The Prosecutor General (PG) Office will appeal the Criminal Court’s dismissal of terrorism charges against 89 defendants from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaalu atoll, PG Muthaz Muhsin has told local media.
On Saturday (November 22), Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed dismissed the cases after state prosecutors failed to attend a hearing scheduled for 10:00am.
Muhsin said the PG’s Office was informed of the hearing after 2:30pm on Thursday via a fax and were unable to make arrangements, though lawyers working on the case have told Minivan News that the hearings had been scheduled in advance for 10am every day – including Saturdays – for the duration of the trial.
In addition to appealing the dismissal, Muhsin said the cases would be resubmitted to the Criminal Court today.
Last week, the chief judge ordered 55 defendants be held in detention pending the outcome of the trials, claiming the accused were intimidating witnesses. All have subsequently been released.
The court had earlier ordered the detention of 17 of the 89 defendants, all of whom were released following the dismissal of the cases on Saturday.
Defence lawyers described the judge’s decision to hold the accused in custody as “most usual” as the identities of state witnesses were not disclosed and had their voices disguised in order to protect their identity.
The 89 defendants faced terrorism charges for allegedly setting fire to the island’s police station, court building, and several police vehicles during nationwide unrest on February 8, 2012 in the wake of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s controversial resignation the previous day.
Acts of arson are considered terrorism under the Terrorism Prevention Act enacted by the administration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The offence carries a jail term of between 10 to 15 years.
Around 80 people from Addu City are also currently facing terrorism charges in relation to unrest in the southernmost atoll on February 8.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has accused the government of selectively prosecuting dozens of the party’s members and supporters in Addu City and Thinadhoo.
The party has also criticised the use of a single judge – Abdulla Mohamed – in all the cases related to the February 8 unrest, calling the entire process “highly politically motivated”, noting that police officers who committed crimes on February 6, 7, and 8 were not being prosecuted.
On February 8, 2012, riots spread across the country following a brutal crackdown on an MDP march in the capital.
Thousands of MDP supporters took to the streets of Malé in a protest march after Nasheed declared his resignation the previous day had come “under duress” in a “coup d’etat” instigated by mutinying police officers of the Special Operations (SO).
Following an investigation, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives concluded that the heavy-handed police crackdown on the MDP walk was “brutal” and “without warning” while the “disproportionate” use of force left dozens of demonstrators injured and hospitalised.
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