The criminal court on Friday remanded opposition spokesman Ahmed Mahloof for a further five days in police custody.
The independent lawmaker is accused of obstruction of police duty for distributing masks during an opposition protest last month, a charge that carries a jail sentence of four months and 24 days.
At Friday’s remand hearing, Mahloof admitted to handing out masks but questioned how that constituted a crime, his lawyers told the press.
Lawyers petitioned the judge for Mahloof’s release as he has already served one-fourth of the jail term and since defendants in such cases are not detained during the trial. But the judge decided that he poses a threat to society and might influence witnesses.
Mahloof, who served a prison sentence for police obstruction last year, is also facing two other charges over anti-government tweets, his lawyers said. According to his wife, he could also face terrorism charges for protesting outside the high-security Maafushi jail.
He was arrested while leading an opposition protest in the capital on February 22. With constitutional due process rights suspended during the 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, which expired Friday. The opposition has challenged the legality of arrests and detention procedures during the state of emergency.
“MP Ahmed Mahloof’s unlawful detention and sudden arbitrary terrorism charges are a prime example of President Yameen’s politically motivated use of the criminal justice system,” tweeted former president Mohamed Nasheed.
“Encouraged by Mahloof and his family’s strength. He will not give up and neither will we.”
Mahloof is being charged with terrorism for protesting outside maafushi jail. 3 cases against him already and just a night before his release, police informed him about this. Mahloof is innocent, Free him now! #FREEMAHLOOF #ARRESTYAMEEN
— 𝕹𝖆𝖟𝖚 𝕹𝖆𝖘𝖊𝖊𝖒 (@Nazunaseem) March 29, 2018
— Aishath Jennifer ⚖️ (@JenniferAishath) March 30, 2018