Maldives’ chief justice jailed for nearly 5 months

Maldives' chief justice jailed for nearly 5 months
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2014 file photo, Maldivian President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, accompanied by his wife Fathimath Ibrahim, arrives in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Human rights groups have expressed concern over the Maldives government's purported plan to carry out its first execution in 60 years.President Gayoom said earlier this week that the country will execute the first of the three convicts next month. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, File)

MALE, Maldives:  A court in the Maldives on Tuesday sentenced the country’s chief justice to nearly five months in prison on charges of obstructing government administration and justice.

The criminal court sentenced Abdulla Saeed to four months and 24 days for allegedly preventing the Supreme Court from receiving letters from the government.

Saeed was arrested in February during a political crisis that followed a Supreme Court order for the release and retrial of some of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s jailed political opponents because of alleged violations of due process during their earlier trials.

Saeed also faces separate charges of terrorism which carry a longer maximum sentence.

Maldives authorities arrested Saeed and another justice who was on the bench which ordered the release of the political prisoners, including Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first president elected in a free election in 2008. Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges but now lives in Britain after receiving asylum there while on leave for medical treatment. Nasheed’s release would have allowed him to contest a presidential election later this year in a formidable challenge to Yameen’s re-election bid.

After the arrests of their colleagues, the remaining three Supreme Court justices nullified their order to release Yameen’s opponents.

Yameen’s half-brother and 30-year dictator, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whom Nasheed defeated 10 years ago, has also been arrested.

Maldives, known for its luxury island resorts, embraced multiparty democracy in 2008 but has lost most of its democratic gains since Yameen was elected in 2013.