The Criminal Court on Wednesday sentenced former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed of the Supreme Court, to a year, seven months and six days in jail.
They were convicted of obstructing justice after the court found them guilty of refusing to comply with the police's order to hand over their mobile phones for investigation, after their arrests under the state of emergency on February 5.
In addition to their prison sentences, the verdict also annulled the trio's licenses to practise law and give religious sermons.
While the prosecution presented its final statement prior to the verdict reading, Prosecutor Aishath Muna Shameem stated that secret witness testimonies proved that Maumoon, Saeed and Hameed owned mobile phones and had deliberately refused to hand them over despite the police's order. She added that the testimonies further indicated that their mobile phones contained incriminating evidence against them.
The prosecution also requested the court to pass the standard sentence of a year, seven months and six days in jail, stating that there was no reason to increase or mitigate the sentence.
Speaking before the verdict, Maumoon declared that taking secret witness testimonies went against Islamic Sharia. Further noting that the lawyers of all three defendants had earlier boycotted the trial over grievances with the proceedings, Maumoon claimed that enough time had not been granted to appoint a new defence and that continuing hearings without lawyers was in violation of the Maldivian Constitution. He maintained his claim of innocence.
Saeed and Hameed refused to speak without their lawyers.
In response, Judge Hassan Najeeb presiding over the case said that the court had not prevented the defendants from appointing new lawyers, and that the opportunity had stood till date. He stated that the defence's legal team choosing to leave the trial was no cause to halt hearings, highlighting that the Supreme Court had also concluded such a trial.
Moreover, Judge Najeeb proclaimed that all three defendants were accorded their rights throughout the trial, which was held openly to prove this.
Stating that the evidences submitted during the trials unequivocally proved their guilt, the judge announced the court's decision to sentence the three to a year and a half of imprisonment.
In addition, Judge Najeeb said that while Maumoon, Saeed and Hameed were educated in religion and law, their crime made it unacceptable for the three to be legal advocates or provide religious counselling. Hence, under the power accorded to the court under the Penal Code, the judge also announced the decision to revoke their licenses to practise law or give sermons.
While the former president and judges face a jail sentence, they are also undergoing a terrorism trial at the Criminal Court, in connection with the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on February 1 to release political prisoners. The terrorism trials are being conducted separately for each.
Meanwhile, Saeed and Hameed have also been convicted of undue influence on the judiciary, and sentenced to a year and two months in jail. Moreover, the chief justice is also facing an additional four months and 24 days of incarceration after the Criminal Court found him guilty of ordering to shut down the Government's E-Letter Management System (GEMS) of the top court in the wake of the February 1 ruling.