The judicial watchdog has approved a proposal by the Supreme Court to transfer the long-serving and controversial chief judge of the criminal court to the family court.
The Judicial Service Commission decided to transfer Judge Abdulla Mohamed during a meeting held at 11:00pm last night. The oversight body said in a statement that the judge will be transferred to the family court on February 21, but did not offer any reasons for the change.
The JSC is meanwhile investigating Family Court Chief Judge Hassan Saeed over alleged ethical misconduct.
The constitution entrusts the power and responsibility of appointing, promoting, transferring and taking disciplinary action against judges to the independent 10-member commission, but the Supreme Court last month enacted new regulations requiring its approval for the transfer of judges.
Judge Abdulla had played an outsized role in Maldivian politics during the past eight years.
In October last year, he held a secret meeting with President Abdulla Yameen a week before the arrest of former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb on suspicion of plotting to assassinate the president.
The influential judge’s removal from the criminal court comes amidst heightened political tension in the wake of a damning audit report exposing the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal.
Judge Abdulla had taken a leave of absence last week after the High Court overturned the criminal court’s refusal to order former Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin’s detention.
Muhthaz – a former criminal court judge – was detained along with a magistrate on charges of forging a warrant for the arrest of President Yameen over his alleged involvement in embezzling nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism company.
Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf was meanwhile put in charge of the criminal court as acting chief judge.
Judge Bari had previously overruled the chief judge after the latter transferred Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla to house arrest in August last year.
Bari – who is under fire over his conduct in Imran’s terrorism trial – was part of a three-judge panel that sentenced former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim to prison in early 2015. The pair’s imprisonment triggered a year-long political crisis.
After a widely criticised terrorism trial in March, Nasheed was found guilty of ordering the “abduction” of Judge Abdulla by the military in January 2012.
In his closing statement at the trial, Nasheed had said that the police suspected the judge’s involvement in a “contract killing” after he released a murder suspect in February 2011 to “hold the health minister accountable” for the government-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital’s failure to provide a medical report to the police.
Following his release, Ibrahim Shahum allegedly stabbed 21-year-old Ahusan Basheer to death in March 2011.
In July 2010, then-deputy police commissioner accused the chief judge of obstructing “high-profile corruption investigations” after he suspended two police lawyers on “ethical grounds.”
After Judge Abdulla was taken into military custody on January 16, 2012, then-Home Minister Hassan Afeef contended that the chief judge had taken “the entire criminal justice system in his fist.” The judge actively undermined cases against drug trafficking suspects and had allowed them opportunity to “fabricate false evidence after hearings had concluded”.
On the day of his arrest, police summoned the chief judge for questioning. However, the High Court quashed the summons in an unprecedented move after Judge Abdulla challenged its legality.
“After the police failed to summon Judge Abdulla for questioning, and after continuing the investigation as far as possible without questioning him, the police found that Judge Abdulla constituted a threat to national security,” Nasheed had said in his closing statement.
Nasheed also referred to numerous complaints against the chief judge submitted to the JSC, which in November 2011 found him guilty of ethical misconduct after he made political statements in the media.
However, the civil court issued a stay order halting disciplinary action against the judge by the judicial watchdog.
In several complaints against the judge dating back to 2005, former Attorney General Hassan Saeed had accused Abdulla Mohamed of misogyny, sexual deviancy, and throwing out an assault case despite the confession of the defendant
The judge had asked two under-aged victims to re-enact their abuse “in the presence of the perpetrator and the rest of the court.”