High Court reverses acquittal of deputy JP leader

High Court on Tuesday reversed the acquittal of deputy Jumhoory Party (JP) leader and Kinbidhoo lawmaker Abdulla Riyaz and found him guilty of obstructing the legal duty of a state official.

Police had summoned Riyaz in March last year to seize his phone under a court order to check his chat and call logs. The former police chief was charged with obstructing the legal duty of a state official after he refused to give the pass code of his phone to the police.

The criminal court however had acquitted the outspoken lawmaker who remains jailed over the alleged plot to overthrow the government.

The first appellate court however, had reversed the acquittal and has scheduled a sentencing hearing later Tuesday.

The defence had urged the court for a minimum sentence possible which could up to four months and 24 day prison sentence.

Riyaz remains among the four lawmakers including Dhiggaru MP Faris Maumoon, Dhangethi lawmaker Ilham Ahmed and South-Machchangoalhi lawmaker Abdulla Sinan to be charged with terrorism for conspiring to overthrow the government. All four remain remanded until the end of the respective trials.

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.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on February 5 had declared 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Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before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 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.

In addition to the terrorism charge, according to a statement released by the Prosecutor General's (PG) office, the trio who remain in custody under the state of emergency have also been charged with obstruction of justice over their refusal to handover their mobile phones to the police.

The two top court judges along with now jailed chief judicial administrator Hassan Saeed are also facing bribery charges. Chief justice Saeed is facing a fourth charge of impeding the functioning of the state for allegedly blocking the receipt of three letters sent by president Yameen shortly after the top court ruling on February 1.

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.