Three men on trial for leaving the Maldives to fight abroad should be released from custody because they are very sick, a court heard Monday.
Mohamed Nabeeh, Adam Farhaan and Ahmed Afsal are accused of leaving the country on 2 July 2017 to join the war in Syria.
The trio, who are from Noonu Atoll Maradhoo, are being tried under article 16(2) of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
If found guilty they face a jail sentence of 17 to 20 years.
They are being represented by Ismail Mohamed, who successfully defended three other men on the same charge in 2016. They were acquitted and set free by the Criminal Court in October.
He asked the judge to release the three defendants after the charges were read out at Monday’s preliminary hearing.
The three have been in detention for eight months and are “very sick,” Ismail said.
“A nerve in Nabeeh’s brain has been damaged and one side of his body is numb. Farhaan has pain in a nerve in his backbone. Afzal is suffering from headaches, his migraines are starting to affect his eyesight.”
Ismail asked the judge to consider their criminal record and the court’s release of defendants in prior cases.
Nabeeh and Farhaan do not have a criminal record while Afsal, in his youth, completed a drug rehabilitation program, Ismail said.
Hassan Faizaan was on trial for the same charge and was released by the Criminal Court on 17 April 2017, Ismail said.
State attorneys asked for medical documents to prove the health concerns.
The judge must verify if the condition of the suspects warranted release since they are facing serious charges with lengthy jail terms, the state attorney said.
Ismail agreed to provide available medical documents but Maldives Correctional Services have yet to provide him with some information, he added.
The Criminal Court has previously released suspects facing serious charges such as child abuse, drug trafficking and, in the case of Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran, terrorism, the court heard.
“So, I urge the honourable judge to consider to make a decision to ease their detention, especially since this is the month of Ramadan and my clients have been both physically and mentally affected.”
There was no problem if the judge decided to hold their passports, Ismail said in court.
Ismail told the Maldives Independent after the hearing that he is currently handling three such cases.
“I specialise in defending people facing drugs charges, actually.
“I (successfully) defended three people accused of travelling abroad to join a war, so people with cases like these come to me now. Most cases like these are with me now.”