Home Minister Umar Naseer denied charges of ‘disobedience to an order’ at the first hearing of his trial at the Criminal Court today.
Judge Abdulla Didi told Naseer’s lawyer to respond to the charges at the next trial date, according to local media.
Naseer is accused of calling for 2,000 volunteers on January 23, 2012 to storm the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) headquarters with 50 ladders during the two weeks of protests sparked by the military’s controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
On the night in question, Umar told anti-government demonstrators in front of the Maldives Monetary Authority building that they should use tactics to tire out the soldiers on duty before climbing into the military barracks, at which point “the people inside will be with us.”
“From today onward, we will turn this protest into one that achieves results,” Naseer had said.
“We know how people overthrow governments. Everything needed to topple the government of this country is now complete.”
After he was questioned by the police in September 2012, Naseer told the press that “there will be no evidence” to prove he committed a criminal offence.
“In my statement I did not mention where to place the ladders or where to climb in using the ladders.” Naseer had said.
If convicted, Naseer faces banishment, imprisonment or house arrest not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding MVR150 (US$ 10) under article 88(a) of the penal code.
The case against Naseer was submitted to the Criminal Court by the Prosecutor General’s office in December 2012 after police concluded their investigation.
The 22 consecutive nights of protests by the then-opposition in January 2012 culminated in the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed on February 7 in the wake of a violent mutiny by riot police officers.
Speaking at a Progressive Party of Maldives rally days after the controversial transfer of presidential power, Naseer claimed he had warned the president’s closest aides that Nasheed could “lose his life” if he did not comply with the ultimatum to resign.
Naseer said he told the president that he could “either surrender with bloodshed or surrender peacefully”.
Naseer also told Australia’s SBS Dateline programme that he was organising the protests from a “command centre” and that he feared for Nasheed’s life.
In January 2013, Naseer said the ousting of the Maldivian Democratic Party government was the result of “planning, propaganda and a lot of work.”