Angry chief justice slams 'comical' charges over letter block

Jailed chief justice Abdulla Saeed on Monday slammed the "comical" charges against him over allegedly impeding the functioning of the state, describing the entire trial "arbitrary" designed to "frame him."

Chief justice Saeed is facing four separate charges which includes terrorism after being accused in the plot to overthrow the government.

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Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before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 chief justice has been charged for blocking the receipt of the letters by ordering the Government E-Letter Management system (GEMS) be disabled.

During the final pre-trial hearing the chief justice insisted that he was unaware that the system had been down. The defence argued that the charges were in clear violation of the penal code and the criminal procedure code.

The prosecution countered by insisting that witness testimonies would prove that the chief justice had personally ordered staff to disable GEMS on the date in question. However, the chief justice challenged the prosecution by insisting that he was unaware of any problems with the system.

"The chief justice was not notified. I only went to court that day because there was a request by the PG [prosecutor general] to see what the bench decided. I wasn't even in court the entire day. So its highly likely that I was on the bench when this thing happened. Do you even know where the chief justice was when you're charging him with this? Or when I went to court that day?," an angry chief justice asked the prosecution.

Saeed also said the letter management system was an administrative responsibility which the chief justice does not oversee.

The top judge who remains in custody under the state of emergency has also been charged with obstruction of justice over his refusal to handover his mobile phone to the police.

In addition to the chief justice, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and top court judge Ali Hameed have been charged with terrorism over the alleged plot to overthrow the government.