Former Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin has been taken into custody on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government after the state appealed the criminal court’s refusal to order his detention on remand.
Citing evidence to suspect Muhthaz’s involvement in forging a warrant to arrest the president, the High Court overturned the lower court’s ruling this evening and granted the maximum 15-day extension of detention.
The ex-PG poses a threat to the public and could attempt to influence witnesses and eliminate evidence, the court said.
Muhthaz was first arrested Sunday night along with the senior judge of the Alif Dhaal atoll Maamigili magistrate court.
But the High Court said the “unlawful and void order” was issued in the name of Kaafu atoll Maafushi magistrate court, noting that the court has denied issuing such a warrant whilst the police have denied seeking to arrest the president.
The state’s evidence suggests that Muhthaz and accomplices traveled by speedboat to Maamigili around 12:45am on February 7 “to seek a court order to arrest President Abdulla Yameen and topple the government,” the High Court judgment reads.
It added that the group “collaborated with the chief magistrate of the island’s court” to prepare the warrant.
On Monday, the High Court extended Judge Ahmed Nihan’s detention to seven days. The 30-year-old was brought before the appellate court as required by the judges law.
But the criminal court had ruled there were no grounds to hold Muhthaz in custody and released him on the condition that he cooperate with the police investigation.
According to local media, chief judge of the criminal court, Abdulla Mohamed, took a leave of absence today. Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf was put in charge of the court.
After the PG office appealed the lower court decision, the High Court called a hearing around 11:30pm last night and asked Muhthaz to appoint a lawyer ahead of a hearing this afternoon.
Muhthaz was a criminal court judge prior to his appointment as PG in July 2014. Last year, he oversaw the controversial prosecution of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and former President Mohamed Nasheed, whose imprisonment triggered a protracted political crisis.
The pro-government majority in parliament sacked Muhthaz in November over allegations of stalling charges against former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, who was arrested on charges of “high treason” in October and is now on trial for corruption.
Muhthaz told reporters after last night’s closed High Court hearing that he had denied the forgery charges.
Chief Superintendent Mohamed Riyaz had told the press the warrant was “left on a street in Malé” in the early hours of Sunday and that activists from a political party had tried to create the impression that the police were about to arrest the president.
Sunday, February 7 marked the fourth anniversary of former President Nasheed’s resignation in the wake of a violent police mutiny after two weeks of opposition protests over Judge Abdulla’s detention by the military.
Meanwhile, speaking at a harbour opening ceremony on the island of Kudafari in Noonu atoll yesterday, Yameen said the “fraudulent” warrant stated that police were seeking his arrest over the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal.
But there is “no reason at all” for the police to question the president over the missing funds from the government-owned tourism promotion company, he said.
Yameen stressed the gravity of forging an arrest warrant as it undermined public trust in the police and judiciary. He also vowed to take action against the perpetrators.
“The court order was released while I was asleep…This is a warrant issued by a magistrate court. If it’s a case against President Yameen, I should be given notice to ask if I was aware of it. I should be taken to court. [But] I was asleep. Maybe I was to be arrested in my dream,” he said.
The alleged coup plotters “should be more manly” instead of “acting so secretly and cowardly,” he added.
Yameen went on to say that former President Nasheed – who is currently in the UK on medical leave from prison – had called a senior military officer and asked him why the security services were not enforcing the arrest warrant.
Nasheed treats Maldivian political affairs as “child’s play” despite wanting to return to contest the 2018 presidential election, Yameen said.
Nasheed’s office meanwhile said in a statement yesterday that he had called Brigadier General Zakariyya Mansoor upon hearing of the warrant “and advised him to follow the laws and the constitution of the country.”
“The Maldivian Democratic Party has received a large dossier of evidence implicating President Yameen, amongst other things, in corruption and money laundering amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars,” the former president’s office said.
“Furthermore, the media has revealed that President Yameen has been consulting a Sri Lankan practitioner of black magic before taking political decisions…In a situation where the president is obstructing the MPS and others from completing a proper investigation into these serious allegations, it is appropriate for the president to be taken into custody so that the investigation can proceed.”