Three more soldiers jailed over boat blast

Three more soldiers jailed over boat blast
June 20 02:31 2016

The criminal court has sentenced three more soldiers over the September 28 explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat.

Ahmed ‘Papa’ Fayaz Ali Riza, the former head of the armoury, was handed today a two-year jail sentence on a charge of obstruction of justice and an additional three months and 18 days on a charge of obstructing law enforcement officers.

Moosa Zameer and Ahmed Thiham were sentenced to four months and 24 days for obstructing justice.

The president had escaped unhurt from the explosion, but his wife and two aides sustained minor injuries.

His former deputy Ahmed Adeeb was found guilty of terrorism over the assassination plot and handed a 15-year jail term earlier this month.

Adeeb is accused of ordering his military bodyguards to plant a bomb on the Finifenmaa speedboat on the eve of the explosion. Hassan Rikaz and Ahmed Amir were given ten-year jail terms each.

The sentencing of Fayaz, Zameer and Thiham puts an end to the prosecutions launched over the blast.

Fayaz is accused of taking control of the crime scene after the blast and refusing to let police officers examine the scene of the explosion. Prosecutors said Fayaz had failed to preserve the scene and had ordered Zameer and Thiham to tamper with evidence.

The pair had taken samples from the boat without orders from an investigative body, judges said.

The three were arrested soon after the explosion. Fayaz was detained at the military barracks, without access to a lawyer or his family, for several months.

Fayaz had previously headed the explosives department and the special protection group, the elite unit of military bodyguards. Zameer and Thiham are explosives experts.

A third explosives expert had provided key testimony in the charges against Adeeb. The soldier, identified as Mohamed Jawaz by local media, said he prepared two bombs on Adeeb’s orders. He is yet to face official charges.

The newly launched opposition coalition, the Maldives United Opposition, said the sentences handed to Adeeb and his bodyguards were unacceptable.

Highlighting concerns by defence counsel, including insufficient time to prepare, the court’s refusal to call some defence witnesses and irregularities in police forensic reports, the MUO said: “This is an atrocity planned and carried out by President Yameen to pollute the entire judicial system.”

Three teams of foreign experts inspected the boat following the blast. The Federal Bureau of Investigation said it found no trace of explosives. The home ministry said the Saudis had found traces of a powerful explosive, RDX, on the boat, and said the Sri Lankans had concluded the explosion was caused by a bomb.

The foreign ministry in a recent statement said soldiers linked to Adeeb had attempted to remove all traces from the crime scene, impeding the investigation and hindering forensic analysis.

The foreign ministry denied any “governmental involvement in these or any other case.”

Correction: June 25, 2016
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that all three soldiers sentenced on June 20 were held in military detention after their arrest. Only Fayaz was held by the military. Zameer and Thiham were kept in police custody.