Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin has slammed criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed for questioning the validity of charges filed against several suspects indicted for assaulting a police officer during an anti-government protest on May 1.
At a hearing on Monday, the chief judge reportedly criticised state prosecutors for charging 11 defendants under the 2010 ‘Intimidation and Possession of Dangerous Weapons and Sharp Instruments Act.’
Judge Abdulla questioned the PG office’s decision to charge 11 out of 13 suspects with assault using a dangerous weapon despite evidence showing the accused beating a policeman with their hands and feet.
Video footage shows protesters tripping and kicking the Specialist Operations (SO) officer and two men hitting the policeman over the head with his helmet and baton.
The chief judge said the charges must be based on the alleged offence and suggested that the PG office pressed the wrong charges on purpose to ensure acquittals.
Defending the PG office’s decision, Muhsin told local media today that two suspects was charged with assault using a dangerous weapon or sharp object whilst the rest were charged under a separate provision in the law that criminalises assisting or participating in such an assault.
Pressing charges is the prerogative of the PG office, Muhsin said, and the judge does not have the right to criticise such decisions.
Muhsin also said the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) should investigate the chief judge for allegedly “accusing the PG of filing the charges deliberately to free [the suspects].”
“Judges make decisions in cases, they don’t criticise,” he was quoted as saying by CNM.
The assault charge carries a jail sentence of between three to five years.
High Court precedent
Muhsin meanwhile noted that the High Court had recently overruled the criminal court’s decision not to accept a case against suspects charged in connection with the murder of 23-year-old Ahmed Jailam Shakir in February.
The three suspects were also charged with assault using dangerous weapons and sharp objects, but the criminal court’s registrar contended that the PG office’s interpretation of the 2010 law was incorrect.
The PG office subsequently appealed the registrar’s decision and the High Court ordered the lower court to accept the case if it is filed within seven days.
While only one suspect was accused of stabbing the victim, the criminal court had objected to the PG office charging the other suspects under the same law as they were only accused of aiding and abetting the crime.
Judge Abdulla cannot criticise the decision to charge the May Day protesters due to the High Court’s precedent, Muhsin insisted.
Responding to the chief judge’s criticism at Monday’s hearing, the state prosecutor reportedly argued that the suspects who kicked the policeman allowed the other suspects to assault the officer with weapons and therefore participated in the assault.
The state prosecutor requested further time to address the criticism after the chief judge and defence lawyers repeatedly raised the issue.
PG Muhsin attended today’s hearing to defend the PG office’s decision. At today’s hearing, two suspects pleaded not guilty to the charges while their lawyer contended that the pair did not use dangerous weapons.
The suspects are accused of assaulting the police officer using his helmet and baton. Responding to the defence lawyers, Muhsin insisted that the items could be considered dangerous weapons under the law.
One of the 13 suspects, Mohamed Shinan, had pleaded guilty to the charges in mid-July.
Scores of protesters and some police officers were injured during violent clashes on the night of May 1. The injured policeman, Sergeant Abdul Rahman Hussain, was flown to Sri Lanka for medical treatment while the police publicised video footage of the incident and appealed for public assistance in locating suspects.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had meanwhile accused police of torturing and threatening to kill three suspects arrested for assaulting the police officer.