Tholhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu vowed not to release Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed even if he faced 30 years in jail as a consequence, a state witness testified at the then-defence minister’s trial on terrorism charges today.
Lieutenant Ali Ihusan, who served as Tholhath’s personal assistant, told the court that he heard the minister saying he would not release Judge Abdulla.
Following the arrest, Ihusan said Tholhath called Nasheed concerning orders to release Judge Abdulla from the High Court and was told to ignore and file the orders without the defence minister’s signature.
At the last hearing of his trial, Tholhath claimed the operation to arrest Judge Abdulla – dubbed ‘Liberty Shield’ – was initiated by Nasheed and carried out by then-Malé Area Commander Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi, currently opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for mid-Hithadhoo constituency.
Both Nasheed and Didi are also on trial on charges of terrorism along with then-Chief of Defence Forces Major General (Retired) Moosa Ali Jaleel – appointed President Yameen’s defence minister in January – and ex-Colonel Mohamed Ziyad.
Ihusan also said Didi was in charge of the operation and followed instructions from Tholhath and Nasheed.
However, Ihusan said he did not witness Tholhath issuing operational commands, noting that all orders were signed by Didi.
Operation Liberty Shield
Ihusan said he personally delivered two letters to Tholhath from then-Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh and then-Home Minister Hassan Afeef on January 16, requesting assistance from the military in arresting Judge Abdulla.
Tholhath asked Ihusan to provide copies to Jaleel, saying the letters “could save us one day,” Ihusan testified.
Ihusan also said there was a separate attachment with letters from Nasheed’s then-legal secretary, Hisaan Hussain, requesting an investigation of Judge Abdulla’s alleged obstruction of police.
Jaleel said at a hearing of his trial earlier this week that he participated in meetings between the heads of the police and military to discuss 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.
Ihusan also revealed that a meeting with all senior military officers above the rank of colonel took place on January 15, 2012, a day before the chief judge’s arrest.
The state’s second witness, Colonel Abdul Raheem Abdul Latheef said he participated in the top level meeting, but could not recall any discussions on detaining the judge.
The meeting was about assisting police operations and investigations, he testified.
Latheef said he visited Judge Abdulla at Girifushi Island five to six times, accompanying visitors including members of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM).
The colonel noted that Tholhath ordered him to be present at some of the meetings.
Latheef revealed that Tholhath himself visited the judge at the military training island, alongside several civilian visitors whom he could not recall.
Concluding tonight’s hearing, the judges said another hearing on the case would be scheduled tomorrow.
Chief of Defence Forces “Uninvolved”
At today’s hearing of former Chief of Defence Forces Jaleel’s trial, four state witnesses reportedly backed up the current defence minister’s claim that he was not involved in the judge’s arrest.
Both Ihusan and Colonel Latheef testified that Jaleel did not participate in meetings concerning the judge’s arrest and was not consulted by Tholhath.
Dr Ali Shahidh, a military doctor, Aishath Zeena, a psychologist, both of whom attended to the judge during his detention also testified to not receiving any orders from Jaleel.
While hearings of Jaleel, Tholhath, and Nasheed took place today, the Criminal Court did not schedule hearings for ex-Colonel Ziyad or MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi’s trials.
Didi was hospitalised on Sunday night after complaining of chest pains. His family told Minivan News yesterday that the retired general would be flown overseas as soon as doctor’s gave approval.
All five defendants have pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges. The charges were filed under Article 2(b) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1990, which criminalizes kidnappings, forced disappearances and abductions and carries a jail term of between 10 to 15 years.
Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked 22 consecutive nights of violent anti-government demonstrations that culminated in a police and military mutiny on the morning of February 7, 2012, forcing President Nasheed to resign in what he subsequently called a “coup d’etat.”
In January 2013, Tholhath told parliament’s Government Oversight Committee that Nasheed had not resigned “under duress.” However, Tholhath had previously claimed that Nasheed’s life was in danger on February 7, 2012 and that the former president had no choice but to resign.
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