Adeeb, five soldiers charged over boat blast

Adeeb, five soldiers charged over boat blast
March 15 14:29 2016

The prosecutor general’s office on Monday filed charges against former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and five soldiers at the criminal court over the September 28 blast on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat.

Adeeb and his former military bodyguards, Hassan Rikaz and Ahmed Amir, were charged with terrorism under the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act, the PG office said in a statement.

Adeeb and his bodyguards are accused of planting an improvised explosive device on the Finifenma speedboat. The PG office said the three went on the speedboat a day before the blast “in order to plant the IED.” The terrorism offence carries a jail sentence of between 10 to 15 years.

The former vice president was also charged with abuse of authority under section 513 of the new penal code, a class four felony.

Colonel Ahmed Fayaz ‘Papa’ – former head of the military’s Special Protection Group tasked with providing security for the president – was meanwhile charged with obstructing justice and law enforcement officers.

The PG office said Fayaz had blocked police officers from going onboard the Finifenma speedboat to inspect the crime scene immediately after the blast.

Fayaz brought the crime scene under his control, but failed to take measures to protect and preserve the crime scene, the statement read. The former colonel allegedly ordered the explosives experts to remove evidence from the speedboat.

Fayaz was placed under administrative detention at at the military barracks without access to family members and lawyers in October. He was transferred to police custody on February 24.

Soldiers Ahmed Thiham and Moosa Zameer, both explosives experts with the Maldives National Defence Force, were also charged with obstructing justice.

The pair boarded the speedboat after the blast under Fayaz’s watch and tampered with evidence by removing items that could be considered evidence from the boat, the PG office said.

Thiham and Zameer’s arrest on October 5 was the first sign that the government suspected foul play. On that same day, Fayaz, who was also in charge of the military’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, was replaced.

Adeeb’s bodyguards, Rikaz and Amir, were meanwhile suspended indefinitely and detained on and off at the military barracks.

The mysterious explosion occurred around 8:00am on the morning of September 28 just as Finifenma docked at the Malé pier. The speedboat was carrying the president and first lady from the airport upon their return from performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Yameen escaped unharmed, but First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim, a presidential aide, and a bodyguard sustained minor injuries. The first lady was hospitalised for more than a month with spinal injuries.

Adeeb was arrested on October 24 upon his return from an official visit to China. He was accused of masterminding a plot to assassinate the president.

The government insists that a bomb targeting the president caused the explosion despite contradictory findings from forensic experts.

The FBI found no conclusive evidence of an explosive device on the speedboat, but the government said Saudi Arabian forensic experts found traces of a powerful chemical explosive.

Adeeb is meanwhile standing trial on multiple counts of corruption in connection with the embezzlement of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion company – a corruption scandal of unprecedented scale in Maldivian history.

In an op-ed published in The New Indian Express in early December, Adeeb said that both himself and Yameen “have been the victims of a despicable conspiracy, launched, I believe, by my political foes in and outside the cabinet.”

“I believe the speedboat incident was staged, in order to frame me,” he said.

In late February, Home Minister Umar Naseer – co-chair of a National Inquiry Commission formed to investigate the boat blast – told the press that the commission’s findings implicate Adeeb in multiple acts of terrorism.

“The improvised explosive device was prepared on his direct orders. He had ordered the person who made it to ensure the boat explodes and sinks,” he said.

He also alleged that Adeeb had brought in a Sri Lankan sniper to assassinate Yameen in October.

Naseer said that forensic analysis links the presidential speedboat bomb with a second bomb found near the official presidential residence and a third bomb found in a cache of weapons submerged on a reef in November. He also claimed that the presidential speedboat bomb had been handled at a luxury government flat Adeeb owned at the Rehendhi complex.

“I am confident the prosecutor general will press terrorism charges against Adeeb,” he added. The NIC had gathered enough evidence to convict the former vice president, he said.