Maldives chief justice denies terrorism charges over 'coup' plot

Maldives' jailed chief justice Abdulla Saeed on Monday denied terrorism charges over the alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Chief justice Saeed is facing four separate charges which includes bribery 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.

During the first pre-trial hearing on Monday, the chief justice denied the charges which he said were void.

The defence argued that urging the state to enforce a Supreme Court order could not be deemed as an act of terrorism.

The prosecution however, countered by alleging that the chief justice had been bribed into issuing the February 1 order, unlawfully scripted to overthrow the government. The prosecution had presented 16 secret witnesses against the top judge.

In addition to the chief justice, top court judge Ali Hameed, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, four lawmakers and the former police chief are among the suspects charged with terrorism over the alleged coup plot.

The other top political leaders named in the now rescinded order included Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla, former defence minister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.