Jumhooree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz has been found not guilty of obstructing police officers over his refusal to unlock his mobile phone.
A three-judge panel at the criminal court ruled Sunday morning that the prosecution was unable to prove criminal intent due to inconsistencies in the testimony of the police officers. The police also wrongfully seized the lawmaker’s phone without the evidence required by the criminal procedures law, the judges noted.
The charge of obstructing a law enforcement officer is a class one misdemeanour that carries a jail term of four months and 24 days.
Riyaz, a former police chief and the JP’s deputy leader, was put on trial in early April after a new alliance formed between opposition parties and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom sought to seize the parliament’s majority.
The opposition alliance appears to have wrested control of the 85-member house with ten defections from the ruling party. A second vote of no-confidence against the speaker is due to take place on July 24.
JP leader Gasim Ibrahim is also on trial on charges of attempting to bribe and unduly influence lawmakers.
Hours after the alliance sought unsuccessfully to impeach the speaker of parliament on March 27, the police had confiscated Riyaz’s phone and interrogated him on charges of spreading false rumours and attempting to influence the police force.
The judges ruled that the police contravened the parliamentary privileges law with the May 27 arrest.
Riyaz was summoned for questioning again on April 2 and asked to unlock his mobile phone.
He told reporters at the time that three attempts to unlock his iPhone were unsuccessful as his previous passcode did not work. The police then asked him to unlock the phone with his fingerprint, but Riyaz said he refused as he was not obliged to do so by the court warrant
Riyaz’s lawyer Ali Zahir argued during the trial that the case should be withdrawn because Riyaz voluntarily unlocked the phone at court.
The prosecutors contended that Riyaz’s refusal to unlock his iPhone amounted to obstruction of police duty with criminal intent as it was confiscated with a court warrant. But the defence argued that Riyaz was exercising his right to remain silent.
Riyaz has been a vocal critic of President Abdulla Yameen since the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives severed its coalition agreement with the JP in 2014.
He served as police chief from February 2012 until his resignation in November 2013, shortly after Yameen assumed office.
In May 2015, Riyaz was interrogated by the police over comments he had made about the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali and the torching of the Raajje TV studios, both of which occurred while was the commissioner of police.