The High Court today concluded hearings into an appeal by Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office requesting the repealing of a Criminal Court decision to throw out charges of terrorism against 89 individuals from Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo Island.
Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed had dismissed the charges, claiming the PG’s Office was refusing to cooperate with the trial after state prosecutors’ failure to turn up to a trial scheduled for 10am on Saturday, November 22.
PG Muhthaz Mushin has requested the High Court to rule the Criminal Court’s dismissal of the case through a letter as unlawful and to order the terrorism trials to continue.
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.
State prosecutor Shaudha Shameem challenged the Criminal Court’s decision claiming state prosecutors had telephoned and informed the court in advance that they would not be able to attend the hearing on Saturday, November 22.
She contended the Criminal Court had attempted to handover summons to court outside work hours on November 22, Thursday.
But state prosecutors refused to accept summons, as Saturday is not a working day, and because the court had initially scheduled hearings for November 23 instead of November 22, she continued.
Shaudha argued that the Criminal Court could only throw out charges in a courtroom in the presence of the plaintiff and defendant, and claimed Judge Abdulla had failed to follow due procedures in dismissing the case.
She noted that the Criminal Court had previously consulted state prosecutors in scheduling hearings given their busy work schedule.
Two of the 89 facing terrorism charges intervened in the case. with their lawyers – Ibrahim Riffath and Hisaan Hussein – saying the Criminal Court had followed due process by informing the PG’s Office of the November 22 hearing via a letter on the afternoon of November 20.
Hisaan said a presiding judge is authorised to dismiss charges if the plaintiff fails to abide by the judge’s orders, and said a judge has the discretion to decide on the validity of reasons provided for failure to attend hearings.
State prosecutors must not receive special exemptions, she contended.
Meanwhile, Riffath suggested the PG’s Office was lax in cooperating with the trial, pointing out the state had only been able to provide witness testimony during two of the eight hearings.
The High Court bench has said it will issue a verdict in the next hearing. A date for the verdict has not yet been set.
Muhthaz has since resubmitted the cases to the Criminal Court twice. The court rejected the cases on Monday claiming it had no guarantee of cooperation from the PG office.
The PG office submitted cases again yesterday with a letter pledging full cooperation.
Defence lawyers have previously criticised Judge Abdulla’s earlier decisions during the hearings.
Last week, the chief judge ordered 55 of the 89 defendants be held in detention pending the outcome of the trials, claiming the accused were intimidating witnesses. All have subsequently been released.
Defence lawyers have described the judge’s decision to hold the accused in custody as “most unusual” as the identities of state witnesses were not disclosed and had their voices disguised in order to protect their identity.
Around 80 people from Addu City are also currently facing terrorism charges in relation to unrest in the southernmost atoll on February 8.
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