Five out of seven suspects standing trial for the murder of Mohamed Anas pleaded not guilty at the criminal court on Monday.
Usman Shareef, 23, Ahmed Zayan, 19, Mohamed Shaz, 21, and Afrah Abdul Razzaq, 21, are accused of carrying out the murder while Junaih Abdulla, 19, Hassan Mahfooz, 22, and Simah Moosa, 23, were charged with aiding and abetting for driving the assailants to and from the scene.
According to media, the court conducted the pre-trial hearing for all seven suspects together but Zayan and Mahfooz did not answer the charges because their lawyers were respectively suspended and on leave.
Denying the charges, Afrah and Junaih claimed they were out of Malé on the night of the fatal stabbing. Shaz also claimed to have an alibi.
Lawyers representing the five defendants raised several procedural arguments and challenged the admissibility of a police intelligence report as evidence. Other evidence submitted by the prosecution included video footage and a chart of phone calls between the suspects.
The defence counsel also questioned the decision to seek charges on premeditated murder despite the police telling the press that Anas was murdered in a case of mistaken identity.
Judge Adam Arif said the next hearing will take place in the first week of January.
A minor was also charged in connection with the murder and the trial is ongoing at the juvenile court.
Anas, a 25-year-old speedboat captain from the island of Meedhoo in Raa atoll, was stabbed to death by a group of masked men inside a motorcycle shop in Malé.
Police said it was part of a cycle of violence and revenge attacks arising from a feud between two groups. Disturbing security camera footage — showing Anas being repeatedly stabbed — was later leaked online.