Criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed repeated criticism over the validity of charges pressed against several suspects accused of assaulting a policeman during a mass anti-government demonstration on May 1.
At a hearing in the trial of two suspects held today, the chief judge questioned the PG office’s decision to charge 11 out of 13 suspects with assault using a dangerous weapon, despite evidence showing the accused beating a policeman with their hands and feet.
Video footage shows protesters tripping and kicking the Specialist Operations (SO) officer and two men hitting the policeman over the head with his helmet and baton.
The state prosecutor said the defendants – Laushan Ahmed Zahir from Gaaf Alif Gadhdhoo Lotus and Mohamed Shinaz from Shaviyani Goidhoo Malaaz – beat the policeman with their hands and feet while others used dangerous weapons.
The suspects who kicked the policeman allowed the other suspects to assault the officer with weapons and therefore participated in the assault, the state prosecutor argued.
Judge Abdulla reportedly asked the state prosecutor why the PG office has not charged all protesters who participated in the May Day demonstration.
At a hearing for two other suspects on Monday, the chief judge had said the charges must be based on the alleged offence and suggested that the PG office had pressed the wrong charges on purpose to ensure acquittals.
Defending the PG office’s decision yesterday, PG Muhthaz Muhsin told local media that two suspects was charged with assault using a dangerous weapon or sharp object whilst the rest were charged under a separate provision in the law that criminalises assisting or participating in such an assault.
Muhsin also said the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) should investigate the chief judge for allegedly “accusing the PG of filing the charges deliberately to free [the suspects].”
“Judges make decisions in cases, they don’t criticise,” he was quoted as saying by CNM.
Muhsin himself appeared at court yesterday to respond to the chief judge’s criticism.
The suspects on trial yesterday were accused of assaulting the police officer using his helmet and baton. Responding to the defence lawyers, Muhsin insisted that the items could be considered dangerous weapons under the law.
The two defendants, Abdulla Unais and Ibrahim Ibadh – both from Addu City – pleaded not guilty to the charges at yesterday’s hearing.
The historic May Day protest saw a record turnout of more than 20,000 people. Scores of protesters and some police officers were injured during violent clashes on the night of May 1 whilst nearly 200 people were arrested.
The injured policeman, Sergeant Abdul Rahman Hussain, was flown to Sri Lanka for medical treatment while the police publicised video footage of the incident and appealed for public assistance in locating suspects.
One of the 13 suspects charged in connection with the assault, Mohamed Shinan, had pleaded guilty to the charges in mid-July.