Lawyers question charges raised over weapons cache

Lawyers question charges raised over weapons cache
August 04 13:26 2016

Lawyers representing jailed former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and former Colonel Ahmed Fayaz ‘Papa’ have challenged the validity of weapons possession charges raised in relation to an arms cache discovered in October.

At a hearing of the trial Wednesday afternoon, Adeeb’s lawyer Moosa Siraj argued that his client cannot be charged with weapons possession as he has been convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of a pistol.

Siraj said Adeeb risks facing double jeopardy if the court proceeds with the trial.

The constitution prohibits double jeopardy: “If an accused is found guilty and punished for an offence, he shall not be tried or punished again for the same or substantially the same offence.”

Responding to the procedural challenge, the state prosecutor said Adeeb was convicted on a terrorism charge over both the possession of a pistol and plans to incite violence and create mayhem during an anti-government demonstration on May 1 last year.

But Siraj said the criminal court verdict did not refer to any motives related to the May Day mass rally.

Adeeb is serving a total of 33 years in prison on multiple counts of terrorism and graft.

In early June, Adeeb was convicted of plotting to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen with a bomb on the presidential speedboat. He was handed a 15-year jail sentence.

In addition to the 10-year sentence over the possession of a pistol, Adeeb was also handed an eight-year sentence on a corruption charge.

The weapons cache was meanwhile discovered during the investigation into the September 28 boat blast.

It was found submerged in the lagoon of Hibalhidhoo, an uninhabited island in Baa atoll. 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.

Ex-Colonel Ahmed Fayaz ‘Papa,’ who was in charge of the armoury, is also on trial along with Adeeb over the weapons cache.

His lawyer Mahfooz Saeed told the court yesterday that the police never questioned Fayaz specifically about the weapons.

“Had he been asked regarding the matter, Fayaz would have responded,” Mahfooz said, adding that his client’s answers would have helped guide the investigation.

But the state prosecutor insisted that Fayaz gave a statement about the weapons cache.

Both Adeeb and Fayaz pleaded not guilty to the weapons possession charge at yesterday’s hearing.

Judge Ahmed Shakeel concluded proceedings after announcing that the court will rule on the procedural points raised by the defence at the next hearing.

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 explosion on the president’s speedboat.

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

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 alleged assassination attempt.

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

The police launched a manhunt in November for the pair 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.

Moho was a shareholder of Biznas Maldives, the leaseholder of the Hibalhidhoo island where the weapons were found.

In March, Moho spoke to the The Daily Mail from an undisclosed location in Europe about paying Cherie Blair’s legal consultancy firm Omnia Strategy on behalf of the government.