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Ex-pres, judges' trial proceeds despite defence boycott

Fathmath Shaahunaz
31 May 2018, MVT 13:31
L-R: Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Judge Ali Hameed, and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed gesture as they are escorted to prison on police speedboats. PHOTO/MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
31 May 2018, MVT 13:31

All the lawyers of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed, have boycotted the ongoing hearings of their clients' obstruction of justice trial.

The former president and two justices of the Supreme Court are charged over refusing to comply with an order to hand their mobile phones to the police, after they were arrested on February 5 under the state of emergency. Maumoon's lawyers had boycotted the trial during Tuesday night's hearing, and the lawyers of Saeed and Hameed followed suit on Wednesday night.

All the lawyers had voiced disapproval with the trial's proceedings as the reason for their boycott, stating that the court was making it impossible for the attorneys to protect the rights of defendants. Judge Hassan Najeeb presiding over the case permitted them to walk out, but noted that none of the lawyers would be allowed to advocate on the same case again.

Despite the walkout, Judge Najeeb decided to follow through with Wednesday night's hearing, which was held to take the testimonies of the prosecution's secret witnesses.

Without their legal teams, Maumoon, Saeed and Hameed were left to speak for themselves.

Same witness, different case

One of the secret witnesses presented at the hearing had also testified at the top court judges' previous trial for undue influence over the judiciary. Saeed and Hameed were found guilty of the charge, and they have since appealed the case.

Speaking at Wednesday's hearing, the witness claimed that Saeed and Hameed had contacted them regarding various cases before. The witness further said that Judge Ali Hameed had thanked them for carrying out duties in certain manners.

At that point, Hameed had pointed out that it was one of the witnesses that had testified at the judges' previous trial for influencing the judiciary. The two justices had voiced concerns over the state presenting a witness that had already testified in another case which had resulted in the judges' conviction, likening it to double jeopardy.

However, Prosecutor Aishath Reesha countered that the witness' testimonies were for two entirely different trials.

Mediator between Maumoon and Hameed

The second secret witness at Wednesday's hearing claimed that they had on several occasions received documents from former President Maumoon regarding various trials, which they had delivered to Judge Ali Hameed. As an example, the witness said they had delivered documents from Maumoon to Hameed at a time when the High Court was looking into a case regarding ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)'s leadership.

The witness further claimed that Maumoon and Hameed were in contact via WhatsApp, and that Maumoon had also made phone calls to Hameed using the witness' mobile phone. In the testimony, the witness had provided the alleged phone numbers of the former president and top court judge.

In response to the testimony, Maumoon proclaimed that Islamic Sharia law does not recognise secret witnesses, and that testimonies must be presented transparently. He declared that the testimony was a blatant lie.

Meanwhile, Judge Hameed had questioned the witness regarding the time frame of the alleged events. The witness responded that the events took place between 2013 and 2014.

Hameed countered that the witness' testimony was false, stating that Hameed's mobile number the witness had provided was one he began using after the year 2014.

Following Hameed's claim, the prosecution had further questioned the witness as to when the High Court's case on PPM's leadership had taken place. The witness replied that they recalled it had been 2016.

Hameed had gone on to repeatedly question the witness regarding the nature of PPM's leadership case, and finally declared that the witness was lying, warning that "those who give false testimonies are destined for Hell".

Testimony of a Supreme Court staff

The third secret witness presented by the prosecution was an employee of the Supreme Court, in a bid to prove that there were no areas in the top court premises that forbade the use of mobile phones.

The witness stated that while there were certain areas where the court's staff were prohibited from using mobile phones, they were not aware if such prohibitions existed for the justices.

Chief Justice Saeed and Judge Hameed asked the witness several questions regarding their statement. They inquired whether the witness was aware of the Supreme Court's procedure on using mobile phones, whether the justices used phones in the courtroom during trials or in the deliberation room, and whether the witness was able to reach Hameed's phone on the night he and Saeed were arrested.

The witness responded that they had not seen any judges using their phones during hearings, and that they were not aware of the existence of the court's procedure on using phones. The witness added that while judges used mobile phones inside the deliberation room, they did not do so during the time of deliberation.

Furthermore the witness said they had received a phone call from Hameed's home residence on the night he was arrested as the judge did not go home. The witness had thus tried to contact Hameed but was unable to reach his phone.

Maumoon, judges concerned over trial proceedings

Former President Maumoon, CJ Saeed and Judge Hameed had also expressed concerns over the proceedings of their trial.

Maumoon raised the issue of his poor health, stating that he found it extremely difficult to travel at night and endure long trials. He said that he had been "forced" to attend Wednesday night's hearing out of fear of being deprived of certain privileges in his incarceration should he be absent. Noting that Tuesday night's hearing had also been long and disturbed his fasting during Ramadan, Maumoon requested the state and judge to take his age and health into consideration.

CJ Saeed also said that he had been forced to fast on Wednesday on an empty stomach due to the late end of Tuesday night's hearing. Raising concerns over the proceedings of the trial, he proclaimed that the defendants were being treated inhumanely.

The court has scheduled the next hearing of this trial for Thursday night.

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