The criminal court today transferred Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla to house arrest, citing the state’s violation of an order to provide access to medical care.
The second hearing of Imran’s terrorism trial took place this afternoon, four months after the religious conservative party’s leader was charged with terrorism. He is accused of inciting violence during a speech at an anti-government rally on May 1.
Imran has been under state custody for more than 160 days.
His trial is resuming at a time of heightened tension in Malé following an explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat. The president escaped unhurt. The government says the blast was an assassination attempt.
At today’s hearing, Imran, who was brought to court in two cuffs, alleged mistreatment at the low-security ‘Asseyri’ jail on Himmafushi island.
Imran said he was denied medical attention and said his health has been deteriorating since his transfer to jail. He also complained of mosquitos, insufficient sunlight, and bad sleeping conditions.
State prosecutors asked the three-judge panel for more time to determine whether Imran was properly cared for in prison.
But presiding Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf denied the request and ruled that the state had failed in ensuring Imran’s health and safety, a condition attached to the court’s order to hold him in detention.
Presenting Imran’s defence, lawyer Husnu Suood argued that the prosecution is unable to provide a basis for the terrorism charge.
Prosecutors had lifted charges under Article 2 of the Anti- Terrorism Act, which states that promoting fear amongst the public or causing destruction of property constitute acts of terrorism.
“It is not even clear which of the elements Imran is accused of violating,” the former attorney general said.
Suood was involved in drafting the 1990 anti-terrorism law.
He went on to ask state prosecutors to identify the exact sentence of Imran’s speech where he is alleged to have warned the state of destruction of private and public property or made threats endangering lives.
“If the state is to give an interpretation of Imran speech, then, he is clear of any crime. Because if his speech is to be interpreted then it is doubtful whether he actually meant what the prosecution says he said or meant, this creates sufficient doubt to clear him,” Suood said.
While violent clashes erupted between protesters and riot police during the May Day protest, Suood stressed that Imran had explicitly urged protesters “not to succumb to violence”.
He added: “If anyone had done so, it was against Imran’s advice. In that case, Imran cannot be prosecuted under the Anti-Terrorism Act.”
Suood insisted that Imran had spoken against violence in his speech at the 20,000-strong demonstration, telling protesters that his aim was was to “guide the government to the right path.” He noted that Imran had also said that “we are against tyranny and no one will be subjected to violence from us.”
“There is not a single sentence in his speech that could be even considered phrases that fuelled violence,” Suood said.
The state prosecutors meanwhile submitted evidence against Imran, including 10 unidentified witnesses, video footage of his speech, and minutes of a meeting between Adhaalath Party leaders and the police ahead of the May Day rally.
Adjourning the hearing, Judge Bari said the court will consider the prosecution’s evidence. He did not announce a date for the next hearing.
The criminal court had previously claimed that the trial was delayed because a new courtroom was undergoing renovation. Today’s hearing, however, was not conducted in a new courtroom.
Imran was initially arrested on the night of May 1 and released after 27 days.
He was arrested for a second time on June 1 and charged with terrorism. The court at the time ordered Imran to be held in remand detention for the duration of the trial. The trial had remained stalled after a single hearing when two of the three presiding judges were promoted to the High Court on June 8 .
In July, Imran was transferred from a remand centre to a high security prison on Maafushi Island. On August 5, the chief judge of the criminal court, Abdulla Mohamed, transferred Imran to house arrest, citing health concerns.
But Judge Bari held a surprise hearing the next day and ordered Imran be taken back into state custody. He cited findings in a police intelligence report which was not shared with defence lawyers.