A local human rights NGO has criticised the conduct of criminal court Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf in the ongoing terrorism trial of Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Maldivian Democracy Network described Bari’s behaviour as “prejudicial” towards the accused as well as in breach of the code of conduct for judges.
Bari was “rude” towards Imran’s defence lawyers and had acted in an “agitated” manner during hearings earlier this month, the MDN said.
The judge “talked in a manner that gave the impression that he was talking on behalf of the prosecutor (lawyers from the Prosecutor General’s office) or that he was leaning favourably towards their arguments,” the NGO said.
Imran is accused of inciting violence at a 20,000-strong anti-government rally in May last year. The prosecution is arguing that he must bear responsibility for violent clashes between protesters and police officers on the night of May 1.
Earlier this month, Imran also accused Bari of prejudice, asking the Supreme Court to assign his case to another judge.
A motion was also filed at the High Court requesting a stay order halting the lower court trial until the apex court responds to Imran’s complaint. But lawyers said they have not received any response from the courts yet.
Based on its observations of the proceedings, the MDN said Bari’s attitude’s suggests that he has already determined Imran’s guilt.
According to trial observers, journalists, and Imran’s lawyer, Bari had declared that he has “already made a decision on this case” during a hearing on January 18.
The MDN has also filed a complaint against Bari at the watchdog Judicial Service Commission.
In its statement, the NGO called on the state to halt Imran’s trial or assign another judge to the case.
Imran’s trial began in June with a three-judge panel. Two of the three – Judge Abdulla Didi and Sujau Usman – were promoted to the High Court soon afterwards, stalling the trial for months.
When hearings resumed earlier this month, Bari announced that the three-judge panel had been dissolved and said he alone would handle the case.