Abdul Bari Yoosuf, a controversial judge involved in the jailing of four high-profile opposition politicians, has requested a criminal inquiry against a man who allegedly threatened the judge by taking a photo “without consent.”
In a letter to the police chief, the criminal court judge, who had handed a 12-year jail term to a leading opposition figure last week, claimed that a man on a motorbike had approached him outside the courthouse on Thursday.
“I have to take a picture of you. We know how you judges behave, you do what you want, I will take a picture,” the man is alleged to have said when he took the photo, according to the leaked letter published on social media and cited by several local papers.
Bari shared the license number of the motorbike and requested the police to find the accused and “take action against him under the contempt of court regulations or any other law.”
A police spokesperson confirmed receiving the complaint but said no arrests have been made yet.
Bari, who had sentenced Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla to 12 years in jail on a terrorism charge last week, was also part of a three-judge panel that had sentenced former President Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in a widely criticized trial last year.
The same three-judge panel had also sentenced former defence ministers Mohamed Nazim and Tholhath Ibrahim to 11 years and 10 years in jail, respectively.
Nasheed and Nazim’s jailing triggered a crisis that continues to roil the Maldives.
Human rights groups, international bodies and foreign governments have criticised all four trials for violations of due process. Nasheed’s lawyers have meanwhile launched a campaign for targeted sanctions that appears to be gaining traction with UK Prime Minister David Cameron saying the UK is prepared to take action if progress is not made.
The charge of contempt of court previously carried a jail sentence of up to six months and a fine of MVR10,000 (US$649). Earlier this month, the Supreme Court reduced the jail term because of the enactment of a new penal code, but hiked the fine up to MVR100,000 (US$6485).
The amendment also said that threatening or harassing a judge must be punished by the harshest sentence in the new penal code.
Advocacy group Maldivian Democracy Network has lodged a complaint with the watchdog Judicial Services Commission requesting an inquiry into Bari’s “prejudicial” behavior during the trial against Imran.
He had also barred journalists from Imran’s trial after claiming their coverage of the trial was unfair.
Bari is among several judges who applied for a vacant seat on the High Court bench in January.
In 2013, the watchdog Judicial Service Commission had suspended Bari for over a year pending the outcome of a complaint lodged against him for alleged misconduct.
Although the commission did not reveal any details of the complaint, local media reported that a female attorney from the Prosecutor General’s Office had alleged that Bari had sexually assaulted her.
Bari was cleared of the allegations and resumed duties at the criminal court in July 2014.