The Prosecutor General’s office has appealed the acquittal of a man who was charged over the death of his wife, accusing the criminal court of disregarding strong evidence.
After a closed-door trial, Ibrahim Shah was found not guilty of marital rape, manslaughter, negligent homicide and possession of pornography last Thursday.
The charges were raised after Ziyadha Naeem died of life-threatening injuries sustained during an alleged marital rape in December 2015.
In a statement Monday, the PG office accused Judge Ibrahim Ali of failing to give “sufficient weight” to witness testimony and evidence submitted by the prosecution.
Shah was accused of raping his wife on December 3, 2015 after taking her to his home on the Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo island while the couple was separated.
According to the prosecution, the 37-year-old woman’s health deteriorated due to severe head injuries sustained during the assault.
She passed away on December 28, 2015 while undergoing treatment at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in the capital Malé.
A postmortem conducted in India determined the cause of death to have been an intracranial haemorrhage, which occurred due to head injuries caused four weeks before the death.
Before her death, Ziyadha told several people about the alleged marital rape, including doctors and nurses who were called to testify during the trial.
She had also told people about her ordeal on the phone. Along with medical reports, a forensic analysis of her mobile phone was submitted as evidence.
But the court based its decision on the postmortem report.
“The postmortem report does not show signs of sexual abuse because Ziyadha Naeem died almost one month after the incident and over two weeks after treating these injuries in IGMH,” the PG office said.
The prosecution also called witnesses to prove that the sexual injuries had healed. But the court decided they could not determine the exact date of the healing.
“This office believes that sufficient evidence was submitted to prove that the [head injury] was caused by her husband on the day of the incident,” the statement noted.
The PG office also claimed that prosecutors had presented evidence to prove Shah’s intent to rape his wife to inflict mental and physical harm.
He was also acquitted of the possession of pornography charge despite police finding dozens of nude images in his mobile phone.
The judge ruled the prosecution could not prove that the images were kept on his phone by the defendant.
But the PG office said Shah’s own testimony during the trial proved that a sharing application had not been used for their automatic download or storage.
The trial was closed to the public and media upon request by the prosecution, the PG office statement noted. This was done to protect the couple’s three children due to the sensitive nature of the information that would be discussed, it added.
The case was presided over by Judge Ibrahim Ali after Judge Adam Arif was transferred to the drug court last month.
Shah was arrested after Ziyadha was hospitalised in Malé. He remained in custody for the duration of the trial.
According to the police, the victim did not report the rape and had sought treatment at the Thinadhoo hospital days after the incident. Doctors recommended she travel to the capital immediately.
The Family Protection Authority was alerted after a doctor at a private practice in Malé took her to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
After the mother of three was hospitalised, hundreds of women marched in Thinadhoo with placards calling for an end to violence against women.
Ziyadha’s death shocked the nation and prompted debate about the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act.
A 2007 study by the gender ministry found that one in three Maldivian women between the ages of 15-49 suffered sexual or physical abuse. One in five identified the perpetrator as their intimate partner.
The acquittal last week sparked outrage on social media.
'She can't speak out so we need to.'
I'd like to know where the State failed. Was it an incomplete investigation? Was it a weakness in prosecution? Was it the courts? Did @hrcmv monitor the case?
— Dhiyana 🎈? (@dhiyanasaid) March 22, 2019
So in Ziyadha’s case, the doctors’ testimony wasn’t admissible in court @policeMV? The fact that Ziyadha had told her doctors that the injuries had been inflicted upon her by her husband was just discarded? Farcical justice system of Maldives. https://t.co/rXoFRSh6lr
— sighpad.m™️🎈❓ (@sighpad) March 23, 2019
“Once again, he drags my body to the floor, He chokes me & I beg him not to kill me! Once again, he demands my silence, Once again, he tells me I don’t deserve to live”
Ziyada & many other victims who do not get justice under the Maldivian justice system! #JusticeForZiyadha pic.twitter.com/xZXz83NwOS
— Dunya Maumoon (@dunyamaumoon) March 22, 2019
Ziyadha's death was a result of the abuse and rape by a man who now walks free.
— Sara Naseem 🎈 (@sara_naseem) March 23, 2019