Home Minister’s trial delayed as court decides on change of judge

Home Minister Umar Naseer’s scheduled hearing in his disobedience to order trial was postponed today after the Criminal Court was unable to decide on a request to change the presiding judge.

Haveeru reported that it was not yet clear whether Naseer’s plea to Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed and Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz to remove Judge Abdulla Didi from the case had been granted.

The request came after Judge Didi refused to accept a procedural point raised by Naseer in the previous hearing earlier this month.

Naseer had asked Judge Abdulla Didi to annul Article 8 (a) of the 1968 General Laws under which he is charged, claiming the clause contradicted the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution.

Didi ruled, however, that Naseer’s claim does not classify as a point of procedure, ordering the trial to continue.

Naseer’s lawyer Adam Asif has refused to proceed with the trial until Didi’s decision on the procedural matter is issued in writing. Asif has said that Naseer intends to appeal the decision.

Didi said he took Naseer’s refusal to proceed with the trial as a refusal to speak in his own defense.

He adjourned the hearing after allowing the state to present video evidence of Naseer’s speech, and said he would hold one more hearing for concluding statements and issue a verdict in a separate hearing.

On June12, Didi had issued an arrest warrant ordering the police to present Naseer at the court after he missed three consecutive hearings while overseas on official business.

If convicted under Article 88 of the penal code, Naseer faces imprisonment, banishment or house arrest not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding MVR150 (US$10).

A similar request for a change of judge was granted to Progressive Coalition leader Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam in May after the Maldivian Development Alliance had objected to the manner of the presiding judge in his alcohol smuggling trial.