Convict alleges attempts to coerce confession to killing Dr Afrasheem

Murder convict Hussain Humam has claimed that former state minister for home affairs Mohamed Fayaz ‘FA’ threatened to kill his family if he did not confess to killing Dr Afrasheem Ali, local media report.

At a hearing of his appeal at the High Court yesterday, Human alleged attempts by Fayaz, police officers and state prosecutors to coerce a confession.

The state minister told Humam that “the people who murdered Dr Afrasheem can also murder your family,” he claimed.

Humam said he confessed to the crime at the criminal court due to “psychological abuse.”

“I was shown photos of the murdered MP and intimidated by police. I tried to hang myself at jail,” he was quoted as saying by local media.

The late moderate religious scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP was brutally stabbed to death on October 1, 2013 in a murder that shocked the nation.

Humam was arrested within hours after Afrasheem’s body was found and charged with murder in January 2013. After pleading not guilty, Humam confessed to the killing at a hearing in May 2013 and gave a detailed account of the murder.

However, a month later, Humam retracted the confession, claiming police obtained it through coercion.

Suspicion has since been cast upon the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), religious extremists and President Abdulla  Yameen. Humam is the only person convicted so far despite police saying the murder was premeditated and politically motivated.

The next hearing will be the final hearing in the case, judges said yesterday.

At a previous hearing, Humam alleged the president and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb’s involvement in the murder, saying the pair “will know best” the details of the case.

Last week, President Yameen threatened to prosecute Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla over allegations linking him to the murder, whilst Adeeb accused the MDP and Humam’s lawyer, Abdulla Haseen, of orchestrating Humam’s remarks at court in a “character assassination” attempt.

Yameen has also vowed to enforce the death sentence against Dr Afrasheem’s murders. Humam was sentenced to death in January 2013.

“God willing the death sentence will be implemented by the end of this year for the murderers of Dr. Afrasheem,” Yameen said in April.

A second suspect charged with murder, Ali Shan, was acquitted of murder in September last year with the court citing insufficient evidence.

Shan was implicated in Humam’s confession, but the judge said several witnesses had testified that the accused was at a restaurant at the time the murder took place.

A third suspect, Azlif Rauf, who Humam said planned the murder, meanwhile left to Turkey with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang in January.


Ex-defence minister appeals weapons smuggling sentence

Former defence minister Mohamed Nazim has appealed an 11-year jail term on weapons smuggling at the high court today.

Nazim’s defence team said the criminal court had failed to provide a required report into court proceedings by the 2pm appeal deadline today.

The US and UK have criticised Nazim’s trial for apparent lack of due process, and the opposition has been protesting daily for his release.

Nazim’s lawyers said the criminal court’s failure to provide the case report “hampered” his right to appeal and that the new 10-day appeal deadline was too short to file an appeal. The Supreme Court had shortened the 90 day appeal period to 10 days in January.

The retired colonel is currently in Singapore seeking emergency medical treatment unavailable in the Maldives. He left Malé on Friday with his wife.

“Nazim said to let the public know he will not flee and will return as soon as his treatment is completed,” a family member said.

Although inmates are usually allotted three months for overseas treatment, Nazim was only given 45 days. The home ministry authorised him to travel to Singapore only, despite the family saying Singapore was too expensive for medical care.

The inmate’s families are usually required to bear expenses for overseas medical treatment.

After a midnight police raid in January, officers said they had confiscated a pistol, bullets and a pen drive containing information that Nazim was plotting a coup d’etat and planning to harm the president, police commissioner and tourism minister. Nazim says the items were planted.

He requested permission to travel overseas three weeks ago after his doctor advised him to undergo some tests unavailable in the Maldives.

The family has declined to reveal details of Nazim’s medical condition, but said it needs to be monitored and treated.

No prison guards will travel with him, but the correctional service and a guardian from the family will come to an agreement under which the guardian will be responsible for the inmate.


High Court says Nasheed can still appeal

Former president Mohamed Nasheed can still appeal a 13-year terrorism conviction at the High Court despite the end of the 10-day appeal period, the court says.

However, Nasheed’s lawyers say they believe they have no legal route through which to launch an appeal, and the ex-leader’s only hope for release is a clemency procedure initiated by the president.

The legal team says Nasheed is seeking a political solution involving President Abdulla Yameen, saying he has no faith in the judicial system to treat his case fairly.

Nasheed’s conviction last month was met with outrage from the opposition, which has been holding daily protests, while his trial was heavily criticised by several international bodies.

Late appeals

High Court judges are authorized to accept a late appeal if a “reasonable justification” is given, court media official Ameen Faisal said.

These include the lower court’s failure to provide detailed reports into court proceedings on time, as had happened in Nasheed’s case.

However, a lawyer on Nasheed’s team says there is no legal avenue to file an appeal, because the Supreme Court has removed the High Court’s discretionary power to accept late appeals.

This change was made in the same January ruling that shortened a 90-day appeal period to 10 days, shortly before Nasheed’s trial.

Only President Abdulla Yameen can now resolve the impasse, Nasheed’s lawyer Ibrahim Riffath said. The president can reduce Nasheed’s sentence through special powers granted in the Clemency Act.

In January, the Supreme Court voided Article 42 of the Judicature Act which set out appeal deadlines and gave judges discretionary powers in accepting late appeals.

The 90–180 day appeal period obstructed justice, the Supreme Court said. A new 10-day appeal period was set out, but the apex court was silent on procedures for late appeals.

Riffath said the High Court must now seek the Supreme Court’s instruction before accepting an appeal.

Political solution?

In any case, Nasheed’s team on March 19 announced that the former president desired a political solution and would not seek an appeal, stating he had no faith in the judiciary.

His lawyers believe such an appeal would inevitably fail, because they do not believe the High Court judges to be independent.

Six of the nine High Court judges are to be relocated to two new High Court branches with reduced powers in the north and south. The government-controlled judicial watchdog has not yet decided which judges will be relocated, and the threat of this demotion has silenced the judges, Nasheed’s lawyers believe.

President’s spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali last week suggested President Yameen could consider granting a pardon if Nasheed asked for it, saying the office had not received a letter yet.

But Riffath said the normal clemency procedures do not apply in Nasheed’s case, as the president cannot pardon offences relating to terrorism. However, the president on his own initiative could reduce sentences or postpone them indefinitely under special procedures listed in Article 29 of the Clemency Act.

Article 29 states that the president can reduce sentences depending on the age, health or special circumstances of the convict.

Yameen has so far insisted that the court process is independent from his government and that he is not personally involved.

Daily protests are ongoing across the Maldives, and opposition leaders last Thursday reiterated calls for President Yameen to initiate talks.

The government last week stripped Nasheed of membership of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, by using its parliamentary majority to pass a law banning prisoners from political party membership.

Separately, the ruling PPM has also submitted an amendment to the law on privileges for former presidents stripping any president who resigned – as Nasheed did, although he said it was under duress – from army protection and financial privileges.

Nasheed was convicted in a trial condemned by the UN, Amnesty International and the EU, US and UK over lack of due process. Amnesty called the trial a travesty of justice, while the UN said it made a mockery of the constitution and international treaties.


Former state minister released from custody

Former State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Mahir Easa was released from police custody shortly after midnight last night, hours before a High Court hearing on an appeal against the Criminal Court ruling extending his detention.

Mahir was arrested on July 24 on charges of allegedly inciting violence against police during a speech at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally.

Mahir had said he would not hesitate to cross police barricades to restore the MDP government.

The MDP last week called for Mahir’s immediate release arguing that since police possessed both Mahir’s statement and a recording of his speech, there was no reason to keep the former state minister detained.

Following his arrest, the Criminal Court extended Mahir’s detention period by 10 days twice, the last of which was appealed at the High Court.

The High Court hearing scheduled for 10.30am today was reportedly cancelled following Mahir’s release.

A police media official told newspaper Haveeru that Mahir was released after police concluded the investigation into his alleged incitement to violence, explaining that police routinely released suspects before the detention period expired.

On February 7, Mahir was beaten outside the police headquarters while mutinying police officers and opposition protesters called for him to be killed.