The Criminal Court has ruled that Adam Naseer of H. Reendhooge is innocent of dealing drugs, despite being labelled by the government as one of the country’s ‘top six’ drug dealers and a police investigation lasting nearly a year.
Police searched Naseer’s home in Addu Atoll on 30 June 2009, where they found over Rf6 million (US$461,500) in cash and a tin containing drugs outside his house.
He was later arrested in early July in Addu Atoll, but “he wasn’t in prison the whole time,” explained President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair. “On several occasions the court has delayed his imprisonment until the hearing.”
Naseer’s arrest last year was a big break for the Prosecutor General’s office and the police, who had been leading an investigation and following Naseer for months.
Naseer had also been arrested in 2007 on drug dealing counts and later on counts of bribery and giving false information to the police, but he was released due to lack of evidence.
In his verdict, Judge Abdul Baary Yousuf said there was not enough evidence to prove the money had come from dealing drugs. He added that the drugs could have been placed outside Naseer’s house by anyone and did not necessarily belong to him.
Zuhair said Naseer “is still considered to be a top drug dealer. He was caught red-handed.”
He added that although the executive and legislative branches have been reformed with the change in government, “the justice system is still going the way it was in Gayoom’s time” and “many of the judges are sympathisers of Gayoom.”
Ahmed Adam, program coordinator for Journey, an NGO with a mission to help addicts maintain their recovery and to raise public awareness on drug issues, said “these people shouldn’t be on the streets. If they’re not behind bars, what will happen?”
“The judge should ask where all this money came from,” added Adam.
Only one witness claimed the drugs belonged to Naseer. Under Shari’ah law, there needs to be at least two witnesses to prove a person guilty, annulling the witness’s testimony.
Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameen said “he should not released, but… the court has acquitted him.”
Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizzu said he had no comment on Naseer’s release, but added that his office would “appeal [the case] to the High Court.”
Two of the ‘top six’ have now fled the country. police are still investigating the remaining three suspects.
President Nasheed has previously said that while the government knows the identities of the top six drug dealers, their arrests would appear politically motivated as they included political opponents.