Maldives hits back at India to deny unjust Gayoom jailing

Maldives government on Thursday hit back at India to deny accusations of an unfair trial for the now jailed former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and chief justice Abdulla Saeed.

The 80 year old Gayoom along with two top court judges were convicted of obstruction justice and sentenced to one year seven months and six days in prison on Wednesday.

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.

Gayoom, along with Chief Justice Saeed and top court judge Ali Hameed who had been arrested under the state of emergency had been charged with obstruction of justice over their refusal to handover their mobile phone to the police.

In a strongly worded statement, India's Ministry of External Affairs reminded that it has repeatedly urged the Maldives government to allow the independent functioning of state institutions including the Supreme Court and the parliament.

"It is, therefore, with deep dismay that we learned that the former President of the Maldives as well as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court are being sentenced to long prison terms without fair trial," the statement read.

Maldives government in a brief statement on Thursday responded by insisting that the trio were convicted and sentenced "as per national laws, regulations and procedures governing the criminal justice system in the Maldives."

"The Government of Maldives reiterates its commitment to upholding the rule of law and reassures that all criminal proceedings are carried out in compliance with the relevant laws and the Constitution of the Maldives," the statement read.

India's statement came after the United States had also decried the "unfair" trial.

The three defendants had no legal representation during the last few hearing of the trial as their respective lawyers had quit accusing the court of completely ignoring the rights of the defendant to rush through the trial.

The prosecution witnesses were mainly police officers involved in the arrest of the three who testified that all of the defendants had refused to handover their phones at the time of the arrest.

The judge said the witness testimonies were irrefutable proof that the defendants had possessed mobile phones but had refused to hand them over in a clear attempt to impede the police investigation.

In addition to the prison sentence, the judge had also revoked their licenses to deliver religious sermons, provide legal expertise and practice law.

The trio are also on trial for terrorism after being accused in the alleged plot to overthrow the government.

The two top court judges facing four separate charges had convicted of abuse of power to influence lower court judges and sentenced to one year, six months and one day in prison.

The prison sentence came on top of the four months and 24 days given to chief justice Saeed who was also convicted of impeding the functioning of the state after he was found guilty of blocking the receipt of the letters sent by the president following the landmark Supreme Court order.

The two top court judges along with now jailed chief judicial administrator Hassan Saeed are also facing bribery charges.

Prosecutors have also formally charged four opposition lawmakers over the alleged coup plot.

Gayoom's lawmaker son Faris Maumoon, Jumhoory Party (JP) deputy leader Abdulla Riyaz, Dhangethi lawmaker Ilham Ahmed and South-Machchangoalhi lawmaker Abdulla Sinan have all been charged with terrorism for conspiring to overthrow the government. All four lawmakers have also been remanded until the trial ends.

In addition, former police chief Ahmed Areef has also been charged and remanded until sentencing.