and accused of seeking information from individual police officers about ongoing investigations.

The three-judge High Court panel hearing the appeal was reconstituted before the previous hearing on April 2, with Shujau Usman – who also took over from Abdulla Didi as the presiding judge – and Abdul Gani Mohamed replacing Abdul Rauf Ibrahim and Ali Sameer.

The penultimate hearing saw heated exchanges between the lawmaker’s attorney and the state prosecutor, who contended that Riyaz was not under arrest when police sought to execute a court order authorising the phone seizure.

But he was arrested while he was on his way to a joint opposition rally, hours after a failed attempt to impeach the parliament speaker, the lawmaker told the court. He was taken on a police vehicle to a district station and kept in a room before being taken to police headquarters, he said.

The lower court’s verdict last year drew criticism from President Abdulla Yameen during a rare press conference in July.

The MP for Thaa Kibidhoo served as police chief from February 2012 until his resignation in November 2013, shortly after Yameen assumed office.

He was previously interrogated by the police over comments he had made about the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali and the torching of the Raajje TV studios, both of which occurred while was the commissioner.