The Judicial Service Commission suspended Judge Ahmed Hailam for sharing a cartoon of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Speaker Mohamed Nasheed in chains.
Hailam continuing to hear cases while a probe into ethical misconduct was ongoing could cause public loss of confidence in the judiciary, the 10-member oversight body decided.
The suspension came hours before the criminal court’s chief judge was due to deliver a verdict in former president Abdulla Yameen’s money laundering trial. The final hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon was cancelled after the judge was suspended for two months.
Hailam refused to appear at a JSC investigation committee on Tuesday morning without a valid reason, the watchdog said. The judge told the commission to consider a press statement released on Monday night as his formal response.
In his statement, Hailam apologised and claimed to have been unaware of President Solih and former president Nasheed’s depiction in the cartoon when he shared it as Victory Day greetings in the criminal court’s Viber group. He claimed to have only seen the likeness of Abdulla Luthfee, the chief architect of a failed coup attempt by a group of Maldivians and Tamil mercenaries on November 3, 1988.
Hailam accused ruling party lawmakers who criticised him of trying to influence the opposition leader’s trial and categorically denied allegations of accepting bribes.
The JSC appointed Judge Ali Rasheed as acting chief judge to replace Hailam. According to the criminal procedures law, the chief judge must decide how to proceed in cases where a judge is unable to continue with the trial for any reason. The acting chief judge could assign the case to a different judge to either resume or restart the trial.
Opposition MPs expelled from chamber
Speaker Mohamed Nasheed on Tuesday expelled four opposition lawmakers from parliament’s chamber for disrupting proceedings.
After advising the lawmakers to sit down and refrain from blowing whistles, Nasheed ordered MPs Ahmed Thoriq and Ahmed Shiyam from the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives as well as Independent MPs Mohamed Nasheed Abdulla and Hussain Mohamed Latheef to leave the chamber. They were escorted out by parliament’s sergeant-at-arms.
Nasheed told Mahibadhoo MP Thoriq to “stand facing the wall” as a punishment. After protesting in front of the speaker’s desk during Monday’s sitting, Thoriq was told to write “I will not blow whistles” a hundred times.
Opposition MPs protested over the suspension of Judge Ahmed Hailam, accusing Nasheed of exerting undue influence over the judiciary. The speaker sits on the 10-member judicial watchdog by virtue of office.
On Monday night, the Progressive Coalition issued a statement accusing the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party of influencing trials and intimidating judges. The judicial watchdog has become a “political tool” of the MDP and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration, the opposition contended.
Chief justice accused of threatening Supreme Court secretary general
The Judicial Service Commission placed Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi under investigation over ethical misconduct on Tuesday.
The chief justice is accused of ordering the Supreme Court’s secretary general Dr Hussain Faiz not to comply with new rules formulated by the Department of Judicial Administration after parliament amended the Judicial Service Commission Act to bring back the department under the watchdog.
The DJA – which is tasked with managements of the courts – was previously under the direct control of the Supreme Court.
Didi is also accused of obstructing the secretary general’s duties, ordering him not to interact with the DJA, accusing him of “plotting a coup” with the DJA and threatening to sack him.
In an eight-page statement issued on Monday night, Didi accused the DJA of “paralysing” the judiciary and obstructing the duties of judges, contending that the chief justice’s lack of authority over the court’s administrative matters was contrary to the independence of the judiciary guaranteed by the constitution. Judges cannot perform their duties if they lack authority over court staff and administration, he insisted.
Maldivian wanted for vandalising Buddha statue
The Sri Lankan police is looking for a Maldivian man in relation to the vandalism of Buddha statutes in Mawanella last December.
The CID released a sketch of the suspect on Tuesday and appealed for public assistance. The Maldivian man, believed to be between 30 to 35 years, maintained a close relationship with the main suspect in the vandalism, Sri Lankan media reported.