State prosecutors have accused former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim of conspiring with opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group to harm state officials.
At today’s first hearing on an illegal weapons charge, State Prosecutor Adam Arif said documents on a pen drive confiscated from Nazim’s house during a January 18 raid show the former defence minister was planning individual and joint operations, financed by the Villa group, to cause bodily harm to “senior honourable state officials.”
The pen drive was confiscated along with a pistol, live bullets and an improvised explosive device during the early morning raid, police have previously said.
Presiding Judge Sujau Usman denied Nazim legal representation at today’s hearing stating the Prosecutor General’s Office had not yet decided which documents from the pen drive were to be kept confidential and which were to be made public.
However, Nazim’s lawyer Maumoon Hameed was allowed inside the courtroom as an observer.
The former defense minister pleaded not guilty. Judge Usman gave Nazim three days to re-appoint a lawyer and answer charges. He is to be kept in police custody until the trial ends.
Nazim’s trial comes amidst heightened tension in Malé. Former President Mohamed Nasheed is also in police custody pending a verdict in terrorism charges over the military detention of a Criminal Court Judge in January 2012. Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party and Gasim’s JP formed an alliance shortly after the weapons find at Nazim’s house and have pledged to overthrow President Abdulla Yameen’s government.
Nazim’s wife, Afaaf Abdul Majeed, was also in court today on the same charges. But Arif told the court the PG’s office was withdrawing charges, claiming the confidential documents had brought to light new information.
Obstacle to justice
Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Hameed said the state’s decision to present confidential documents present “a major obstacle in ensuring a fair trial for Nazim.”
“We will not be able to respond to any of the confidential documents, which hampers his right to justice. We will object to this, and we will do everything within our means to protect Nazim’s rights.”
According to Hameed, the court has not yet provided lawyers with any case documents on charges against Nazim or Afaaf.
“We believe there is no basis to charges against Colonel Nazim’s wife, in the same vein, we believe there is no basis to prosecute Nazim as well,” he said.
Afaaf was sent a summons to attend today’s trial on Monday, despite having received no indication she was under suspicion for possessing illegal weapons.
When the trial began, she was sitting next to Nazim at the defence stand, but was later transferred to the observer stand.
When Nazim left the courtroom he passed by the observer stand, and said to his family, “your mother is now free.”
“My freedom alone won’t do,” Afaaf replied.
Hameed said the Criminal Court in a separate remand hearing ruled Nazim posed a threat to society and must be kept in police custody until the trial ended.
Hameed said he would appeal the ruling as well as a February 11 ruling in which Nazim was remanded for 15 days on additional charges of treason and terrorism.
Despite the controversial weapons find on January 18, the police made no moves to arrest the former minister, and Nazim continued to fulfil his ministerial duties the next day.
President’s Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali at the time told media that President Abdulla Yameen continued to have “full confidence” in Nazim.
The following day (January 20) Nazim was dismissed. On February 9, police submitted files to the PG Office requesting charges be pressed against Nazim for illegal weapons possession.
Within hours, at 12:30am on February 10, police arrested Nazim on new terrorism and treason charges.
The former minister’s defence team said the weapons were planted at his residence, alleging police officers spent ten minutes inside Nazim’s apartment alone after they herded the retired colonel and his family into the living room.
The former Police Chief Abdulla Riyaz claimed Nazim is being framed.
Police have repeatedly denied framing Nazim, describing allegations as a “baseless” attempt at discrediting the force.
Despite Nazim’s detention on new charges, the police have not questioned the former minister even once, Hameed claimed.
State prosecutors did not offer substantive evidence to either arrest Nazim or keep him in detention, Hameed contended.
The allied opposition parties have described the state’s prosecution of Nazim and Nasheed, as well as alleged economic sanctions against Gasim as part of President Yameen’s plan to establish authoritarian control.
The government, however, claims it has no influence in the charges against Nasheed and Nazim, stating the trials were initiated by an independent Prosecutor General and tried through independent courts.
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