Footballer Assad ‘Adubarey’ Ali was arrested Sunday over allegations of harassment by controversial criminal court Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf.
According to a police spokesman, the Maldivian national football team midfielder was arrested at midnight under an arrest warrant.
The police did not specify the reason for Assad’s arrest, but family members told local media he was arrested over the judge’s claim a man had threatened Bari by taking a photograph without his consent.
Assad is a member of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s national council.
Bari, who is under fire for his involvement in the controversial jailing of four opposition politicians, had written to the police chief on Thursday claiming a man had taken his photo “without my consent and threatened me” outside the courthouse on the same day.
“I have to take a picture of you. We know how you judges behave, you do what you want, I will take a picture,” the man is alleged to have said when he took the photo, according to the leaked letter published on social media and cited by several local papers.
Bari shared the license number of the motorbike and requested the police to find the accused and “take action against him under the contempt of court regulations or any other law.”
The MDP has condemned Assad’s arrest as an illegal and an attempt to intimidate the public.
“It is deeply concerning that [Assad] was arrested with a court warrant in the middle of the night given that it is not illegal to take photographs of judges,” the party said in a statement.
The MDP went on to note police failure in investigating death threats issued against opposition politicians and journalists in the past. Assad’s midnight arrest indicates “the extent of intimidation and the blatant disregard for the principle of equality before the law,” read the statement.
Bari had sentenced Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla to 12 years in jail on a terrorism charge last week, and was part of a three-judge panel that had sentenced former President Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in a widely criticized trial last year.
The same three-judge panel had also sentenced former defence ministers Mohamed Nazim and Tholhath Ibrahim to 11 years and 10 years in jail, respectively.
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).