Supreme Court begins review of its first murder conviction

Supreme Court begins review of its first murder conviction
March 21 19:46 2016

State prosecutors asked the Supreme Court today to uphold a death sentence handed to Hussain Humam Ahmed over the brutal murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.

The apex court held a first hearing today for its review of Humam’s conviction, which was automatically appealed by the Prosecutor General’s office as new regulations require a final judgment from the highest court of appeal before the state can execute individuals found guilty of murder.

If the Supreme Court upholds Humam’s conviction, the 22-year-old would become the first Maldivian to be executed by the state in more than 60 years. The current administration in 2014 had overturned a six-decade moratorium on capital punishment in the Maldives.

The prosecution asked the Supreme Court to uphold Humam’s death sentence under the principle of qisas (retaliation in kind) in Sharia law, which gives the right to a murder victim’s family to demand the life of the convict.

Dr Afrasheem’s heirs had expressed their desire for the enforcement of the death penalty in previous court proceedings. However, as the late MPs’ two underage children was ineligible to state wishes until they came of age, the criminal court had bypassed the step in issuing the death sentence, citing “social harmony.”

At today’s hearing, the full bench of the Supreme Court asked prosecutors to state reasons why the verdict must be upheld.

The state in turn requested the bench to define the procedure for the case, as it is the first of its kind in the Maldives since new regulations were enacted after overturning the moratorium.

Humam’s family and lawyer Abdulla Haseen, as well as human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network, insist that Humam was deprived of his right to a fair trial.

A complaint was lodged with the judicial watchdog earlier this month requesting an inquiry into due process violations.

The high-profile criminal court trial and conviction – which was based on a confession extracted by the police – were riddled with irregularities that must be investigated before the state executes a young man, the family contends.

Last week, Humam’s family asked the human rights watchdog to inquire into reports of self-injury. Humam’s father said his son had deep wounds on his hands.

At today’s hearing, the family reported a long, stitched and fresh scar on Humam’s arm, which the family said they were not informed of previously.

The current administration has been eager in its pursuit of enforcing the death penalty.

At a symposium held over the weekend to train campaign leaders for his reelection bid, President Abdulla Yameen contended that enforcing capital punishment for murder is necessary to ensure public safety and maintain law and order.

The late moderate religious scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives MP was brutally stabbed to death on October 1, 2012 in a murder that shocked the nation. Suspicion was cast upon the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, religious extremists and President  Yameen.

Humam was arrested within hours after Afrasheem’s body was found and charged with murder in January 2013. After pleading not guilty, Humam confessed to the killing at a hearing in May 2013.

However, a month later, Humam retracted the confession, claiming police had obtained it through coercion. He was found guilty and sentenced to death in January 2014.

Humam is the only person convicted so far despite police saying the murder was premeditated and politically motivated.

A second suspect, Ali Shan, was acquitted in September 2014 with the court citing insufficient evidence. A third suspect, Azlif Rauf, who Humam said had planned the murder, left to Turkey with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang in January last year.