Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin has written to the criminal court urging it to expedite a terrorism trial against Sheikh Imran Abdulla, the president of the religious Adhaalath Party, indicted on terrorism and held in police custody.
Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf has blamed the two-month delay on the construction of a new courtroom, lawyers said.
Imran was arrested for a second time on June 1 and charged with terrorism for allegedly inciting violence at a historic anti-government protest on May 1. At the first hearing a three-judge panel ruled Imran to be kept in state custody.
The trial has remained stalled since.
Ahmed Nihan, the PG office spokesperson, said Muhsin had also assured the criminal court his office would cooperate in expediting the trial.
Imran was transferred from a remand center to a high security prison on Maafushi Island on July 23. On August 5, the chief judge of the criminal court, Abdulla Mohamed, transferred Imran to house arrest.
But Judge Bari held a surprise hearing the next day and ordered Imran to be taken back into state custody. He cited a police intelligence report which was not shared with defence lawyers.
The differences in rulings point to rifts within the criminal court. Imran’s trial was stalled after June 2 when two of the three judges in the panel were promoted to the high court. In such cases, the chief judge reassigns the case to new judges. Judge Bari alone held the August 6 hearing before a new panel could be reconstituted.
Imran’s lawyer Husnu Suood said today he will appeal the criminal court’s ruling to keep him in custody until the trial concludes. The high court had earlier said it cannot oversee appeals of lower court rulings to keep suspects in detention for the duration of the trial.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) today expressed concern over the “injustice imposed on Imran by the criminal justice system.”
Imran was first arrested on May 1 and kept in detention for 26 days. He was released by the criminal court hours after the high court ruled Imran be transferred to house arrest because he has diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure.
Imran has been brought to Malé several times for medical care.
“Imran is being punished without a verdict, in contravention to international treaties that the Maldives is signatory to,” read the MDP statement.
President Abdulla Yameen has vowed to press criminal charges against Imran after he suggested the president was involved in the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in 2012.
Maldives decriminalized defamation in 2009. The attorney general’s office is in the process of drafting a freedom of expression bill that will re-criminalize defamation in some circumstances.