Hearings in former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s terror trial were cancelled Tuesday after a judge on the three-member panel was transferred to the juvenile court.
Judge Saeed Ibrahim was reassigned by the judicial watchdog on the supreme court’s recommendation.
Lawyers have described the transfer as a politically motivated demotion.
The detained vice president’s lawyer Moosa Siraj said: “Saeed’s transfer is aimed at influencing Adeeb’s trial. All judges now fear for their jobs, they do not know when they would be arbitrarily transferred or dismissed.
“There is no chance of a fair trial in the Maldives now.”
The court was scheduled to hear the prosecution’s evidence against Adeeb on Tuesday. The former vice president is accused of planting an improvised explosive device on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat and has been charged with terrorism and abuse of authority.
Saeed is the sixth judge to be removed from the criminal court this year.
The court’s Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was reassigned to the family court earlier and a state prosecutor and the criminal court’s former registrar were appointed to fill vacant seats on the bench.
The transfers have delayed several trials, including protracted murder cases.
Judges at other courts, including the high court and civil court, have also been reassigned. Two high court judges had resigned following their transfer to a regional branch.
Former Attorney General Husnu Suood said the transfers were aimed at intimidation.
“If there is any indication that a judge hold beliefs or may issue a ruling that does not align with the government’s interests, he or she is transferred. Judges have no security of tenure,” he said.
“By international standards, transferring a judge without their consent amounts to punitive action. I believe Saeed’s transfer is a demotion.”
The changes to the judiciary follow a guideline issued by the supreme court ordering the watchdog Judicial Services Commission to seek its approval to transfer judges between courts.
Hassan Latheef, a prominent lawyer, said: “It is the JSC that has the constitutional mandate to handle this. I do not believe the supreme court has any authority to make recommendations on transferring judges.”
He also said the move affects the commission’s independence and “makes it vulnerable to external influences that may in turn affect trial proceedings in judicial courts.”
The supreme court has been widely criticised for seizing control of the judiciary.
The International Commission of Jurists, highlighting the arrest of a judge on a charge of issuing an arrest warrant for the president, and the transfer of the high court’s only female judge to a newly created regional branch, condemned in March what it called “arbitrary and politically motivated actions” against judges.