MP Ahmed Mahloof, spokesman of the Maldives United Opposition, has been convicted of obstructing police duty and handed a jail sentence of six months.
Today’s verdict comes a week after the lawmaker was sentenced to four months and 24 days in prison on a separate count of obstructing police duty.
The criminal court found Mahloof guilty of scaling barricades set up near the local market and trying to enter the restricted Republic Square during an opposition protest on the night of March 25, 2015.
Mahloof remains a lawmaker despite the combined jail terms of nearly 11 months. A sitting MP can only be stripped of his seat if he is sentenced to more than one year in prison.
But the MP for Galolhu South will not be able to attend parliament sittings or committee meetings.
The charge of obstructing police duty carries either a fine of no more than MVR12,000 (US$778) or a jail sentence of no more than six months.
The state prosecutor urged Judge Ali Adam today to impose the maximum sentence.
Hours before the sentencing, the judge suspended Mahloof’s lawyer Nazim Sattar from representing him in the case.
According to a letter sent to him by the court, Nazim was accused of trying to influence the case through the media and creating a negative impression among the public.
At a press conference last Thursday, Nazim had announced that Mahloof’s cases will be submitted to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
The petition to the specialised UN agency will show that Mahloof was deprived of his right to a fair trial, Nazim said.
The judge had refused to hear defence witnesses, claiming they could not negate the testimony of prosecution witnesses.
Nazim noted that only one police officer testified to having seen Mahloof crossing a barricade. Other officers told the court that they only heard of it on their radio transcievers.
Islamic sharia requires the testimony of two eyewitnesses who saw the alleged offence “as clear as daylight”, Nazim said
In September last year, UN WGAD declared former President Mohamed Nasheed’s imprisonment on a terrorism charge illegal and politically motivated.
Nazim argued that Mahloof’s trials were also rushed and politically motivated as he was an outspoken critic of the government.
Since his expulsion from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives for “defaming” President Abdulla Yameen in February 2015, Mahloof had been at the forefront of opposition protests against the current administration’s “tyranny” and corruption.
He was arrested multiple times over the past year, most recently while promoting the first rally of the new opposition coalition.
In a recorded speech played at the rally Thursday night, Mahloof urged opposition supporters to join upcoming street protests and to work towards “bringing an end” to the current government.
Following Mahloof’s sentencing last week, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said the government is “sending a message that dissent of any kind will not be tolerated, even by elected officials.”
Mahloof has “been singularly hounded and persecuted by this regime,” the MDP said, adding that the verdict was “the latest in a series of such sentences undertaken against opposition political figures, and is yet another example of the judicial perpetuation of the government’s policy of oppression.”
Opposition MPs and supporters had gathered in front of the criminal court in solidarity with Mahloof this afternoon.
The MUO spokesman led a chant for Yameen’s resignation while he was escorted into court by prisons officers.
— United Opposition (@mvopposition) July 25, 2016