Criminal Court gave 15 days for deposed vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor to appoint an attorney as the trial in the case against him for possessing a handgun began on Sunday.

Adheeb was charged late last month with terrorism for allegedly possessing a handgun.

In the first hearing of the case, Adheeb told the court that he had been accused of possessing a handgun on May Day.

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had held a mass anti-government protest on May Day.

In the hearing, Adheeb sought the right to appoint an attorney. The court gave him 15 days.

Concluding the hearing, the judges’ bench announced that the next hearing would be held on February 15. The hearing, scheduled for 2pm, would be held even without a defence attorney present, the judges said.

Then Vice President Adheeb was arrested on October 24 upon return from an official visit to China and taken to the police detention centre in the island of Dhoonidhoo in Kaafu atoll.

He is accused of orchestrating a recent blast aboard a presidential speedboat, now confirmed as an attempt to kill the president.

The former vice president, however, denies the charges.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim were travelling to Male from the airport on September 28 when the explosion took place. They had returned home that morning after concluding their visit to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage.

The president was unhurt, but the first lady suffered a spinal fracture.

Since his arrest, Adheeb has been kept at the Dhoonidhoo detention centre. His remand hearings and proceedings in the ongoing corruption trial are conducted via video conferencing.

Adheeb was brought to Male Wednesday morning for the first time since his arrest and taken to the military hospital, Senahiya to see an ophthalmologist.

The former vice president was produced in court Sunday for the first time. A heavy police presence was observed outside the Justice Building, which houses the Criminal Court, and surrounding areas.

In addition to the terrorism charges, the former vice president is being tried in a case of corruption.

Charges have been filed against Adheeb and Abdulla Ziyath, who serves as the managing director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), in a case involving the leasing of an island and a lagoon in Male atoll. Adheeb was charged with abuse of power while Ziyath was charged with corruption.

Police last week forwarded another 25 cases of corruption against the former vice president for prosecution.

Police had last month forwarded cases implicating Adheeb and Ziyath in leasing of an additional 17 islands. Prosecutors are now reviewing those cases before filing charges.

With those cases, the total number of cases against the former vice president now exceeds 40.

MMPRC had siphoned off millions received by leasing islands for resort development, authorities had said.

Both the auditor general and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) are conducting separate investigations into the company.

ACC had said its investigation concerning MMPRC is shaping up to be the biggest corruption investigation in its history. The commission had described the probe into MMPRC’s finances as being much wider in scope than previous investigations of a similar scale such as the leasing of Maldives main international airport to an Indian company and the deal with a Malaysian company to install a brand new border control system in the Maldives.

Haveeru understands that the funds embezzled by leasing islands for resort development through MMPRC is estimated to sum up to USD40-60 million (MVR616-925 million).

Meanwhile, in the first hearing of the corruption case held at the Criminal Court on December 17, Adheeb, speaking via video conference, sought the right to appoint an attorney. The court granted a month for him to complete his request.

Ziyath, also speaking via video conference, denied the charges.

At the hearing, held without prior announcement, prosecutors asked the court to produce both Adheeb and Ziyath — remanded at the police detention centre in the nearby island of Dhoonidhoo — in court for the trial. The judges announced that arrangements would be made for them to appear in court for the next hearing.

The court also ordered both Adheeb and Ziyath to be remanded till the end of the trial.

Original Article – Haveeru Online: http://www.haveeru.com.mv/news/65480