Sheikh Imran Abdulla, the president of the Adhaalath Party, has requested a change of judge in an on going trial on terrorism charges, claiming that the presiding judge was prejudiced against him.
Imran has written to the Supreme Court requesting Criminal Court Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf be removed from the case over “several ethical and disciplinary issues,” lawyer Ali Zahir said.
Bari had reportedly declared “I have already made a decision on this case” during a hearing on January 18, Zahir said.
Imran is accused of inciting violence in his speech at a historic opposition rally on May Day. He was charged under article two of the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act, which states that promoting fear amongst the public or causing destruction of property are acts of terrorism.
The trial began in June with a three-judge panel. Two of the three – Judge Abdulla Didi and Sujau Usman – were promoted to the High Court soon afterwards, stalling the trial for months.
When hearings resumed earlier this month, Bari announced that the three-judge panel had been dissolved and said he alone would handle the case. The two hearings this week saw heated exchanges between Bari and defence lawyers
Zahir complained over the court’s failure to inform his client of the dissolution of the bench.
Imran, who is prohibited from leaving his house until the trial concludes, is also seeking a stay order for the trial until the Supreme Court decides on his request.
A fifth hearing has been scheduled for Sunday.
In the last hearing of Imran’s case, state prosecutors said Imran must bear responsibility for violent clashes between protesters and police officers during last year’s May Day Rally organised by the opposition.
Scores of protesters and some police officers were injured during violent clashes on the night of May 1.
Imran was initially arrested on the night of May 1 and released after 27 days. He was arrested for a second time on June 1 and charged with terrorism.
The court at the time ordered Imran to be held in remand detention for the duration of the trial. The trial had remained stalled after a single hearing when two of the three presiding judges were promoted to the High Court on June 8.
In July, Imran was transferred from a remand centre to a high security prison on Maafushi Island. On August 5, the chief judge of the criminal court, Abdulla Mohamed, transferred Imran to house arrest, citing health concerns.
But Judge Bari held a surprise hearing the next day and ordered Imran be taken back into state custody. He cited findings in a police intelligence report which was not shared with defence lawyers.
Imran was transferred to house arrest again in mid-October after more than 160 days in custody. Judge Bari at the time cited the state’s violation of a court order to provide access to medical care.