The Criminal Court has today sentenced the prime suspect in the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali , Hussain Humam Ahmed to death.
The verdict said it was proven beyond doubt that Humam assaulted Dr Afrasheem with a sharp object and intentionally killed him. Humam was found guilty for the crime of intentional murder and sentenced to death as a penalty for the crime.
Dr Afrasheem – then MP for Ungoofaaru Constituency and a moderate Islamic Scholar – was found brutally murdered at the his apartment building on the night of October 1 2012.
Maldives Police Service launched an investigation immediately and found it to have been a politically motivated and premeditated murder.
Suspicion had been cast upon various political groups including Maldivian Democratic Party, religious conservatives and even President Abdulla Yameen – though current Home Minister Umar Naseer recently discarded his earlier comments as “political rhetoric”.
Humam was arrested within hours and was accused of murder on 20 January 2013. On 6 May 2013 Humam denied the charge of murdering Afrasheem, while admitting to many other crimes including several stabbings.
Contradicting his previous statement on 22 May 2013 Human confessed to the murder and said that he wished to apologise to the victim’s family and repent. At the hearing he requested that the judge not to sentence him to death.
On that day Humam gave a detailed account of the planning and execution of the crime, involving Ali Shan of Male’s Henveiru Hikost (also charged with murder), and the juvenile suspect in the case – identified only as ‘Nangi,.
Also said to have been involved were Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officer Azleef Rauf, and Abdulla ‘Jaa’ Javid (son-in-law of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik) and his brother Jana and another person identified only as ‘Spy’.
According to Humam, Jana promised to give him MVR 4 million for carrying out the murder, and Azleef provided him with an identity card and money to buy SIM cards and mobile phones. He said that ‘Spy’ worked with Azleef in organising the crime and ‘Nangi’ provided Shan and himself with a machete, a bayonet knife, jeans, t-shirts and gloves.
Humam said he attacked Afrasheem with the machete when he entered the apartment building that night and when he fell on the ground Shan attacked him with the bayonet knife.
At that hearing state prosecutors told the court that Dr Afrasheem’s DNA was found on the jeans Humam was wearing on the night of the murder.
Again, on 1 June 2013 Humam changed his narration by retracting the earlier confession saying that it was obtained by police through coercive means.
His defence lawyers said the Police had assured Humam that he would not be sentenced to death should he confess to the crime and that if he didn’t, they would charge him with other crimes of which he was accused.
Humam’s Father Ahmed Khaleel also alleged his son was psychologically traumatized and under coercion by the police when he confessed. He wrote to Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives requesting them to “ensure [my] son is granted a fair trial devoid of coercion and undue influence.”
In the letter sent to the Criminal Court, Khaleel said that he observed during the trial that Humam displayed signs of mental instability, including staring upwards, placing his handcuffs against his mouth, and laughing, and requested an assessment Humam’s mental stability. The same request by his lawyer and was rejected by the judge.
In his letter, Khaleel alleged that police officers intimidated Humam even at the hearing and called upon the court to review video footage of the hearing to confirm his claims.
On 19 August 2013, two police officers testified in court stating that they stopped and searched Humam’s person on the night of the murder, with one officer saying that he saw a text message sent from Humam’s mobile phone talking about failing to receive promised money.
They said Humam was behaving unusually, by failing to resist arrest, behaving scared, sweating, shaking and was under the influence of an illegal substance. The officer said Humam was arrested and taken to Atholhu Vehi police custodial. On 11 July 2013 Police forensic experts testified that Dr Afrasheem’s DNA was found on Humam’s jeans.
During the trial period, Humam was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in a drugs related case (28 January 2013 ) and to three years imprisonment for cannabis use (7 July 2013). He was also charged with assaulting a police officer on 18 March 2013.
Implementing Death Penalty
Islamic Shariah as interpreted in the Maldives allows families of murder victims to seek death penalty as Qisas (retaliation), however it is a requirement for all ‘warith’ (heirs in Shariah law) to agree upon it. Dr Afrasheem’s heirs have approved of executing Humam.
While many people have been sentenced to death over the years, the Maldives maintains a longstanding unofficial moratorium on the death penalty. Death sentences are currently commuted to life imprisonment under the power vested to the president in Clemency Act.
The parliament has accepted an amendment to the act in order to force the president to implement such sentences. This presidential authority has been challenged in the high court as well, arguing that it is in violation of Article 10 of the constitution which states no law contrary to a tenet of Islam shall be enacted.
No ruler has implemented the death penalty since 1953 when Hakim Didi was executed by firing squad under President Mohamed Ameen Didi’s authority.
President Abdulla Yameen has expressed his support to implement death penalty while his Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who was President Dr. Mohamed Waheed’s Home Minister – has said he would “not hesitate” in implementing death penalty and pushed for parliament to decide on an implementation procedure.
In order to facilitate implementation of death penalty, Dr Waheed’s government proposed a bill to the parliament with lethal injection as the preferred method – however, it was rejected. Religious conservatives have demanded implementation of the death penalty and proposed beheading as the preferred method.