Ali Shan has been acquitted of murdering MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012 at the conclusion of his trial at the Criminal Court yesterday.
In the not guilty verdict (Dhivehi) delivered yesterday, Judge Abdulla Didi stated that the evidence submitted by state prosecutors was not sufficient to prove that Shan – from Henveiru Hikost in Malé – was involved in the murder along with Hussain Human, who was found guilty and sentenced to death by the Criminal Court in January.
The Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Raa Ungoofaru was found brutally murdered near the staircase of his house on the night of October 1, 2012.
While the prosecution’s key witness did not see Shan attacking the moderate religious scholar, Judge Didi noted that witnesses for the defence testified that Shan was at the Jalapeno restaurant at the time the murder took place.
At a hearing last month, four witnesses testified that Shan was at the restaurant until 1:15am.
However, there were slight discrepancies in the testimonies. While one witness – Ali Hashim ‘Smith’ – reportedly claimed that he joined Shan and four others for a coffee at 11:30pm, a second witness suggested Hashim arrived around 10:30pm.
While the fourth witness said he left Jalapeno with Hashim around 1:00m and went to the Labamba restaurant, Hashim had said he left around 12:30am and went to the Laban restaurant in front of the Hulhumalé ferry terminal.
At the final hearing on August 21, a fifth witness, Ubaidhulla Saeed, told the court that he saw Shan at the restaurant around 9:30pm on the night the former MP was murdered.
After having coffee with friends, Ubaidhulla said he and Shan went for a motorbike ride and was at the Dolphin Cafe when he heard of the murder. Shan was with him at the time, he said.
While a witness for the prosecution testified to have seen Shan holding a blood-stained knife over Dr Afrasheem’s body by the staircase of the deceased’s residence, Judge Didi said the minor did not see Shan committing the murder.
At a hearing in February, state prosecutors presented evidence against the accused, including two witness testimonies, the confession of Humam, and a recording of a phone call.
Judge Didi, however, ruled that Humam’s confession was inadmissible as a Supreme Court precedent has established that a convict could not provide testimony either in favour or against an accomplices to a crime.
Moreover, neither the phone call recording nor the medico-legal report of Dr Afrasheem’s fatal injuries were sufficient to prove guilt, Judge Didi said.
As murder was a hudud offence in Islam, Judge Didi reportedly said such crimes must be proven beyond any doubt in Islamic Shariah.
Judge Didi also cited an authentic hadith from Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) in the reasoning for the verdict.
According to reporters present at the trial, Shan’s family members inside the courtroom burst into tears after he was pronounced not guilty.
Shan has been kept in pre-trial detention for almost two years.
Five others – a juvenile identified as ‘Nangi,’ Maldives National Defence Force officer Azleef Rauf, Abdulla ‘Jaa’ Javid (son-in-law of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik), Jaa’s brother Jana and another person identified only as ‘Spy’ – were also implicated in Human’s confession, which he later retracted and claimed had been extracted by police through coercion.
In December 2012, then-Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz described the murder as a “preplanned politically motivated act of terrorism carried out by politicians”.
The current Jumhooree Party MP had also said both Humam and Shan belonged to a local gang who often carried out criminal acts for politicians and businessmen. Riyaz claimed the gang was paid MVR4 million (US$259,403) for the assassination.