Chief justice claims martyr status after prison sentence

Maldives chief justice Abdulla Saeed claimed that he had received "martyr status" on Tuesday immediately was sentenced four months and 24 days in jail on Tuesday after being convicted of impeding the functioning of the state.

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Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before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

"I've received martyr status .... I'm still alive," chief justice said out loud immediately after he was sentenced.

The prosecution had presented several top court staff who had testified in secret while the court had rejected key defence witnesses.

With the conviction, the chief justice would be automatically removed from office in accordance with a recently ratified amendment to the judges Act if the two appellate courts uphold the sentence.

According to the controversial amendment, a judge convicted of a criminal offence would be removed with immediate effect after the sentence. The amendment was also designed to bypass the constitutional article on removal of judges arguing that it does not relate to the conduct of judges.

The amendment said the judicial service commission (JSC) must suspend the judge with pay following his or her arrest. However, once the judge is formally charged he or she would cease to receive pay while he or she would be immediately removed from office if convicted.

The ruling party in its amendment has also limited the time for appeal. A convicted judge must file the first appeal within 10 days while first appellate court is given 30 days to arrive at a sentence. The same time frame has been afforded to the Supreme Court as the last stage of appeal.