Maldives' new chief justice, top court judges sworn in

Incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Thursday appointed a new chief justice and two judges to the country's Supreme Court less than a day after the three judges were approved by the parliament.

A day after the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) had recommended top court judge Ahmed Abdulla Didi to replace the now jailed Abdulla Saeed as the chief justice, incumbent president Yameen had forwarded the nomination for parliament approval.

The parliament now only attended by government coalition lawmakers amid the ongoing parliament boycott by the opposition had praised the chief justice nominee before unanimously voting in favour.

In addition, the parliament had also approved two High Court judges Abdulla Didi and Abdul Ghanee to the top court bench. The duo would replace Saeed and the now jailed former top court judge Ali Hameed on the Supreme Court bench.

According to the constitution, the chief justice along with any appointments would be made by the president after consulting the JSC. The nominations after they are made by the president would then have to be approved by the parliament.

Saeed and Hameed were automatically disqualified last week after the country's Supreme Court rejected the final appeal of their conviction against the duo found guilty of abuse of power to influence lower court judges.

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Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before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.

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 criminal court had delivered a sentence four times the usual punishment for the charge which was nine months and 18 days saying that as judges of the apex court, the defendants had the foremost responsibility to ensure justice.

The High Court however, had reduced the sentence to one year, two months and 12 days.

After the judges had filed their final appeal of the criminal conviction, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to accept the case saying that there were no grounds to overturn the first appellate court's verdict.

The rejection means that the two judges would be automatically removed from office in accordance with a recently ratified amendment to the judges Act if the Supreme Court also upholds the sentence.