MP Ahmed Mahloof on Tuesday told the judge presiding in his trial over a “false reporting” tweet to hand down any verdict he wants.
The opposition spokesman appeared for the first hearing without legal counsel and told the judge that he will represent himself if the court refuses to lift the suspension of his lawyer Nazim Sattar.
The lawyer was barred from representing Mahloof over a tweet decrying the court’s decision to proceed to trial in late April after overruling his objections.
Mahloof was declared an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience last week, with the human rights group condemning “trumped-up and politically motivated charges”.
The independent lawmaker is accused of “false reporting to law enforcement” over a tweet alleging culpability over custodial deaths.
“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, warning the commissioner of prisons and the prison’s director that they must bear responsibility.
The false reporting charge carries a sentence of four months and 24 days.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the judge informed Mahloof that he could no longer submit evidence or documents in his defence as he failed to do so within a seven-day period.
Mahloof told the judge to skip to the sentencing as he did not wish to submit any evidence or speak in his defence.
The criminal court has previously convicted several opposition politicians after rushed trials that were widely criticised for due process violations.
The ranks of high-profile figures jailed or exiled since President Abdulla Yameen took office now include two former presidents, two Supreme Court justices, two vice presidents, two defence ministers, leaders of opposition parties, lawmakers, and the country’s chief prosecutor.
But the government says none of the convicts could be called a political prisoner.
Mahloof, who represents the Galolhu South constituency in Malé, 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 amid a 45-day state of emergency.
Mahloof is also facing trial in three other cases, including another false reporting charge over a tweet, a terrorism charge over a demonstration outside Maafushi prison, and obstruction of justice for distributing masks at an opposition protest.
A preliminary hearing of the terrorism trial took place Tuesday afternoon. The terrorism charge carries a jail sentence of between 17 to 20 years.
Mahloof also served a prison sentence for police obstruction last year.
The Secretary General of @amnesty has also called for my immediate release. Notes the Maldives should stop the arbitrary detentions & respect human rights of all. Thank you SG @SalilShetty for the enormous support to Maldivians. @amnestypress @AmnestyUK @amnestyOz @amnesty_de https://t.co/q1O1qBuYFY
— 𝐀𝐡𝐦𝐞𝐝 𝐌𝐚𝐡𝐥𝐨𝐨𝐟 (@AhmedMahloof) May 14, 2018
— Kyle Matthews (@kylecmatthews) May 13, 2018
URGENT@amnestyusa calls for the immediate release of PGA Member MP (Maldives) @AhmedMahloof. Mr. Mahloof faces up to 20 years in prison for fabricated charges on "terrorism", "obstruction of police duty", and "false reporting". https://t.co/wMjKoGHc1H pic.twitter.com/iY3WAXAbxz
— Parliamentarians for Global Action (@PGAction) May 14, 2018
Photo of Mahloof with lawyer Nazim Sattar by Raajje.mv