No room to question witnesses' integrity, prosecution tells court

Prosecution on Sunday rejected questions raised by the defence over the integrity of the lower judges who had testified against the jailed top court judges.

Chief justice Abdulla Saeed along with top court judge Ali Hameed facing four separate charges which includes terrorism after being accused in the plot to overthrow the government were convicted of abuse of power to influence lower court judges and sentenced to one year, six months and one day in prison.

The testimonies of two lower court judges who had testified in secret were key to the conviction which had been challenged by the defence as the High Court heard the appeal.

The defence had argued that two lower court judges who had admitted to having changed their rulings on orders of somebody else cannot be deemed as credible witnesses.

The prosecution during the hearing on Sunday, countered by insisting that the witness judges had not been discredited or disqualified by any higher authority.

The prison sentence would add to the four months and 24 days given to chief justice Saeed who was also convicted of impeding the functioning of the state.

With the conviction, the two judges 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.