High Court throws out appeal over online trial in Ali Waheed case

Former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed arrives at Criminal Court on January 24, 2021. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

The appeal filed by Prosecutor General’s Office over the decision to hold online hearings in the criminal case against former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed has been thrown out of High Court.

High Court annulled the petition, citing lack of legal and judicial basis to hear the case as an appeal.

Prosecutor General’s Office appealed the decision by Criminal Court judge Hassan Saeed to allow Ali Waheed to attend his trial virtually from the UK on June 25.

Prosecutor General’s Office filed the appeal citing that holding a hearing via video conferencing in a criminal trial with the defendant in a location outside of Maldives’ jurisdiction is in violation of Criminal Procedure Code.

The last hearing in the case was held virtually last June, and Prosecutor General’s Office has stated that the exact whereabouts of Ali Waheed is unclear.

Ali Waheed was dismissed as Tourism Minister on July 9, 2020, after allegations that he sexually assaulted and harassed multiple female employees at the Tourism Ministry was brought to the attention of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. He was initially asked to voluntarily resign, but was dismissed after he refused.

He has been pressed with seven charges; attempted rape, inflicting a sexual, indecent exposure, sexual assault, attempt to cause sexual assault, and two counts of unlawful sexual contact.

He initially had a travel ban order against him, but the Criminal Court temporarily released his passport and allowed him to travel overseas for medical treatment on February 9, despite requests by the Prosecutor General's Office not to release his passport and grant him temporary travel papers instead.

State Minister for Sports Assad Ali, one of Ali Waheed’s closest allies, signed as the guarantor for his return within the four-month period granted by the court for his travel overseas – which expired last June.