The criminal court rejected Thursday a motion for closed hearings in the murder trial of Mohamed Anas.
Lawyers representing the seven suspects argued that hearings should be closed because misleading media reports were putting “the safety of prosecution and the defence at risk,” noting also that “90 percent of the evidence is sealed.”
But Judge Hassan Najeeb decided to keep proceedings open after counsel from the prosecution.
“We believe it’s the defence trying to hide what they’re doing,” said Aishath Mohamed, the senior public prosecutor on the case. “If the case needed to be closed, the prosecution will request it, as we’ve practiced before.”
The seven defendants pleaded not guilty at Thursday’s pre-trial hearing.
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 on July 31 last year.
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.
The prosecution submitted a list of secret witnesses, video evidence, video analysis reports, intelligence reports, medical reports, and scene of crime reports.
The judge gave defence counsel five days to submit their evidence in writing. Both the defence and prosecution were given 10 more days to submit pre-trial motions.
Citing psychiatric problems, Afrah Abdul Razzaq’s lawyer appealed for his client’s transfer to house arrest. But prosecutors said all the defendants should be kept in custody as the murder had led to a climate of fear and a spike in violent crime in the capital.
The transfer request was also denied as the lawyer was unable to provide medical evidence.
The suspects were greeted with smiles and handshakes when they were brought to the criminal court around 2 pm. A crowd of their friends waited for them outside after the hearing.
The group of young men were arrested between August 13 and September 19. A minor was also charged in connection with the murder and the trial is ongoing at the juvenile court.
According to police, Anas, who was sitting on a parked cycle, ran into the Litus garage when he saw eight armed men on four motorbikes drive into the narrow alley. Four of them followed Anas into the shop and stabbed him 25 times before fleeing the scene.
He was “the mistaken target of an attack intended to kill other people,” police told the press last year.
It was said to be 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.