The criminal court heard closing arguments Tuesday in Jumhooree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz’s trial on an obstruction charge raised over his refusal to unlock his mobile phone.
The state prosecutor contended that the refusal amounted to obstruction of police duty with criminal intent as Riyaz’s phone was confiscated with a court warrant.
Responding to the defence’s argument that the lawmaker was exercising his right to remain silent with the refusal to unlock his phone, the prosecutor claimed that Riyaz waived the right during the interrogation.
The charge of obstructing a law enforcement officer is a class one misdemeanour that carries a jail term of four months and 24 days.
The judge concluded proceedings yesterday without announcing a date for the sentencing hearing.
Riyaz, a former police chief and the JP’s deputy leader, was put on trial in early April amidst an intensified crackdown after a new alliance formed between opposition parties and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom sought to seize the parliament’s majority.
JP leader Gasim Ibrahim is also on trial on charges of attempting to bribe and unduly influence lawmakers.
Hours after the alliance sought unsuccessfully to impeach the speaker of parliament on March 27, the police confiscated Riyaz’s phone and interrogated him on charges of spreading false rumours and attempting to influence the police force.
He was summoned for questioning again on April 2 and asked to unlock his mobile phone.
Presenting the closing statement for the defence, Riyaz’s lawyer Ali Zahir stressed that the warrant issued to confiscate the phone did not compel Riyaz to unlock it.
Riyaz told reporters at the time that three attempts to unlock his iPhone were unsuccessful as his previous passcode did not work. The police then asked him to unlock the phone with his fingerprint, but Riyaz said he refused as he was not obliged to do so by the court warrant
Zahir also accused the police of trying to unlock the iPhone without Riyaz’s consent.
When Riyaz tried to unlock the phone in court during a previous hearing of the trial, the phone became disabled for 10 minutes because he entered the wrong passcode, Zahir explained.
But the iPhone disables itself when the wrong code has been entered five minutes, he noted, adding that it is only disabled for one minute after five wrong attempts.
It was evident from witness testimony that Riyaz only entered the wrong code three times during the police interrogation, Zahir said, which proves police officers later tried to unlock the phone several times.
But testifying for the prosecution, the police officer who prepared the forensic report for the phone previously told the court that he did not try to unlock the phone with the passcode.
The officer said his attempts to unlock the iPhone using a special software were unsuccessful.
Zahir went on to say that the case against Riyaz should be withdrawn because he has voluntarily unlocked the phone. He also noted that the police informed Riyaz of attempts to seek a second warrant to compel him to unlock the phone.
Riyaz has also formally asked the Prosecutor General’s office to withdraw the case.
Contrary to the prosecution’s claim, Zahir said Riyaz did try to exercise the right to remain silent but was told by the police interrogators that he could not do so due to the court order.
He was later informed of his rights when he was summoned for questioning again the following day, Zahir said, contending that evidence gathered during a questionable investigation process should be inadmissible at court.
Riyaz has been a vocal critic of President Abdulla Yameen since the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives severed its coalition agreement with the JP in 2014.
He served as police chief from February 2012 until his resignation in November 2013, shortly after Yameen assumed office.
In May 2015, Riyaz was interrogated by the police over comments he had made about the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali and the torching of the Raajje TV studios, both of which occurred while was the commissioner of police.