Appeals court upholds ex-defence minister’s arms smuggling conviction

Appeals court upholds ex-defence minister’s arms smuggling conviction
March 15 23:23 2016

The High Court upheld today a weapons smuggling conviction against former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, ruling that there was no evidence to suggest he was framed by police officers.

The three-judge panel acknowledged a lack of forensic evidence linking Nazim with the pistol and three bullets found in his apartment, but said the retired colonel was not able to prove that someone else had left the weapons in his bedroom.

Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Adam Azim, Nazim’s brother said: “Today’s verdict is unacceptable. This was issued by cowardly judges…if things continue like this, I don’t think anyone can ever get justice.”

Nazim’s wife Afaaf Abdul Majeed said they would appeal the verdict at the Supreme Court.

“We had high hopes, but the result was the exact opposite,” she added.

The verdict is a blow to the opposition which had hoped the appeal would pave the way for the release of political prisoners.

The opposition is demanding the release of jailed politicians, including former President Mohamed Nasheed and Sheikh Imran Abdulla, the leader of a minor opposition party, before they join government-initiated talks.

Amnesty International has lodged Nazim’s case with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a specialized agency, which had earlier ruled Nasheed’s jailing on a terror charge illegal.

Nazim’s 11-year sentence drew widespread condemnation over due process violations.

A verdict in his appeal was delayed by eight months after two of the five judges in the initial bench were transferred to a regional branch, just three days into the appeal process.

Judges Abdul Rauf Ibrahim, Abdulla Hameed and Ali Sameer today said they had found no due process violations by the criminal court and ruled police conduct during the raid satisfactory.

Judges said that police’s failure to video the raid or enlist the help of the army for the midnight raid was not unlawful, lapses the human rights watchdog has said raised questions over police conduct.

Criminal court judges were right to reject some defence witnesses, the High Court said, arguing that judges had the discretion to summon witnesses they deem relevant to the case.

The appellate court also noted it had summoned some witnesses requested by Nazim.

The court had summoned last week some six SWAT officers who had conducted the raid. Nazim claims the policemen had spent some five minutes in his room unsupervised after herding him and his family into their living room.

The judges, however, said that anonymised testimony by the SAWT officers did not indicate tthey had planted or been ordered to plant the weapons.

Nazim maintains that former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb had masterminded the plot after a fallout over Adeeb’s alleged use of SWAT police officers to chop down Malé City’s areca palms. The same officers had conducted the raid on his home, he said.

Adeeb is now in police custody, charged with plotting to kill President Abdulla Yameen.

The verdict also said the lesser punishment for smuggling weapons in the newly enacted penal code does not apply at the appeals stage.

Reporting by Hassan Moosa