The judicial watchdog has launched a major overhaul of the criminal court bench as the court prepares to begin hearing terror charges against officials and soldiers implicated in an alleged assassination attempt on President Abdulla Yameen.
Judges Ahmed Sameer Abdul Azeez and Abdulla Nasheed were reassigned to the family court on February 24, the Judicial Services Commission said.
The pair were moved on their own request, a JSC spokesman said.
A total of five judges have now been transferred from the criminal court in the past year.
The criminal court’s offices are also to be relocated to a new building. The move was announced after Yameen moved to the statehouse Hilaaleege, located next to the current criminal court building.
Trials have been suspended until Wednesday for the relocation.
The criminal court bench now consists of five judges, Bari, Saeed Ibrahim, Ahmed Rasheed, Ibrahim Ali and Muhthaz Fahmy.
The court’s Chief Judge, Abdulla Mohamed, was abruptly transferred to the family court on February 21. The JSC did not specify a reason for the move.
Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf, involved in the jailing of opposition politicians, including former President Mohamed Nasheed, was placed in charge.
Local papers, Raajje TV and CNM, reported that Bari had sent a memo ordering all judges to consult with him before delivering verdicts in cases involving “national interest.”
A criminal court spokesman said he was unaware of such an order.
The court is now preparing to try Adeeb and five soldiers over the September blast on Yameen’s speedboat, which the government insists was caused by a bomb.
Adeeb’s arrest the following month on suspicion of links to the blast plunged the Maldives into chaos, resulting in a purge of the security forces and the cabinet. The crisis also unearthed a historic corruption scandal involving the theft of US$80million from tourism leases.
Adeeb is already on trial for corruption over the tourism scandal, and another count of terrorism on a charge of carrying a pistol.
Terror charges have also been filed against former chief prosecutor Muhthaz Muhsin and a magistrate court judge for allegedly plotting to overthrow Yameen by forging an arrest warrant in February.
Former criminal court chief judge Abdulla was transferred soon after he refused to Mushin’s remand following his arrest. Muhsin was previously a criminal court judge until his appointment as the Prosecutor General.