MP Ahmed Mahloof on Monday pleaded not guilty to charges of false reporting to law enforcement over a tweet alleging culpability over custodial deaths.
According to media reports of the pre-trial hearing, his lawyers contested the validity of the charge as neither the police or correctional service were tagged in the January 20 tweet.
But the judge overruled their objections and decided to proceed to trial. The first hearing has been scheduled for May 15.
“Inmates are not dying in Maafushi jail, they’re being killed. They’re deprived of proper treatment and killed. When 10 inmates die in a year that’s a serious problem,” Mahloof had tweeted, adding that the commissioner of prisons and the prison’s director must bear responsibility.
He told the court today he was expressing concern over prison deaths. His intention was not to inform any authority, the lawmaker said.
Mahloof is also facing trial in three other cases, including a terrorism charge over a demonstration outside Maafushi prison, and obstruction of justice for distributing masks at an opposition protest.
A preliminary hearing on a separate charge over another tweet is scheduled for Wednesday.
The false reporting charge carries a sentence of four months and 24 days.
The opposition spokesman was transferred to house arrest in early April after more than a month in police custody.
He was arrested while leading an opposition protest in the capital on February 22. With constitutional due process rights suspended during a 45-day state of emergency, he was not taken before a judge within 24 hours.
Weeks later, the criminal court approved a 13-day remand period.
The transfer to house arrest came after the Parliamentarians for Global Action condemned Mahloof’s detention “on the basis of frivolous and politically-motivated criminal charges.”
Criminal Court schedules 2 more cases for 25th April.
• Terrorism; for a peaceful protest.
• False reports to law enforcement; regarding a tweet tagging Maldives Police Service to clarify a serious concern about former VP Adheeb.
— 𝐀𝐡𝐦𝐞𝐝 𝐌𝐚𝐡𝐥𝐨𝐨𝐟 (@AhmedMahloof) April 22, 2018
Clarification on @AhmedMahloof saga: so far he has 4 charges: (1) false reporting for tweeting mafushi jail deaths; (2) false reporting for tweeting they trying to poison adeeb; (3) obstruction for distributing masks; (4) terrorism for demonstrating outside mafushi prison
— Nazim Sattar (@nazimsat) April 22, 2018