Bench formed to hear ex-pres' money laundering case

The Criminal Court has formed a five-judge bench to preside over former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyom's money laundering trial.

The bench is made of up Acting Chief Judge Ali Rasheed, Judge Ahmed Shakeel, Judge Mohamed Sameer, Judge Ali Adam and Judge Hussain Faiz Rashad.

The former president's case was initially overseen by now-suspended Criminal Court Chief Judge Ahmed Hailam. All hearings of the trial were televised live on national TV, and a verdict was set to be delivered last Tuesday after concluding all hearings.

However, an unforeseen turn of events saw Judge Hailam being suspended by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) mere hours ahead of the hearing, over a controversial Victory Day greeting sent by the judge to a social network group.

The image shared by Judge Hailam depicted the Victory Day hero, Martyr Hussain Adam dragging President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Parliament Speaker former president Mohamed Nasheed and those convicted for the November 3, 1988 terror attack by a chain locked around their necks.

Following Hailam's suspension, Judge Ali Rasheed was appointed as the Acting Chief Judge of the court for the duration of Judge Hailam's suspension.

Last week, former president Yameen requested the criminal Court to arrange for a bench to hear his case. He made a similar request during the initial stages of his trial. However, Judge Hailam had at the time made the decision to turn down the request and chose to preside over the case alone. Judge Hailam had stated that overseeing cases as a bench is usually reserved for upper courts.

According to the Criminal Procedure laws, the power to make a decision on how to proceed with the case in Judge Hailam's absence lies with the Acting Chief Judge of the court. The power to assign judges to a case also lies with the Acting Chief Judge.

While the Criminal Court has now decided to grant Yameen's request for a bench to hear his case, cases overseen by the Criminal Court is not usually heard by a bench. The last time a bench tried a case was for Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim's bribery trial. The bench was later dissolved.