The terrorism trials of opposition Adhaalath Party and Jumhoory Party (JP) leaders are set to begin at the Criminal Court tonight.
Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla’s trial is set for 8:00pm, while trials for JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed have been set for 8:30 pm and 9:00pm, respectively.
The three are charged with inciting violence at a mass antigovernment protest on May 1. If convicted, they face between 10 and 15 years in jail.
At tonight’s hearings, state prosecutors will read out charges against the three and judges are expected to give them a three-day period to appoint lawyers.
Imran is in police custody at present. He was arrested from his home at 11:00pm last night on a criminal court warrant.
“The warrant stated Imran should be brought to court tonight under police guard,” a police spokesperson said.
A warrant is usually issued only if the accused repeatedly fails to attend court, or if the accused may abscond or flee from trial. The Adhaalath Party said Imran only found out about the hearing at the time of his arrest.
It is not yet clear if a warrant has been issued for Ameen and Sobah’s arrest. The police declined to comment on the issue. The criminal court was not responding to calls at the time of going to press.
Minivan News understands Imran, Ameen and Sobah are charged under Article 2 (f) of the 1990 Anti –Terrorism Act that states inciting fear and issuing threats to harm individuals or damage property is an act of terrorism.
Imran and Ameen were arrested after the May Day protest and accused of encouraging violence in their speeches, which police contends led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.
Sobah Rasheed was arrested from an opposition street protest on May 3.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairperson Ali Waheed was also arrested on May 1, but the PG office has reportedly not made a decision on prosecuting the former MP.
The police had also accused the opposition leaders of threatening President Abdulla Yameen and other senior government officials.
The terrorism charges follow the president’s invitation for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties. Imran, Ameen, and Ali Waheed are among the representatives of their respective parties.
Following his release last week after 26 days under police custody, Imran denied the allegations.
More than 20,000 people took to the street on May 1 calling for the release of imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, whose arrests sparked the ongoing political crisis.
The May Day demonstration was the largest anti-government protest in Maldivian history. Some 193 were arrested and scores were injured.
Nasheed was charged with terrorism over the detention of a judge during his tenure and sentenced to 13 years in prison in March.
Nazim was sentenced to 11 years in jail on weapons smuggling charges. The retired colonel maintains the weapons were planted at his home by rogue police officers.
Foreign governments and international bodies including the UN criticized Nasheed and Nazim’s rushed trials for apparent lack of due process. The parliament of the European Union has called for Nasheed’s immediate release.
The opposition alliance has meanwhile called for a mass protest on June 12.
The terrorism charges against Sheikh Imran also comes after President Yameen threatened to prosecute the religious conservative party’s leader over allegations linking the president to the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.