The Criminal Court set a drug kingpin free after claiming that a hearing during which crucial evidence was presented never took place, a High Court ruling on May 29 has revealed.
The High Court overturned the lower court’s ruling and sentenced Hassan Yoosuf of Laamu atoll Gan Island to life in jail for trafficking 46.6 grams of cannabis products.
The Criminal Court said the state had not presented the rubber packet alleged to contain cannabis as physical evidence to the court. But both state prosecutors and Yoosuf testified at the High Court that the police brought the packet to the court on August 22, 2010.
However, the Criminal Court said it has no record of the hearing having taken place.
The High Court’s ruling also highlighted additional intentional lapses in the lower court’s verdict such as its dismissal of credible eyewitness testimony.
Police have called Yoosuf “the top drug dealer” in Laamu Atoll. He was found guilty of drug trafficking and sentenced to 30 years on a separate case in November 2011, but released by the Drug Court in February 2012 after completing a six month rehabilitation program.
Yoosuf fled from the police on December 15, 2009 when the police attempted to arrest him on suspicion of drug trafficking, eyewitnesses said.
When police caught up with him, he threw away a cigarette pack into the trees on the roadside. A rubber packet containing a black substance fell out from the box, eyewitnesses said.
At the Criminal Court, Yoosuf denied charges, arguing the rubber packet presented as evidence could not have fit inside the Camel Light cigarette box.
The presiding judge then asked the state to present the evidence at court. Forensic expert Corporal Mohamed Thihamee went to court with the evidence and demonstrated how the packet could be folded to fit inside the box on August 22, 2010, but the Criminal Court later denied the hearing took place.
Thihamee also testified that the hearing took place. Yoosuf also said the evidence was presented, but said he did not remember seeing Thihamee fit the rubber packet inside the box.
Thihamee demonstrated the same during the High Court appeal.
The Criminal Court also ruled there were too many discrepancies in witness statements to convict Yoosuf.
But the High Court said all four witnesses testified that they saw Yoosuf throw away the cigarette pack during the police chase and that they saw a rubber packet fall out from the box.
They further testified the police found the rubber packet caught between the fronds of a short coconut palm tree on the roadside, the High Court said.
The witness statements and the forensic report on the substance inside the packet is enough proof to convict Yoosuf, the High Court’s majority verdict found.
Dissenting judge Abdulla Hameed found Yoosuf not guilty on a procedural point, arguing the right process was not followed in compiling the forensic report. He said the junior police officer who conducted the analysis was only authorised to do so under a senior officer’s direct supervision.
But judges forming the majority opinion Azmiralda Zahir and Abdul Rauf Ibrahim said the senior police officer is not mandated to be present throughout the time of analysis, but is supposed to supervise whether all the procedures are followed correctly.
The Maldives Correctional Services recently temporarily released convicted drug kingpin Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzak for medical treatment in suspect circumstances in February. But he was caught in Colombo and extradited to the Maldives in May.