The Maldives United Opposition has condemned the terrorism trials of former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, his bodyguards, the former chief prosecutor, and a magistrate as “unfair and politically motivated”.
The criminal court’s chief judge took over the cases in late May and hastily handed down lengthy sentences “on the direct instruction of President Abdulla Yameen”, the new coalition launched in exile earlier this month alleged in a statement.
“This is an atrocity planned and carried out by President Yameen to pollute the entire judicial system,” it added.
The MUO also noted that defence lawyers had raised concerns over insufficient time to prepare, the court’s refusal to call defence witnesses and irregularities in police forensic reports.
Adeeb and his two military bodyguards were found guilty of plotting to assassinate Yameen by planting a bomb on the presidential speedboat. He was convicted based on the secret testimony of a soldier who claimed to have prepared the improvised explosive device.
Yameen escaped unharmed from the September 28 explosion on the Finifenma speedboat, but his wife, an aide, and a bodyguard sustained minor injuries.
Adeeb, formerly the president’s right-hand man and powerful tourism minister, was sentenced to 15 years in jail on Thursday night. The bodyguards were each handed 10-year sentences.
On the same night, former Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin was also convicted of terrorism and jailed for 17 years.
He was found guilty of conspiring to kidnap the president with a forged arrest warrant. A magistrate arrested with Muhsin over the alleged coup plot on February 7 was also handed a 17-year jail sentence.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed, who was also convicted of terrorism last year but has since secured asylum in the UK, called the trials “an affront to justice.”
The trumped up charges & the political manipulations in the trials of Magistrate Nihan, the former VP & PG are an affront to justice.
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) June 11, 2016
The leader of the opposition coalition and Yameen’s former vice president, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, stressed the importance of judicial reform.
The most important reform that must be tackled in the #Maldives is the judicial reform. We must unite to reform the judiciary.
— Mohamed Jameel Ahmed (@MJameelAhmed) June 11, 2016
Home Minister Umar Naseer, who co-chaired an inquiry commission formed in the wake of the Finifenma blast, meanwhile suggested a lesson to be drawn from his former cabinet rival’s fall.
The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse. pic.twitter.com/tluG5vdnuZ
— Umar Naseer (@UmarNaseerPPM) June 9, 2016
While the opposition coalition accused Yameen of “sentencing by proxy,” the foreign ministry put out a statement on Friday denying any “governmental involvement in these or any other case”.
The foreign ministry also objected to media reports suggesting that the FBI had ruled out the possibility that a bomb caused the explosion.
“This is quite incorrect. What the FBI reported back to the government of Maldives and also to the media was there was ‘no conclusive evidence’ to attribute the explosion to the presence of high explosive materials,” the ministry said.
“However, two other independent foreign investigative agencies (from Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia), after extensive analyses of the blast, concluded that the explosion was caused by an IED.“
Adeeb’s lawyers had highlighted the conflicting forensic reports during the trial. The defence also argued that the Saudis had suggested the explosion may have been caused by gas buildup inside the air conditioning system.
But the foreign ministry said Adeeb’s bodyguards “had attempted to remove all traces from the crime scene.”
“This undoubtedly impeded the investigation and hindered the forensic analysis,” it added.
“Any suggestion to the contrary is merely scurrilous, and an obvious attempt to besmirch both the judiciary and the government. The appropriate way for discontent and opposition to be registered is through a democratic election, and not by way of other violent, or otherwise unlawful means.
“The government of the Maldives condemns any attempt to subvert or circumvent the lawful and democratic system of governance in the Maldives and any such attempt by any person, irrespective of political affiliation, to overthrow a democratically elected government will face the full extent of the law.”