Verdict in protracted murder trial postponed

Verdict in protracted murder trial postponed
May 30 16:11 2016

Nearly four years after they were arrested for murder, the criminal court has postponed the sentencing of four young men charged with the killing of 16-year-old Mohamed Aruham in May 2012.

A verdict was expected to be delivered at a hearing scheduled for 2pm on Sunday, but the court’s spokesman told The Maldives Independent that it was cancelled because “the presiding judge requires more time for review, especially since this is a murder case.”

If found guilty of murder, the four defendants, Mohamed Visham, Mansoor Yousuf, Mohamed Sufyan, and Athif Rasheed, could be sentenced to death.

All four pleaded not guilty.

Aruham, a grade nine student at the Dharumavantha School, was found dead in the Lorenzo park in Malé on May 30, 2012. He died of multiple stab wounds to the neck, back, and chest.

The four suspects were arrested a week after the murder. The police had said at the time that Aruham was the victim of a gang feud.

The murder trial began in November 2012. However, after nearly reaching completion, the case was transferred from Judge Muhthaz Fahmy to Judge Abdulla Didi in June last year.

Judge Didi subsequently released one of the four defendants from police custody. The other three have been in custody since June 2012.

The trial was stalled again when Judge Didi was promoted to the High Court. The case was then transferred to Judge Ibrahim Ali, who heard closing arguments from both the prosecution and defence on March 9.

A sentencing hearing will be rescheduled for a later date, the criminal court’s spokesman said.

Shahindha Ismail of the Maldives Democracy Network said of the trial delay: “The way in which this case is proceeding adds fuel to the claims that the criminal court deliberately delays cases.

“I hope this delay results in a court decision that is backed by solid evidence and not just on confessional statements.”

In February 2015, Arham’s father, Abdul Ghafoor Ali, appeared at court and demanded the death penalty if the accused are found guilty. In accordance with Sharia law, Ghafoor was asked whether he wanted blood money, to forgive the defendants, or the death penalty.

Some 17 people are currently on death row after the Maldives ended a six-decade moratorium on capital punishment in 2014.