'Pen ring' becomes central to Maldives election challenge

Incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's legal team on Monday presented three witnesses to testify that the country's election chief had brought in 'pen rings' to rig last month's presidential elections.

President Yameen had filed a legal challenge at the Supreme Court on Wednesday citing rigging and electoral fraud.

During the second hearing on Monday, president Yameen's legal team had asked the Supreme Court to take the testimonies of the three witnesses in secret to protect them citing a threat to their lives.

Lawyers alleged that elections chief Ahmed Shareef had facilitated visa for the unnamed person who had flown to China to bring the 'pen rings' to the Maldives which was then used by election officials to secretly mark ballots during the counting process.

The Supreme Court was also told that the log of people entering and leaving the storage room where the ballot papers were kept was not properly maintained which proved that the elections commission had not tracked access to the ballot papers prior to the elections.

President Yameen's legal team had asked the Supreme Court to order the country's security forces to investigate the allegations made in the case.

The Supreme Court had taken a 15 minutes recess to consider the request for secret testimonies.

The trial is expected to resume at 1.30pm.

What happened on Sunday

During the first hearing on Sunday, president Yameen's lawyer Mohamed Saleem presented the case in detail leveling major accusations against the ballot paper printer M7 and the elections commission.

Saleem largely accused EC of using pens with disappearing ink while ballot papers had also been laced with a chemical that wiped votes for president Yameen.

In response, EC's lawyer Hussain Shameem argued that the whole electoral process had been conducted in accordance with the laws while none of the "sensational" claims made by president Yameen in the case had been raised with the official complaints bureau during or after the elections.

Shameem also said none of the election observers or monitors from either candidate had noticed anything extraordinary to give weight to the vote rigging claims made by president Yameen.

He said president Yameen had failed to clearly specify the exact number of votes the plaintiff had allegedly been robbed as a result of the alleged vote rigging.

Yameen lost the September 23 election by a margin of 16 percent to opposition alliance candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in an outcome hailed as a win for democracy in the crisis-hit archipelago.

The result was widely accepted, including by the United States, China, India, and the European Union.

Yameen conceded defeat a day after the election but had alleged widespread irregularities in the vote.

Shameem pointed out that president Yameen had lost the election by a staggering 38,000 votes which he insisted could not be accounted by the claims made in the case.