Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb was hauled to a makeshift courtroom at a police remand facility on Dhoonidhoo Island and charged with corruption in an unannounced hearing.
He was without a lawyer at the surprise hearing, which took place via video teleconference.
When charges were read out, Adeeb did not deny or plead guilty, according to the prosecutor general’s office, but asked Judge Abdulla Mohamed for the opportunity to appoint a lawyer. He and was granted a 30-day period to do so.
The next hearing is likely to take place as soon as Adeeb appoints a lawyer, and will take place in Malé, public prosecutor Ahmed Hisham Wajeeh said.
In a subsequent hearing, Judge Abdulla ordered police to keep Adeeb in custody until the trial concludes. The former vice president had access to a lawyer during the remand hearing.
Adeeb’s lawyer Hussain Shameem, who is abroad at the moment, said his colleagues in Malé were informed of the “surprise hearing” at 1pm today. The trial began at around 2:30pm.
“This is wrong and unconstitutional on so many levels. First, legal representation is a fundamental right guaranteed for everyone. But my client has not been given adequate time and resources to defend himself. Second, this hearing is taking place at a police facility, not a courtroom,” he said.
“My client has also been deprived of his right to an open and transparent trial.”
Adeeb was arrested in October over the mysterious September 28 explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat, which the government claims was caused by a bomb targeting the president.
He is facing prosecution on a charge of of attempted murder over the boat blast.
Since his arrest, he has also been charged with corruption over missing funds from resort leases, and terrorism on suspicion of carrying a weapon. The missing funds are thought to run into tens of millions of dollars.
Today’s trial relates to alleged abuse of authority in the lease of a single island out of the 53 islands involved in the case, the prosecutor general’s office said. If convicted of “misuse of government information or authority to obtain benefits,” Adeeb will be jailed for a period of four years.
The corruption and terrorism charges were filed in late November after the parliament abruptly removed former Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin and appointed Yameen’s legal affairs secretary Aishath Bisham to the post.
Adeeb, who was arrested from the airport on October 24 on his return from an official trip to China, was immediately taken to Dhoonidhoo. He has not been brought to Malé since.
Several of his associates have been targeted and arrested in the boat blast probe, and his lawyers have come under fire, with the Supreme Court suspending Shameem’s license to practice law in November.
Shameem is now being investigated by the police on an unspecified charge on the apex court’s orders.
Abdulla Ziyath, the former managing director of tourism promotion firm, the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, was also brought to trial today via teleconference. He is charged with theft over the missing funds from the 53 resort leases.
Ziyath’s hearing today also related to just one island. Each individual charge of theft carries a sentence of a year in prison.
Ziyath, who denied charges, is also to be kept in police custody until the trial concludes. He had access to a lawyer during the hearing, the prosecutor general’s office said.
In a statement today, Adeeb’s lawyers have urged the Supreme Court and the watchdog Human Rights Commission of the Maldives to take action over the deprivation of rights.
Additional reporting and writing by Shafaa Hameed.