Ex-vice president’s lawyers withdraw from weapons trial in protest

Ex-vice president’s lawyers withdraw from weapons trial in protest
November 07 16:37 2016

Three lawyers representing jailed former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and former Colonel Ahmed Fayaz ‘Papa’ have recused themselves from a trial on weapons smuggling charges.

In a joint statement on Sunday, the three accused the criminal court of depriving their clients of the constitutional right to have adequate time and facilities to prepare and mount a defence.

“As it is among the rights for a fair trial, we will not be able to perform the role of an attorney if the trial is conducted without affording that opportunity,” reads the statement signed by lawyers Moosa Siraj, Mahfooz Saeed and Hassan Sofwan.

Adeeb and Fayaz are accused of smuggling weapons out of the state armoury to Hibalhidhoo, an uninhabited island in Baa Atoll. A weapons cache, including hand grenades, firearms, bullets and semi-automatic rifles, was discovered submerged in the island’s reef in November last year.

The discovery led to the declaration of a brief state of emergency.

The trial which began in early August has been closed to the public since October on national security grounds. If found guilty, Adeeb and Fayaz, who are both serving prison sentences on other charges, face an additional jail term of between 10 and 15 years.

The defence counsel said Judge Ahmed Shakeel had assured them of a 15-day time period to study case documents at a first hearing in August.

But the second hearing was held before the prosecution handed over the documents. The judge said the move was necessary to hear testimony from two witnesses who had to travel overseas.

The documents were finally provided on October 31, after which the court scheduled back-to-back hearings from November 6 to 10.

As Adeeb and Fayaz will have to be brought to Malé from the Maafushi prison every day, the lawyers asked the court to reschedule hearings to allow for enough time to consult with their clients.

The judge denied the request and said arrangements will be made to hold meetings inside the court building.

But the meetings were arranged inside a courtroom in the presence of both court officers and officials from the Maldives Correctional Services.

“We do not think that adequate help can be given to our clients through such meetings,” the lawyers said.

After two hearings a day over the next two days, a verdict is expected at 3pm on Thursday.

Adeeb, who is serving a 33-year jail sentence on corruption and terror charges, had called the fresh terror trial “a big joke.”

He was charged under the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act with the “intent to kill or cause bodily harm to incite fear and terror,” “unauthorised import, use, storage, sale or interchange of explosives, ammunition and firearms,” “intent to use explosives, ammunition, firearms and weapons to cause harm” and “use of terror tactics, force or threats to cause harm.”

The former vice president was convicted in June of masterminding a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen and of plotting to use a firearm during an opposition protest last year. He was also handed an eight-year sentence on a corruption charge.

In late June, Fayaz was handed a two-year jail sentence for obstructing justice. He was accused of ordering Adeeb’s bodyguards to remove evidence after the September 28 explosion on the president’s speedboat.

Yameen had escaped unhurt from the blast, but his wife, an aide, and a bodyguard sustained minor injuries.

The weapons cache was discovered during the investigation into the alleged assassination attempt. Fayaz was in charge of both the armoury and a special protection group tasked with providing security to the president.

The military later acknowledged that a rifle and a submachine gun in the cache had gone missing from the state armoury.

The cache also included hand grenades, bullets, and improvised explosive devices.

Fayaz was also head of the military’s explosives ordnance disposal unit at the time. He was placed under administrative detention at the military barracks shortly after the blast.

Along with Adeeb and Fayaz, Mohamed Hussain ‘Oittey,’ Mohamed Allam Latheef ‘Moho,’ and Ahmed Isfah have also been charged with weapons possession. However, they fled the Maldives in October last year.

The police launched a manhunt in November for them as well as other associates of the former vice president. Interpol red notices have also been issued for the seven fugitives but they remain at large.