Terrorism trials began at the Criminal Court yesterday for 81 individuals from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll accused of setting fire to the island’s police station and court on February 8, 2012.
According to local media, out of 89 individuals facing terrorism charges, 81 were summoned to the court yesterday, all of whom pleaded not guilty. The accused were offered an opportunity to appoint defence lawyers.
The trials began at 10:00am and lasted until 5:30pm as consecutive hearings were held for small groups of defendants. The terrorism trials posed difficulties for other hearings at the court as such a large group of people were summoned on the same day.
The 89 individuals were charged under Article 2 and 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1990.
Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson Ali Waheed met a number of the defendants at the party’s office prior to the hearings yesterday.
On February 8, 2012, riots spread across the country following a brutal crackdown on an MDP march in the capital in protest of the controversial transfer of presidential power the day before.
In a press release issued on September 18 after the hearings were scheduled, the MDP contended that the trials against dozens of the party’s members and supporters in Addu City and Thinadhoo were politically-motivated acts of intimidation.
The party also accused the government of threatening to prosecute persons who participate in MDP activities.
The press statement also noted that police officers who committed crimes on February 6, 7 and 8 were not being prosecuted.