The criminal court reprimanded today two prominent lawyers who had criticised the recent jailing of religious conservative Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla on a terrorism charge.
Imran’s lawyer Ali Zahir, who is also the vice president of the Adhaalath Party, and Maumoon Hameed, who represented a former defence minister jailed on a weapons smuggling charge last year, were told to be careful while making comments about trials.
The pair were summoned to the court separately.
“There were no judges. I think it was the court’s registrar who advised me to be cautious,” Zahir told The Maldives Independent. “I was told not to defame the court. I deny this charge.”
The AP leader’s sentencing has drawn widespread condemnation from foreign governments, local NGOs, lawyers, and religious scholars. His conviction marked the first terrorism sentence passed in the Maldives over a speech made at a political gathering.
The US and the UK have urged the Maldives to end politically motivated trials.
Hameed, who is also nephew to President Abdulla Yameen, told the press that he had been warned about comments made on social media over Imran’s sentence.
The charges against Imran “made a mockery of the law,” he had said.
Charges against Sh.Imran made a mockery of the law. May Allah grant his family patience & deliver him from injustice pic.twitter.com/0N4I2rZ2gw
— Maumoon Hameed (@maanhameed) February 16, 2016
Hameed told the press today he did not believe his comments were contemptuous.
Yameen had nominated Hameed for the post of prosecutor general in 2014, but the ruling party dominated parliament voted for a former criminal court judge over Hameed.
The lawyer has been very critical of the judiciary and Yameen’s regime following charges against former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.
Imran is the fourth politician to be sentenced in the past year. Former President Mohamed Nasheed was also jailed on a terror charge last year, plunging the Maldives into political crisis.
The charge of contempt of court previously carried a jail sentence of up to six months and a fine of MVR10,000 (US$649). Earlier this month, the Supreme Court reduced the jail term because of the enactment of a new penal code, but hiked the fine up to MVR100,000 (US$6485).
The Supreme Court has also repeatedly warned lawyers against criticism of the judiciary. Several lawyers who had represented opposition politicians have been suspended or fined in the past.