Maldives top court defends Feb 1 order

Maldives top court on Tuesday defended its controversial order of February 1, insisting that criminal intent of the now jailed two Supreme Court judges does not render the order "wrong".

the Attorney General (AG) had filed a constitutional dispute case challenging the reinstatement of a dozen lawmakers.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The Supreme Court’s decision had also overturned its previous ruling to provide a ‘temporary solution’ to the issue of floor-crossing and changing party membership of Parliamentarians until the Parliament enacts a law for the purpose.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on February 5 had declared a state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.

Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before state of emergency was declared.

The top court however, had not rescinded the part of the order which quashed its anti-defection ruling ordering the country's electoral watchdog to re-instate the dozen government lawmakers disqualified over the ruling.

Following the constitutional dispute, the remaining three judge bench has asked the parliament to hold off on reinstating the dozen lawmakers until it decides on the case.

During the first hearing of the case, the state attorney had pointed out that the now jailed two top court judges had plotted to overthrow the government through the order for which they now have been charged.

The state attorney had argued that as the order was issued with criminal intent the entire must now be annulled.

However, after a brief discussion among the three judge bench, the court rejected the argument insisting that criminal intent of a judge was not enough to annul a ruling.

"A judge accused of criminal intent would not render a ruling wrong or void," judge Abdulla Didi said.

The judge further said a ruling can only be annulled after a thorough review which he pointed out was the way the court had done with the parts of the February 1 order which it had already revoked.

By Wednesday, prosecutors have got the country's criminal court to remand the suspects until the end of their respective trials which otherwise would have forced authorities to release them after the emergency state ended.

The most high-profile figures remanded until the end of the trial included former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, chief justice Abdulla Saeed and top court judge Ali Hameed - all now formally charged with terrorism over the alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Prosecutors have also formally charged four opposition lawmakers over the alleged coup plot.

Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon, Jumhoory Party (JP) deputy leader Abdulla Riyaz, Dhangethi lawmaker Ilham Ahmed and South-Machchangoalhi lawmaker Abdulla Sinan have all been charged with terrorism for conspiring to overthrow the government. Three out of the four lawmakers have all been remanded until the trial ends thus far.

In addition to Nasheed, the other top political leaders named in the now rescinded order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor and Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon.

Former prosecutor general Muhthaz Muhsin, magistrate Ahmed Nihan and Adheeb's uncle Hamid Ismail make up the rest of the list.