Court hears evidence against Adeeb in boat blast trial

Court hears evidence against Adeeb in boat blast trial
June 04 16:08 2016

The criminal court heard Thursday evidence against detained former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb over a terrorism charge relating to an alleged assassination plot on President Abdulla Yameen.

A soldier claimed he prepared two improvised explosive devices on Adeeb’s orders prior to the blast on Yameen’s speedboat, Finifenmaa, on September 28.

The president escaped unharmed, but the first lady and two aides sustained minor injuries.

Adeeb was arrested and impeached shortly afterwards, prompting a short-lived state of emergency and a purge of the security forces and the cabinet.

In back-to-back hearings on Thursday, prosecutors called in some 21 witnesses, of which a majority were army and police officers. Five were anonymous.

One witness said the explosion was not caused by a mechanical fault.

Adeeb’s bodyguards, Ahmed Amir and Hassan Rikaz, are on trial with him.

The former vice president is also on trial on corruption and other terror charges.

The bomb

The prosecution’s key witness was a soldier whose anonymous testimony alleged Adeeb had ordered him to assemble an explosive device ahead of a major opposition rally on May Day last year and on the eve of the Finifenmaa blast.

The May Day bomb was to be set off on then-Police Chief Hussain Waheed’s car in a plot to arrest the leader of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla, he said. But the bomb was never used.

Then in July, Adeeb asked him where he could obtain poison and confessed to making a threat video against Yameen and senior government officials, the soldier said.

He claimed he reduced the bomb’s impact after he heard Adeeb say he would not receive Yameen at the airport on the eve of the blast. The president was returning from the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

He said he left the Maldives that night and did not speak with Adeeb until he received a call on September 29. The police may arrest him, Adeeb had said and told him to remain silent if arrested.

Both explosive devices could be detonated from afar, he said, adding that he was aware the act was a crime. Adeeb did not threaten or coerce him into making the bomb, he said.

The remaining bomb was found in a weapons cache seized from the reef of an island leased to Adeeb’s associates, he said. Two other anonymous witnesses said the solider had bought wiring equipment and remote control systems from them.

Mechanical fault

Two policemen meanwhile dismissed a claim that the blast was caused by mechanical failure in the air-conditioning system.

There was no electrical shorts or damage inside the main system, they said.

The Maldives National Defence Forces also compiled a report on the blast, which said damage to the seats and melted plastic on the boat proved it was a detonated explosion.

The bomb was located under the boat captain’s chair, the soldier who compiled the report said. The report was based on an inspection in December, he said.

Defence lawyers asked if the boat could have been tampered with as the blast had occurred on September 28. The solider dismissed the question saying the vessel was access-controlled.

Prosecutors also presented a forensic report by Saudi Arabia, which said traces of RDX, an explosive, was found on the boat. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, reportedly found no trace of explosives on the boat. None of the reports have been made public.

Another solider testified saying an analysis of Adeeb’s internet activity showed that he had searched for information on poison and grenades. Some phrases include “Can hydraulic acid cause heart attacks?”

He had also looked for information on visas to Antigua, the soldier said.

Adeeb is also being prosecuted for abuse of authority for using the Finifenmaa to travel to the presidential retreat island, Aarah, on the eve of the explosion. Hearings have wrapped up in the separate trial.

Defence lawyers were only allowed to cross-examine the witnesses on the content of their testimony.

Abdul Bari Yoosuf, the chief judge of the criminal court, is presiding over the trial. He took over the case on Wednesday, after dissolving the three-judge panel previously reviewing the case.

Bari is now handling all five of Adeeb’s trials.

Prosecutors will summon one more witness at the next hearing. Adeeb and his bodyguards can only present evidence or call in witnesses who can negate the prosecution’s witnesses, Bari said.

A date for the next gearing has not been set.

Additional reporting by Xiena Saeed. Additional writing by Zaheena Rasheed.