Three out of five Supreme Court justices who signed a fateful order for the release of political prisoners did so without any criminal intent, a state prosecutor told the criminal court on Monday.
A police investigation uncovered bribery and criminal intent by convicted Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed, Assistant Prosecutor General Aishath Fazna was reported as saying by the media.
But the other three justices were not even questioned for the police probe, she revealed, citing lack of evidence of criminal intent or undue influence.
Fazna was speaking at the final preliminary hearing ahead of Justice Hameed’s terrorism trial over an alleged plot to topple the government. If convicted, he could face a jail sentence of 17 to 20 years.
He denies the charge.
The government contends the Supreme Court’s February 1 order – which reinstated an opposition parliament majority and freed President Abdulla Yameen’s jailed opponents ahead of elections in September – triggered a constitutional crisis and set in motion a failed coup d’etat.
Yameen reacted by declaring a state of emergency and suspending constitutional rights. A day after the security forces stormed the court and arrested Saeed and Hameed, the full bench order was rescinded by the three remaining justices.
At Justice Hameed’s pre-trial hearing Monday, the presiding judge reportedly posed several questions to the state prosecutor.
The issue was not the legitimacy of the February 1 order, Judge Ahmed Hailam said, asking the prosecutor to explain the elements of his alleged crime.
The terrorism charge is based on Hameed’s criminal intent and acceptance of bribes, Fazna said, expressing confidence that evidence and witness testimony would prove that he was plotting a coup.
Judge Hailam rejected procedural and constitutional arguments by the defence lawyers and decided to proceed to trial.
Earlier this month, the judge announced that a single terrorism trial will be conducted for six defendants including Hameed.
The court has since concluded pre-trial motions for Chief Justice Saeed and former police commissioner Ahmed Areef. The latter told the court on Sunday that he has been branded a terrorist for trying to execute the February 1 order in line with his oath.
His detention shows the absence of rule of law or a lawful government in the Maldives, Areef said.
Other high-profile defendants in the terrorism trial include former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, – whose recent hearings have been cancelled due to poor health – his son MP Faris Maumoon and son-in-law Mohamed Nadheem.
Jumhooree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz along with former ruling party MPs Abdulla Sinan and Ilham Ahmed are also facing a terrorism trial over the alleged coup attempt.