Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed was brought to court on Sunday for the first time since his arrest at the outset of a 45-day state of emergency last month.
Saeed, who was initially accused of instigating a coup after the Supreme Court ordered the release of nine prisoners, is standing trial for obstructing state functions, a charge he denies.
His lawyer Husnu Suood called Sunday’s brief preliminary hearing “arbitrary” after the presiding judge conceded that he was not following the suspended criminal procedures law.
But the law will dictate proceedings once the state of emergency expires, Judge Ahmed Hailam said, granting the defence five days to prepare.
The chief justice was arrested hours after President Abdulla Yameen invoked emergency powers on February 5, citing a plot to remove him from office and a “constitutional crisis” triggered by the court’s shock ruling.
Several constitutional rights and legal provisions that protected judges from arrest were also suspended before the security forces stormed the Supreme Court.
According to the charges read out by the state prosecutor, Saeed blocked the delivery of three letters sent by the president through GEMS, the government’s online communication portal. The letters outlined legal concerns with executing the order to release political prisoners and reinstate opposition lawmakers.
Roads around the criminal court were guarded by dozens of police officers when Saeed was brought to Malé from the Dhoonidhoo detention island.
The trial begins with the state of emergency due to expire Thursday and the authorities seeking remand orders against lawmakers and policemen detained under emergency powers.
The detainees, including former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and two ex-police chiefs, were deprived of due process rights such as being informed of charges and taken before a judge in 24 hours.
Today during CJ Abdulla Sayeed’s trial the judge gave a ruling that “the trial will proceed arbitrarily” and that “no written procedures will be followed during the trial for the duration of the SoE”. During the trial PG lawyers adamantly defended this ruling. #MaldivesCrisis
— Hisaan ؟🎈 (@hisaanhussain) March 18, 2018
Judge presiding over the criminal trial against Maldives Justice categorically states that not procedural rules will apply to the trial and the trial will be arbitrary. What a day! https://t.co/zUE4rb9oW5
— Husnu Al Suood (@hsuood) March 18, 2018