The Supreme Court today (September 23) continued taking statements from witnesses produced by the Jumhoree Party (JP), in the party’s ongoing bid to annul the first round of presidential elections over allegations of discrepancies and irregularities in the voting process.
The Supreme Court commenced direct examination and cross examination of witnesses during last Sunday’s hearings, during which three witnesses produced by the JP gave their testimonies to the court.
During the hearing Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz announced that the JP had requested to produce 20 witnesses to give evidence in court to support their case.
Due to a request made by the JP’s lawyers on Sunday, the statements of all witnesses were taken with special arrangements made to ensure their anonymity. The witnesses gave their statements in a separate room and their voices were distorted to protect their identities.
The first witness produced by the JP told the court that his friend working as an election official had informed him that his younger sister – who lived in Malaysia and never went to vote – had her name on the list in Male’ and which showed that she had voted.
During re-examination, EC Lawyer Husnu Al Suood asked the witness whether he knew which ballot box in which the alleged discrepancy occurred, but he refused to answer and told the judge that he would give the details “in writing” to the court.
When Hisaan Hussain, the lawyer from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) which has intervened in the case, questioned the witness as to whether he was affiliated with any political party, the witness, despite initial reluctance, said that he supported the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).
The second witness, a female, told the court that she was not able to vote in the elections because EC officials had told her that her National Identity Card (NIC) number did not match with the one that was on the commission’s database. The witness reiterated that despite turning up with an official document from the Department of National Registration, EC officials refused to allow her to vote.
The third witness, a police officer who was on security duty during the time of polling, told the court that he had witnessed elections officials packing up all the paperwork on the ballot counting table – including the original ballot papers – and putting them into a cardboard box, after the officials announced the provisional results of that box.
The police officer said that once the officials had packed the box, they took it away in two taxis. He said that although he had expected them to head to Dharubaaruge, the officials instead went to the secretariat of the commission located in Maafannu.
When the EC lawyer asked the witness what his duty of the day had been, the police officer told the court that he was ordered to follow the EC officials who had left in the taxi, but did not reveal who had given him this order.
When the MDP lawyer questioned the officer as to what distance had he been from the ballot box, the officer said that he was just approximately 15 feet away from the ballot box, 85 feet closer than the 100 foot distance police officers are regulated to maintain from the box.
A fourth witness, a female, told the court that when she contacted the EC to re-register for the run-off election, the EC officials had told her that she had already been registered to vote in Male even though she claimed that she had neither re-registered of voted during the first round of elections. She also contested that the EC official had told her that she had voted in Male.
Another witness told the court that when he had gone to vote, the list which the EC officials working at the ballot box were using showed his name being highlighted as if he had already voted in the election.
However, the witness claimed that following protests and complaints, the officials later allowed him to vote after manually writing down his name and details on the printed list.
During today’s hearing the court was not able to collect statements from two witnesses whose statements had to be collected through telephone.
Each of the two witnesses had appeared in their respective island’s Magistrate Courts to give their witness through telephone. However due to poor reception the court was not able to obtain their statements.
The Chief Justice said that testimonies of the two witnesses would be taken in the next hearing.
After the collection of evidences by witnesses, the JP Lawyer Dr Hassan Saeed requested the Supreme Court give it the party the opportunity to present two new documents of evidence, which included a new list of fraudulent voters and a copy of the leaked police intelligence report currently being circulated around social media.
In response to the request, the judges said that the leaked document could only be accepted after discussing the matter with the other judges. However Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham – who was representing the state, which had also intervened into the case – requested the court for permission to present the original intelligence report to the court, citing that the one that had been leaked on social media had been a part of the original report.
In concluding the hearing today, Chief Justice Faiz said that during the next hearing that the court would try to obtain the statements of the two witnesses, whose statements the court was not able to collect today.
Faiz did not state the date when the next hearing would be scheduled.