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Top court justices sentenced to 1 year, 7 months

Fathmath Shaahunaz
10 May 2018, MVT 19:32
Judge Ali Hameed (L) and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed of the Supreme Court. PHOTO/ MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
10 May 2018, MVT 19:32

The Criminal Court on Thursday found Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed of the Supreme Court guilty of undue influence on the judiciary, and sentenced them to one year, seven months and six days in jail.

The state had levied charges of influencing official duties against Saeed and Hameed, accusing the duo of influencing judges of lower courts to manipulate verdicts since beginning of 2016 until February 1 this year, when the apex court had issued its landmark order to free political prisoners.

The most lenient sentence for their conviction, according to the Penal Code, is nine months and 18 days. However, Judge Hussain Shaheed of the Criminal Court presiding over the case had hiked the sentence fourfold, explaining that since Saeed and Hameed were justices of the Supreme Court, their actions had compromised public interests, and the trust placed in a state institution. He noted that under the circumstances, the Penal Code permits stricter sentences.

'Proof of undue influence'

Prior to the verdict reading, Judge Shaheed had read aloud the points of the case, stating that various evidences and testimonies submitted during the trial prove the justices' guilt. Some of these evidences claim that:

- Judge Ali Hameed had summoned a judge and the chief judge of a lower court to the Supreme Court regarding a case the first judge had been overseeing, and had had the verdict changed prior to its announcement.

- After the Supreme Court's verdict of February 1, Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed had called a judge of the lower court and warned him to "think about" orders issued for politicians and top officials of the judicial system. Saeed had also told the judge that he must cooperate with enforcing the Supreme Court's landmark ruling.

- CJ Saeed had influenced the Criminal Court's order to arrest Chief Judicial Administrator Hassan Saeed, which was issued in the wake of the February 1 verdict.

- Judge Hameed had influenced cases involving the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), amongst others.

A secret witness had testified during the trial that Saeed and Hameed had influenced him regarding orders to arrest some political figures. The witness stated that he had later annulled that order.

The witness had gone on to claim that CJ Saeed and Hameed had contacted him after the annulment. However the witness stated that he had had the order annulled because, upon further study, he found no reason to uphold those arrest orders.

With regards to his testimony, Judge Shaheed declared that it showed that Saeed and Hameed had influenced the witness in question, and that the orders were later annulled due to that influence.

Emphasising that a state position demands loyalty and allegiance, Judge Shaheed proclaimed that Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed had acted in violation of their sworn oaths and the Constitution.

Following the verdict reading, Saeed and Hameed shook hands with their lawyers, with the former saying, "Upholding the Constitution is a tough task." Both remained smiling as they were escorted from the courtroom by officers of Maldives Correctional Services.

While the hearing to read the verdict was open to the public, Saeed and Hameed's trial process had been held behind closed doors.

In addition to the duo's sentences of a year, seven months and six days, CJ Saeed was also recently found guilty of ordering to shut down the Supreme Court's Government E-letter Management System (GEMS) in the wake of the February 1 ruling. He has thus been convicted of obstructing state functioning, and sentenced to four months and 24 days in jail.

Moreover, Saeed and Hameed have also been charged with terrorism, bribery, and obstruction of justice. The Criminal Court has yet to announce the verdicts of these cases.

The two justices will receive a period of 10 days to appeal their verdict. However should the High Court uphold the lower court's ruling and find them guilty, Saeed and Hameed will automatically lose their positions as judges, as per the recently passed amendment to the Judicature Act.

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