A judge detained over a “fake” warrant to arrest President Abdulla Yameen in connection with the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal has pleaded not guilty to charges of forgery, misconduct, and abuse of authority.
At a hearing on Monday, Ahmed Nihan, senior judge of the Alif Dhaal Maamigili magistrate court, requested an opportunity to appoint a lawyer after the state presented the charges against him.
The presiding judge ordered the police to hold Nihan in detention until the end of the trial. He concluded the hearing without announcing the next trial date.
Nihan was arrested on February 7 along with former Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin after police claimed they had travelled by speedboat to Maamigili after midnight “to seek a court order to arrest President Abdulla Yameen and topple the government.”
Yameen has also said that the fraudulent warrant was part of a coup plot to overthrow his government.
The pair was arrested in the wake of a damning audit report exposing the embezzlement of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion company.
The judge’s arrest drew condemnation from the International Commission of Jurists, which called it “another blow to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.”
ICJ’s Asia Director Sam Zarifi said Nihan’s arrest was “another step down in the country’s downward spiral away from democracy and stability, and is squarely at odds with the Maldives’ international obligations.”
Muhsin was meanwhile taken into custody for a second time on Sunday after the appellate court overruled his release by the criminal court. The prosecutor general’s office is also seeking charges of forgery and planning an unlawful arrest against the ex-chief prosecutor.
Chief Superintendent Mohamed Riyaz told the press last month that the warrant was “left on a street in Malé” in the early hours of February 7 and that activists from a political party had tried to create the impression that the police were about to arrest the president.