On Thursday night the Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of nine high-profile prisoners.
Days beforehand President Abdulla Yameen told the party faithful he had a duty to interfere in the running of the court if it was losing its way. His comments came as the court was considering the registration of a motion, filed by the opposition alliance, that he be removed from power.
Thursday’s ruling says the trials of the nine named individuals violated the constitution and international law. It said prosecutors and judges were unduly influenced “to conduct politically motivated investigations” against them.
The court has annulled all proceedings against them and ordered their release until a fair retrial. Who are these nine and what were they alleged to have done?
Mohamed Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison on controversial terrorism charges in 2015. His jailing after a rushed trial, marred by apparent due process violations, was ruled illegal and politically motivated by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. He is now eligible to run for president as his conviction has been overturned and he has declared his intention to stand.
Former defence minister Mohamed Nazim was convicted of smuggling dangerous weapons and sentenced to 11 years in jail. His legal team said the pistol and bullets were planted by rogue officers on the orders of then-Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb. Last year Adeeb offered to testify in court to prove Nazim’s innocence.
Ahmed Adeeb was sentenced to 15 years for an alleged assassination attempt on Yameen. He was convicted of graft that same year and handed an eight-year term. He is serving a total of 33 years as he had already been handed a 10-year sentence for plotting a terror attack. Last month he was charged for bribing intelligence officials while he was in government.
Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in 2016 on terror charges. Like Nazim, Sheikh Imran was briefly transferred to house arrest before going back to prison. Adeeb earlier this year accused the president of instigating unrest during the 2015 May Day protest with the intention of jailing Sheikh Imran.
Opposition leader and industry magnate Gasim Ibrahim was found guilty of bribery last year and given a prison term in absentia after collapsing in the courthouse. He is currently in Germany, having fled there after being granted medical leave, and has had his resorts targeted by police and customs officials in his absence.
MP Faris Maumoon was released after six months in custody while on trial for bribery but was arrested days later on the orders of his uncle – the president – for attempting to overthrow the government. He also faces an identity fraud charge. On February 1, hours before the landmark ruling, he submitted a case to the Supreme Court asking for supervisory jurisdiction to ensure a fair trial.
Former prosecutor general Muhthaaz Muhsin was found guilty of terrorism for conspiring to kidnap Yameen and was handed a 17-year sentence. He had been removed from his post in 2015 by the pro-government majority in parliament following reports he was stalling bribery charges against Adeeb. Muhsin oversaw the controversial prosecutions of Nasheed and Nazim.
Ahmed Nihan, a senior judge at a magistrate court, was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 17 years in jail in 2016. He was convicted of conspiring to kidnap Yameen by forging a warrant for his arrest over the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal. He is not to be confused with ruling party politician Ahmed Nihan.
Hamid Ismail, who is related to Adeeb, was jailed on a money-laundering charge. He was accused of aiding and abetting the theft of resort lease payments, arrested and extradited from Malaysia on suspicion of links to an explosion on Yameen’s speedboat, released and immediately placed under arrest for alleged money laundering. Public prosecutors later withdrew the charge and filed charges of aiding and abetting theft.