Jailed MP Saud Hussain has been charged with terrorism over an alleged plot to assassinate High Court Judge Shujau Usman.
The Prosecutor General’s office spokesman said the MP for the Villigili constituency was “charged with planning to commit an act of terrorism.” Ibrahim Haneef, a former senior policy executive at the education ministry and reportedly a close associate of Saud, was also charged in connection with the assassination plot.
The cases were filed in the criminal court on July 20, the spokesman said.
Haneef was arrested on the terrorism charge in early April and released to house arrest more than a month later. Newspaper Mihaaru reported at the time that Haneef was suspected of planning to hire a gang to assault and kill the high court judge.
Saud was also questioned by the police in early June. “I am suspected of funding and plotting to kill Usman and also plotting to put him in jail,” the lawmaker told the Maldives Independent at the time.
Saud is the fourth lawmaker to face criminal prosecution since the four-party opposition coalition secured a majority in the parliament with defections from the ruling party.
He was arrested last week along with MPs Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim and Mohamed Ameeth. All three former ruling party lawmakers were accused of breaking through police lines and entering the parliament building on July 24 after the Majlis had declared that they were no longer members of parliament.
The three lawmakers were deemed to have lost their seats after the Supreme Court ruled that MPs who were elected on political party tickets will be disqualified once the electoral body notifies parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties.
MP Faris Maumoon, who was leading the group of ex-ruling party lawmakers, was meanwhile arrested on July 18 on charges of attempting to bribe lawmakers.
The MP for Dhiggaru is also on trial over an identity fraud charge over the use of the flag and logo of the governing Progressive Party of Maldives at a joint opposition press conference.
On Monday, the criminal court decided to proceed with the identity fraud trial despite repeated complaints from Faris over the inability to prepare his defence due to alleged obstruction from state authorities.
At a brief preliminary hearing, Judge Ibrahim Ali told both the prosecution and the defence to submit all necessary documents and proposals at a hearing scheduled for 10:30 am on August 10. He also declared that the trial will then begin after a 30-day period.
Defence lawyer Maumoon Hameed meanwhile accused the police and the prisons authority of refusing to allow Faris’s legal team to watch video footage submitted as evidence by the prosecution.
The third preliminary hearing was adjourned Monday morning to allow Faris to attend parliament.
However, the Maldives Correctional Service refused to escort the detainee to the People’s Majlis, citing the lack of an official request from the Majlis secretariat.
The defence team had sent a letter to Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed requesting arrangements for bringing Faris to sittings and committee meetings. It is unclear if Maseeh took any action in response to the letter.
Opposition MP Abdulla Shahid told the press that a meeting of the petitions committee was adjourned Monday morning after members decided to ask the speaker to allow Faris to attend.
But PPM MP Abdulla Rifau denied that the committee members made such a request. “This is a lie. This was not approved. Meeting was adjourned. I was present at the committee meeting,” he tweeted.
Opposition MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, a retired brigadier general, is also standing trial on fresh terrorism charges whilst Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim’s trial on bribery charges resumed last week.
The bribery charges against Gasim was filed for the second time after the criminal court threw out the case in early July when state prosecutors failed to show up at court.
Last week, Judge Adam Arif decided that the previous trial will resume, despite defence lawyers insisting that the new criminal procedures law requires a new trial with preliminary hearings.
The judge also decided to conduct Gasim’s trial in secret and a closed hearing was taking place as of press time on Tuesday afternoon.
The 65-year-old business tycoon was put on trial for declaring during a speech at an opposition rally that the allied parties would grant tickets for the 2019 parliamentary elections to MPs who vote to impeach Maseeh.
He was charged with bribery, influencing the official conduct of a public official and intimidating and improperly influencing a voter. The lawmaker was detained for 26 days in the wake of the opposition’s failed bid to remove Maseeh in late March.
The MP for the Maamigili constituency will lose his seat if he is found guilty.
Hours after the criminal court dismissed Gasim’s case on July 10, two of the three judges presiding over the trial – former Chief Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf and Judge Ahmed Shakeel – were demoted to the juvenile court and family court, respectively, for undisclosed reasons.