Murrath requests court to summon police officers as appeal continues

Ahmed Murrath – currently appealing his Criminal Court conviction for the murder of lawyer Ahmed Najeeb – has today asked the High Court to summon police officers who investigated the case.

Local media reported that Murrath told the bench he had not seen Najeeb being murdered and that he was not in the room at the time.

Murrath’s lawyer told the court that in murder cases the defendant was permitted under Islamic Shariah to retract a confession. After this was queried by the bench, Murrath’s lawyer was not able to specify where in Quran or Sunnah it was mentioned.

Murrath is said to have told judges today that he confessed to the murder in order to escape punishments he received during the investigation period, claiming that his family members – including his mother – were arrested in connection with the case, and that he was prevented from sleeping.

Prosecutor General’s Office lawyers also spoke in the court, arguing that scholars have said the strongest evidence against a criminal is his own confession and that confessions made in cases concerning the rights of another individual cannot be retracted, reported local media.

The state lawyer said that being under the influence of an illegal drug was not a reason to commit a crime and that the defendant must take full responsibility for his actions if he willfully abused drugs.

Murrath and his girlfriend Fathimath Hanaa, were arrested and charged with Najeeb’s murder after the lawyer’s body was discovered by police at Maafanu Masroora house, (Murrath’s residence) in early evening of July 1.

The body was stuffed inside a dustbin, badly beaten up and with multiple stab wounds.


In July 2012, the Criminal Court sentenced the pair to death before the ruling was appealed at the High Court.

During the trial held in the Criminal Court, Murrath confessed to killing Najeeb out of anger and under the influence of drugs, alleging that the lawyer attempted to sexually assault his 18 year-old girlfriend while he was at Masroora House.

He told the Criminal Court that Najeeb visited Masroora House on June 30 to provide legal counsel on a case related to cash missing from Murrath’s mother’s account, and the issue of dividing the house.

Murrath said that he tied Najeeb to a chair, gagged him and taped his hands, feet and face while threatening him with a four-inch knife he had brought from the kitchen. He said that his girlfriend Hanaa had no role in it and was sleeping while he killed the lawyer between 6:00am and 7:00am during the morning of July 1.

Hanaa confessed in the Criminal Court to “helping” tape and bind the victim to the chair. She did not confess to killing him and said at the time she was sleeping, intoxicated from drinking alcohol.

Last month, Haveeru reported that Murrath’s lawyer Abdul Hakeem Rashadh told the High Court his client’s confession had been coerced, that his client’s responsibility was diminished due to the influence of drugs, and that he had the right to retract his confession as there were no witnesses to the crime.

Murrath is currently facing the death sentence for Najeeb’s murder – a sentence that the current administration has pledged to reintroduce after a 60 year moratorium.

Following orders by Home Minister Umar Naseer to begin preparations for reintroducing executions, the cabinet advised President Abdulla Yameen last month that there were no legal obstructions to carrying out the sentence.

The order closely followed the conclusion of the Dr Afrasheem Ali murder trial, in which Hussein Humam was sentenced to death. Similarly, Humam also claimed that his confession was obtained under duress.

President Yameen last week revealed that the government had formulated regulations for the implementation of the penalty. Calling the decision a “historic day”, Yameen vowed he would not bow to international pressure to reverse the decision.


State to appoint lawyer to Hanaa in her appeal case

The Attorney General’s Office has said that it will appoint a lawyer for Fathimath Hanaa, who was sentenced to death after the court found her guilty of assisting Ahmed Murrath in murdering of prominent lawyer Ahmed Najeeb.

In the latest hearing of her appeal case, the High Court bench had announced that Hanaa was not eligible for a state-appointed lawyer.

Hanaa had subsequently told the court that she needed three months to appoint a lawyer, with the Prosecutor General’s Office giving no objection to this request.

However, the Attorney General’s office has today told local media that Hanaa now meets the requirements after she submitted additional documents to the office.

On July 2, 2012, the 65 year-old lawyer’s body was found stuffed inside a dustbin at Masroora house – Murrath’s residence – badly beaten with multiple stab wounds.

Speaking at the Criminal Court during the 2012 trial, Murrath’s girlfriend said that her boyfriend killed Najeeb after he became “sure” the lawyer had attempted to sexually assault her. She admitted to tying Najeeb’s hand, legs, and taped his mouth while Murrath threatened him with a knife.

“We thought he must have a lot of money as he is a lawyer,” she told the court, after declining representation from a lawyer.

Najeeb’s cash card was taken from him and the pair had used it to withdraw money.

According to Hanaa, she did not know that the victim had been killed until Murrath woke her up and told her at around 4:00am. At the time Hanaa said she was sleeping – intoxicated from drinking alcohol.

Murrath corroborated this course of events in his statement, saying that she was asleep when he killed the lawyer. He confessed to killing Najeeb out of anger and apologised to the family members.

On February 17, Ahmed Murrath – the man sentenced to death by the Criminal Court after being found guilty of murdering Najeeb – retracted the confession previously given to the court.

During the last hearing held in to the appeal case of Murrath, his lawyer Abdul Hakeem Rashadh told the High Court that his client’s hands were handcuffed behind his back when he made the confession which therefore could not be considered a confession made without coercion.

On February 9, the cabinet advised President Abdulla Yameen that there was no legal obstruction to implementing death sentences, after the Home Minister Umar Naseer had ordered an end to the 60 year moratorium on executions.


Couple confess to killing Lawyer Najeeb, accuse him of sexual assault

The 29 year old ex-convict charged with Lawyer Ahmed Najeeb ‘s murder has today confessed to killing him, claiming that the lawyer attempted to sexually assault his 18 year-old girlfriend.

The girl, identified as Fathimath Hana of Rihab house in Shaviyani Goidhoo island, also faces murder charges in the case and was brought before the Criminal Court this afternoon, where she confessed to “helping” her boyfriend to kill Najeeb.

Each hearing was held separately. Hanaa first testified in court, followed by Murrath.

Hanaa noted that Najeeb arrived to the  Maafanu Masroora on Saturday night around 10:00pm, on a request to discuss a family legal case.

Masroora house is the residence of suspect Murrath and the place where the 65 year-old lawyer’s body was found stuffed inside a dustbin, badly beaten up with multiple stab wounds on Sunday evening.

She said that her boyfriend killed him after it became “sure” that Najeeb attempted to sexually assault her, and added that she  helped tie Najeeb’s hand, legs and taped his mouth while Murrath threatened him with a knife.

“We thought he must have a lot of money as he is a lawyer,” she told the court, after declining representation from a lawyer.

Najeeb’s cash card was taken from him and the pair had withdrawn money from it.

According to Hanaa, she did not know that the victim was killed until her boyfriend woke her up and told her about it around 4:00am. At the time Hanaa said she was sleeping, intoxicated from drinking alcohol.

Her boyfriend corroborated the confession in his statement, saying that she was asleep when he killed the lawyer.

Murrath said he was present when Najeeb came over to the house to discuss the legal case and he became suspicious so asked Hanaa if something was wrong. Hanaa told him that Najeeb had grabbed her hands and hurt her, Murrath added.

Murrath said that he killed Najeeb out of anger and apologised to the family members present at the hearing for committing the crime.

The police had earlier noted that Murrath tested positive for drugs when he was brought under custody. He is a former inmate conditionally released under the Second Chance program for inmates with drug offences.

Police said he had an 18 year jail sentence of which he had completed only three years. His offences included theft, assault, drug use, and breaking out of prison.

If none of deceased victim’s heirs agree to accept blood money, under Islamic Sharia, Murrath and his girlfriend will be subjected to death penalty. The Criminal court is expected to rule on the case tonight after taking statements from the family.

Traditionally in Maldives death penalties are commuted to life imprisonment.

However Najeeb’s death has resulted in a public outcry to implement death penalty for convicted murderers. It also became the first murder case in the Maldives to be investigated and prosecuted in a court in less than 48 hours.

Following some criticism that the police had prioritised the case as the victim was a lawyer,  police media official Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef responded that Najeeb’s case was investigated and forwarded to court faster than other murder cases because the suspects had confessed to the crime during the trial to extend their detention, and that all forensic evidence necessary to prosecute the case had been found.

“We do not discriminate in cases,” Haneef added.


Female badminton champion battles badminton bureaucracy in ongoing court battle

One of the Maldives’ most successful female badminton players is battling the country’s Badminton Association in court claiming she was dismissed for unspecified disciplinary reasons.

Neela Ahmed Najeeb, formerly the only female badminton player on the national team, holds a string of championship medals and several international competitions to her credit. Najeeb said that her abilities meant she could play against men during training sessions “and even beat a few of the good players, enough to compete with them.”

She claims the Association has sought to obstruct her from playing the sport ever since it sent her home from a competition in Sri Lanka in 2006 for allegedly smoking a cigarette.

In May last year, the 25 year-old was suspended from the Association altogether after clashing with her Indonesian coach, whom she alleged attempted to make her run for four hours in punishment for missing a training session – half an hour short of the average marathon.

“I had just started training again and I was not even physically fit,” she says. “I missed practice one morning and the coach told me to run for two hours, but I couldn’t do it – I’ve been in the national team for eight years and we’ve never had to do anything like that before. I ran for 30-45 minutes but I could not run anymore.”

The coach, she said, “didn’t like it, and said I could not join the training unless I ran for another 1.5 hours. I didn’t make it a problem.”

However, Najeeb said that, “a few days later, I missed another training session because of my work, and the next day [the coach] asked me to run for two hours again. I could only do 30-40 minutes, and he said that because I had only run 30-40 minutes the last time, I now had to run three hours.”

Najeeb says she took the matter to the Badminton Association, explaining she did not feel she was capable of running the three hours and was afraid of injuring herself early in the training. But she claimed they sided with the coach, “reasoning that he had a degree in Physical Education.”

“The last time I went to training I said I would run 30-40 minutes, but he said no, now I had to run for four hours.”

“I couldn’t believe it. I told him that was impossible. He became angry and said I was useless, and some things that really hurt me. He asked me to leave the stadium, and made a complaint about my behaviour, and filed a disciplinary case,” Najeeb says.

The next day, according to Najeeb, the Badminton Association sent her a letter saying she was terminated from the national team.

“They didn’t even talk to me. If they are going to fire a player from the national team, they have to give me a chance to appeal. They didn’t do that. I don’t want to be against them, they should be advising me.”

Najeeb had been selected to travel to Greece on June 10 last year for a youth training session by the International Olympic Committee.

However, athletes attending the training required the backing of their local association – and Najeeb claims the national chairman “said he was not going to give it.”

Instead, Najeeb said she was informed her application was invalid following the disciplinary report filed by a coach four years ago for the alleged smoking of a cigarette while attending the Sri Lankan tournament in 2006. “Which,” she added, “was not true.”

“I think this must be personal – this is not what you do to an athlete. You don’t just terminate them,” Najeeb claimed.

“I think Maldivian players deserve better. If you have a problem with a coach, [sporting associations] are supposed to advise you – but the Badminton Association takes everything personally.”

President of the Badminton Association, Ali Amir, told Minivan News that he was unable to comment on Najeeb’s disciplinary action as the case was pending in court, but did confirm that the Association was defending the case.

A senior badminton player Minivan News spoke to, who requested anonymity, said he felt it was unfair that Najeeb had been obstructed from practising for 4-5 years.

“She was not supposed to smoke [while attending the Sri Lankan tournament in 2006], and she did smoke, and was sent back to Male’. We have to sign an agreement [with the Badminton Association], but there was nothing in it saying that if we smoke we are sent back to Male’.”

“After that she was unable to play on the national team for two years. Eventually she was allowed a new coach, but then she was suspended again in May last year.”

“It’s a big loss for her,” he added, speculating that “there is something going on between [Najeeb] and the Badminton Association. I have no idea what.”

“She can’t even play alone – if anyone from the Association sees her in the stadium, they call the guards to take her out. The Association is doing this, not the players.”

The new coach’s running regime was “very ruthless”, he claimed. “If we do not come to the morning session we have to run 1-2 hours that night and lose time training. It’s useless.”

Najeeb said she “will not quit playing a sport I love”, but confirmed that she has been escorted from the stadium “because I don’t have an association membership card. It is really frustrating.”

Najeeb and the lawyer representing her in the case, Mizna Shareef of Shah, Hussein & Co, allege that her suspension contradicts the termination procedure of the Constitution of the Badminton Association as she was not given a chance to defend herself.

“The Association unfairly and quite harshly terminated Neela without establishing adequate cause and without giving Neela the opportunity to defend herself,” Shareef told Minivan News. She added that outside the Association’s own regulations “there are no applicable laws covering this type of situation.”

The case was lodged in May this year but despite having three hearings, Shareef claimed “the Badminton Association has stalled the case by appearing in court without having prepared their statements.”

“The longer this case gets delayed, the longer Neela suffers without being served justice. At this point, there is no certainty as to when the case would end,” Shareef said.

“Neela,” she added, “has personally experienced gender discrimination where the Association has held a different set of disciplinary standards for its male players. If we are successful in getting a judgement in Neela’s favour, it would definitely encourage more woman players to play the sport at a professional level, without fear of discrimination and unfair treatment.”

Najeeb, for her part, describes the time she has been away from badminton as “one of the most difficult times in my life”, and that if she is allowed to continue playing on the national team, “I have faith I can achieve more for my country.”

“I resigned from my job to make the training sessions, but they just took their decision [to terminate me] without thinking. They are misusing their power. For me badminton is my life, and they’ve taken it away from me – twice.”