Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof is facing trial on charges of obstructing police duty with a first hearing scheduled for February 11.
Mahloof was summoned to the criminal court this morning, informed of the the trial date, and asked to appoint a lawyer.
The MP for Galolhu South told The Maldives Independent that the exact charges and the incident in question remains unclear to him.
He told reporters that he asked the court to appoint a public defender as hiring private counsel is costly for a “political trial.”
The charge of obstructing police duty carries either a fine of no more than MVR12,000 (US$778) or a jail sentence of six months, under the old penal code. It is unclear if provisions in the new penal code would be applied to this case.
If convicted and sentenced to jail, the MP would not lose his seat. A sitting MP would only be stripped of his seat if sentenced to more than one year in prison.
The Prosecutor General’s office had previously charged Mahloof with obstruction of police duty. But the High Court had ruled that the MP could not be prosecuted as the charges had been withdrawn and resubmitted.
Mahloof, a close associate of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was expelled from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives in February last year after he publicly criticised President Abdulla Yameen.
Mahloof began working with the opposition after his expulsion from the ruling party. He was at the forefront of anti-government protests triggered by the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim in early 2015.
He was arrested from an opposition protest on March 26 for allegedly crossing a police barricade and held in remand detention after refusing to comply with the criminal court’s condition of staying away from protests for 30 days.
The High Court, however, overturned the lower court’s remand order and protest ban. The police meanwhile forwarded disobedience to order charges against Mahloof for prosecution.
In mid-June, Mahloof was summoned to the police headquarters for questioning over a sit-in organised by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party on June 12.