A magistrate has been convicted of conspiring to kidnap President Abdulla Yameen by forging a warrant for his arrest over the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal.
Ahmed Nihan, a senior judge at the Maamigili magistrate court, was found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 17 years in jail.
Nihan’s lawyer Husnu Suood said he intends to appeal the criminal court’s verdict.
“What we kept saying is that Magistrate Nihan refused to issue a warrant. The judge did not note that [in the verdict],” he told reporters after the sentencing late on Friday night.
The magistrate appeared in good spirits during tonight’s proceedings and gave a thumbs up to his family on his way out.
Nihan is the first sitting judge to be convicted in the Maldives. He was indefinitely suspended by the judicial watchdog shortly after his arrest in February.
Nihan was accused of opening the magistrate court in the early hours of February 7 after Muhsin traveled to Maamgili with several policemen and two civilians.
Muhsin has maintained that he was acting on the orders of senior police officers, days after the release of a damning audit report exposing the theft of nearly US$80 million from state coffers.
Yameen has denied any involvement in the corruption scandal, pinning the blame on his jailed former deputy.
Delivering the verdict tonight, Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf said witness testimony proves that Nihan downloaded a warrant from a mail address provided by Muhsin and modified the document.
Nihan’s intent was to kidnap the president using an unlawful warrant, the judge said.
The magistrate had pleaded not guilty to all charges. Nihan had said he opened the court after a policeman called seeking a warrant.
When Muhsin arrived with the police officers, Nihan said he had refused to issue the warrant because they failed to produce the necessary documents.
After about 20 minutes, one of the policemen informed him that a warrant had been secured from Malé, Nihan said.
Lawyers had also said during Muhsin’s trial that the ex-chief prosecutor left Maamigili after learning that a warrant had been obtained in Malé.
The warrant from another magistrate court was handed to the police by a man called Siraj. The defence argued that the prosecution failed to link the warrant to either Muhsin or Nihan.
Moments after sentencing Muhsin last night, the acting chief judge of the criminal court had also handed lengthy jail terms to former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and his bodyguards.
Bari had also presided over the widely condemned trials of former President Mohamed Nasheed, two defence ministers and the leader of the Adhaalath Party.
Bari was due to deliver a sentence in Nihan’s case as well on Thursday night, but the hearing was cancelled at the last minute.
Nihan is also awaiting verdicts on further counts of abuse of authority, official misconduct, and forgery.
Reporting by Xiena Saeed