Jail sentences against two of the Maldives’ top judges were reduced Sunday, a rare piece of good news for the beleaguered pair who are being tried on multiple charges.
Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed were convicted and sentenced in May for influencing official conduct, with the presiding judge handing down a prison term of almost 20 months.
The High Court on Sunday upheld the Criminal Court’s conviction, but reduced the jail sentence following an appeal.
Saeed and Hameed’s lawyers had asked the High Court to overrule the conviction by presenting 15 appeal points.
These included a conflict of interest involving the lower court’s judge, hearings being held without access to lawyers and the charge being proven beyond reasonable doubt with only two secret witnesses.
The High Court rejected all appeal points as grounds for overruling the conviction but reviewed the punishment.
The offence of influencing official conduct is a class five felony under the penal code. The baseline punishment is nine to 18 months in jail. The reduced sentence for the two judges is one year, two months and twelve days.
The next and final stage of appeal for Saeed and Hameed is the Supreme Court, which has been functioning with a three-member bench after the pair’s arrest in February.
If it is upheld by the apex court, it will trigger the pair’s automatic removal from the bench.
Controversial legal changes were pushed through in March to remove convicted judges without the parliamentary vote called for by the constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority to approve a finding of gross incompetence or misconduct by the judicial watchdog.
They have denied all charges against them and denounced the trials.