The secretary general of the Maumoon Abdul Gayoom faction of the ruling party has gone on trial on contempt of court charges, the latest development in the battle for the Progressive Party of the Maldives.
Abdul Aleem is accused of contravening a civil court ruling that put President Abdulla Yameen in control of the PPM, by setting up a rival secretariat and expelling lawmakers loyal to Yameen from the party, which included majority leader Ahmed Nihan.
The case was initiated by civil court judges on Wednesday.
Aleem denied the charge on Sunday. He faces up to 15 days in jail if found guilty.
He has also been placed under investigation, along with Gayoom supporter Ibrahim Afraath, on a charge of bribing lawmakers ahead of the March vote to oust the speaker of the parliament. The police confiscated their phones and raided their home for hidden cash on Friday.
Aleem has accused the Yameen faction of “harassment”.
Gayoom, the founder and elected leader of the PPM, appointed Aleem as secretary general amid a war for control of the ruling party with Yameen, who is also his half-brother.
At the time, the civil court had stripped Gayoom of his powers as PPM president, but the 79-year-old defied the ruling by reconstituting the party’s governing council and disciplinary committee and sacking Yameen loyalists.
In tit-for-tat moves, the disciplinary committee of the Yameen faction expelled Gayoom supporters, eventually expelling Gayoom himself last month after the vote to remove the speaker failed.
The police also took down the PPM flag and its logo from Gayoom’s office.
In retaliation, the Gayoom faction removed Nihan and MP Ilham Ahmed.
During Sunday’s hearing, lawyers representing the Yameen faction said: “They have clearly violated the court order by setting up a separate office representing the President of PPM. They are also conducting separate committee meetings in this office. But the court order has handed over complete control to the chief advisor of the party [President Yameen].”
However, defence counsel for Aleem said: “The decision to dismiss MP Nihan and MP Ilham came from a legally appointed disciplinary committee. This committee was appointed by the council.”
A panel of five judges are overseeing the case.
Gayoom, who is in India, has praised Aleem for his “strength and steadfastness” and slammed what he called the unconstitutional use of the judiciary for “political purposes”.
Aleem is also under investigation over a heard drive that allegedly went missing from the PPM headquarters.
Other key Gayoom staffers and supporters are also under investigation on a variety of charges.
Zaidul Ameen, a PPM Malé City councillor, was arrested on a charge of blackmailing “senior figures” in January and remains under house arrest.
Saya Ahmed and Shafaa Hameed contributed reporting to this article