The criminal court has decided to proceed with opposition MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi’s terrorism trial over the military’s detention of the criminal court’s former chief judge in January 2012.
At a preliminary hearing Thursday afternoon, Judge Ali Adam overruled objections from the defence lawyer who contended that the lawmaker could not be prosecuted for the second time on the same charge as the Prosecutor General’s office had withdrawn the case while the trial was in progress two years ago.
Citing high court precedents, the lawyer argued in previous hearings that a person cannot be tried for the same offence unless the PG office clearly indicates that a case is withdrawn with the intention of resubmission.
After the judge announced his decision, Didi, who was the military’s Malé area commander at the time of Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s detention, pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charge.
Didi’s lawyer told the court that none of the documents submitted as evidence by the prosecution showed an order from the Malé area commander to take the chief judge into custody. He did not receive such an order from the chief of defence forces or the commander-in-chief either, the lawyer noted.
In response, the state prosecutor told the court that Didi was in charge of the ‘Operation Liberty Shield’ carried out to detain the judge.
The Maldivian Democratic Party MP for the mid-Hithadhoo constituency in Addu City was previously put on trial along with former President Mohamed Nasheed in early 2015.
The PG office withdrew the case on June 30, 2015, before the court was due to hear witnesses. The move came after the acquittal of former Chief of Defence Forces Moosa Ali Jaleel and former Colonel Mohamed Ziyad on the same terrorism charge.
Didi previously told the Maldives Independent that he was informed in writing by the PG office that he would not be charged again.
The lawmaker said he was summoned to court on July 15, two months after the PG office filed the case, which was “highly unusual” as the defendant is required to be informed beforehand.
The retired brigadier general is among 14 opposition lawmakers facing legal action after the four-party opposition coalition secured a majority in the parliament last month.
Didi’s trial in early 2015 was stalled following his hospitalisation over heart issues on March 1. The criminal court did not schedule further hearings and the lawmaker flew overseas for medical treatment.
Speaking to reporters after the first hearing, Didi had asked whether the terrorism trial was his reward for risking his life in defence of the nation during the failed coup attempt of November 3, 1988.
Didi – a corporal and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s bodyguard at the time – played a pivotal role on November 3 by carrying the keys of the armoury from Machangoalhi Kinbigasdhoshuge to the besieged military headquarters before soldiers ran out of ammunition.
In March 2015, former President Nasheed was found guilty of ordering Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s “abduction” and sentenced to 13 years in jail.
The opposition leader’s 19-day trial was widely condemned over apparent due process violations. In September 2015, a UN rights panel ruled that his imprisonment was illegal and politically motivated.
Then-Defence Minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfan was also convicted and sentenced to 10 years over the judge’s three-week detention on the military training base on the island of Girifushi.
The judge’s controversial arrest sparked 22 nights of anti-government protests that culminated in Nasheed’s resignation in the wake of a violent mutiny by elements of the police and army on February 7, 2012.