Maldives pres defends house arrest snub for 'coup' suspects

Incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Tuesday took it upon himself to defend the court's refusal to grant house arrest for the high-profile suspects charged with the alleged plot to overthrow the government citing lack of cooperation with the investigation as the reason.

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 Yameen 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.

Yameen's half-brother and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and four former government lawmakers have been charged with terrorism for their involvement in the coup plot through the February 1 court order.

In addition to the terrorism charge, Gayoom along with the two top court judges who had been arrested 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 80 year old Gayoom had asked the court for house arrest over increasing health risk.

Speaking during a ruling party rally in the capital Male on Tuesday, president Yameen admitted that refusing to transfer such high-profile figures to house arrest would raise questions with the public.

Taking a bank robbery as an example, the president said the mobile phones of the suspects would become key pieces of evidence in the case. A sentence is inevitable if the suspects refuse to handover their mobile phones, president explained.

"A bank robbery would take a lot of planning. It would take planning down to the minute. Who would be where at a certain time. Who would knock on the door. Who would take out the CCTV cameras. Who would come along on the heist. Who would enter the vault. Who would open it. What they would use to open the vault with. Who would take the money or what the getaway vehicle would be. All this would be planned down to the last minute. So how would they communicate all this? They would use their phones," president Yameen explained.

He added that even the constitution stipulates punishment for anyone trying to destroy or hide evidence.

So the court cannot grant house arrest for a suspect charged by prosecutors for destroying or attempting to influence or hide evidence, the president added.

"I will never meddle with a case in a court of law. It's not something I [president] should even meddle with. But I will push to expedite cases. Because rights can be violated. So the reason these people [coup suspects] cannot go home is their own doing. Because they're refusing to cooperate and handover evidence. If they block evidence, then a court sentence is inevitable," he said.

President Yameen also said the refusal by the suspects to handover evidence was further proof of their guilt as it clearly shows that "they have something to hide."