The Criminal Court on Sunday rejected the detained top court judge, Ali Hameed, and the judicial administrator, Hassan Saeed, as defence witnesses for the ongoing trial of the arrested Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed.
The chief justice along with Judge Hameed and JA Saeed were arrested in the wake of the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on February 1, which had ordered the release of nine political prisoners. While all three face various charges in connection with the incident that the government has declared as a coup attempt, CJ Saeed is also indicted for obstructing the functioning of the state after he allegedly ordered to shut down the Supreme Court's Government E-Letter Management System (GEMS).
If found guilty, Saeed would face a jail sentence of four months and 24 days.
Saeed had put forward five witnesses to testify in his defence during the hearing held Sunday. The witnesses included Judge Ali Hameed and Judicial Administrator Hassan Saeed.
However, the Criminal Court had accepted the testimony of only one witness, the director general of the Supreme Court, Ibrahim Waheed.
While Hameed and Hassan Saeed are in the custody of Maldives Correctional Services, the other two witnesses, the top court's Registrar Fathimath Yumna and another court official Athika Ibrahim, had also not been present at the hearing.
State prosecutor Shamla Shameem had declared that the defence's witnesses were not proposed to invalidate the claims against Saeed, and requested the judge to reject the witnesses under the Criminal Procedure Code.
Saeed's defence lawyers countered that their witnesses were relevant to the case, and their presence was required to ensure the trial's fairness.
Judge Ibrahim Ali presiding over the case stated that the Criminal Court had issued summons to all five witnesses. Noting that it was the defence's responsibility to urge witnesses to attend hearings, Judge Ali revealed that the court had ultimately decided against summoning the top court's Judge Ali Hameed and Judicial Administrator Hassan Saeed as the both of them were facing similar criminal trials.
CJ Saeed's lawyer Nooru al-Salaam Abubakr protested the judge's statement, saying that if that were the case, Hameed and JA Saeed would both be standing as defendants in the court room.
Prosecutor Shamla retorted that while CJ Saeed's trial was in connection to the events of February 1, Hameed and JA Saeed's cases were also related to the same incident.
The defence lawyers had then stated they did not have the authority to bring Hameed and JA Saeed to the court, as the duo are under the custody of Maldives Correctional Services. However, the lawyers pointed out that the Criminal Court can and does summon detainees as witnesses.
Meanwhile, CJ Saeed expressed concern over the court's decision to reject four of his witnesses. He declared that the proposed evidences indicate that the case against him was "fabricated", and reiterated that he had not ordered any of his staff to shut down GEMS.
However the judge maintained that the court would not accept the testimonies of the remaining witnesses. He announced that the summary of the trial would be read at the next hearing slated for Monday. Hence it appears that Monday's hearing would be the last one of the case.
Saeed's lawyers said that they expected a verdict, and that they would be prepared for a "long hearing" on Monday.