The High Court today upheld the death sentence of a convict found guilty of murdering MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.
Hussain Humam, who was found guilty in January 2013, had appealed his conviction at the appellate court. The five-judge panel at the High Court ruled unanimously today that there were no grounds to overturn the lower court’s verdict.
The ruling noted that Humam had twice confessed to the crime during the criminal court trial. Although Humam had retracted the confession, the judges said he had not shown a valid reason and that a High Court precedent had established that confessions in such cases cannot be retracted.
The judges also noted that the guilty verdict was also based on witness statements, which backed Humam’s confession.
The ruling clears the way to implement the death penalty in the Maldives for the first time since the current administration ended a six-decade-long moratorium last year. However, the Supreme Court must also uphold the guilty verdict.
At the appeal hearings, Humam had said that President Abdulla Yameen and Vice President Ahmed Adeeb “will know best” the details of the murder. He also alleged that former state minister for home affairs Mohamed Fayaz ‘FA’ had threatened to kill his family if he did not confess during the police interrogation.
The late moderate religious scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP was brutally stabbed to death on October 1, 2013 in a murder that shocked the nation.
Humam was arrested within hours after Afrasheem’s body was found and charged with murder in January 2013. After pleading not guilty, Humam confessed to the killing at a hearing in May 2013 and gave a detailed account of the murder.
However, a month later, Humam retracted the confession, claiming police obtained it through coercion.
Suspicion had been cast upon the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), religious extremists and President Abdulla Yameen. Humam is the only person convicted so far despite police saying the murder was premeditated and politically motivated.
In April, President Yameen had vowed to enforce the death sentence against Dr Afrasheem’s murderers. Two months later, Yameen threatened to prosecute Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla over allegations linking him to the murder, whilst Adeeb accused the MDP and Humam’s lawyer, Abdulla Haseen, of orchestrating Humam’s remarks at court in a “character assassination” attempt.
A second suspect charged with murder, Ali Shan, was acquitted of murder in September last year with the court citing insufficient evidence.
Shan was implicated in Humam’s confession, but the judge said several witnesses had testified that the accused was at a restaurant at the time the murder took place.
A third suspect, Azlif Rauf, who Humam said planned the murder, meanwhile left to Turkey with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang in January.