Defence minister acquitted of terrorism

The criminal court has acquitted defence minister Moosa Ali Jaleel of terrorism charges related to the detention of a judge, an incident over which former president Mohamed Nasheed has been jailed for 13 years.

The court said there was insufficient evidence to prove Jaleel’s involvement.

Jaleel, who headed the army during the 2012 military detention of criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed, maintains he had no role or influence in the arrest. He said the post of chief of defence forces had been reduced to a ceremonial position.

Five senior state officials were charged with terrorism and tried separately over the judge’s arrest.

The criminal court on March 13 sentenced Nasheed to 13 years in jail in a trial widely condemned for a lack of due process.

Verdicts in the trials of ex-defence minister Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, ex-colonel Mohamed Ziyad and MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, who was the Malé area military commander at the time, are still pending.

Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked 22 nights of violent anti-government protests, culminating in a police and army mutiny on February 7, 2012. Nasheed resigned on the same day, but later said it was under duress.

Jaleel also resigned as chief of the defence forces then, but in 2014 joined the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and took on the role of Maldives Ambassador to Pakistan. He was appointed as defence minister in January.

Verdicts in Tholhath, Jaleel and Ziyad’s trials were initially scheduled to be delivered at the same time, but were repeatedly cancelled, and the criminal court finally delivered a verdict only in Jaleel’s trial last night.

Opposition MP Didi’s case did not progress beyond a few hearings as he had to be flown abroad for medical treatment half-way through the trial. He has not yet returned.

The criminal court last night said despite Nasheed’s conviction, there was no evidence to suggest Jaleel’s involvement in the arrest.

During past hearings, Jaleel said he had taken part in meetings between the heads of the police and military at which they discussed challenges posed to law enforcement and domestic security by the criminal court’s alleged release of dangerous criminals and refusal to grant search and arrest warrants to police.

However, Jaleel said that the issue of arresting the chief judge of the criminal court was not raised during any of the meetings.

He also admitted to attending a meeting to discuss the issue with the Supreme Court.

President Abdulla Yameen appointed Jaleel to the cabinet on January 20 shortly after sacking former defence minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim, who was recently sentenced to 11 years in jail over weapons smuggling.

On March 8, Jaleel led a motorcycle rally by the PPM calling for a speedy judgment in Nasheed’s case.