The High Court on Wednesday overturned the conviction of former colonel Ahmed Fayaz ‘Papa’ on charges raised in connection with an explosion on the president’s speedboat in September 2015.
Fayaz was released from prison in June last year after serving more than two years on obstruction of justice charges.
The former top officer – who was in charge of the armoury, the explosives department and the special protection group, the elite unit of military bodyguards – was accused of refusing to let police officers examine the scene of the explosion and ordering two soldiers to tamper with evidence.
The Finifenma blast set off a crisis that saw the impeachment of former president Abdulla Yameen’s deputy and a purge of the cabinet and security forces.
Yameen escaped unhurt but his wife and two aides sustained minor injuries. His former vice president Ahmed Adeeb was found guilty of orchestrating the alleged assassination plot, a conviction that was also overturned by the High Court last May.
A three-judge panel at the appellate court ruled unanimously on Wednesday to set aside Fayaz’s obstruction conviction.
The colonel did not order soldiers to commit any act that constitutes obstruction as defined in the penal code, the judges concluded.
The court also quashed a separate obstruction conviction and three-month jail sentence handed to Fayaz for blocking police officers from examining the scene immediately after the blast.
It was clear from witness statements that the order to refuse access until the military’s explosives experts checked the speedboat was issued by the chief of defence forces, noted Judges Shujau Usman and Hassan Ali, who formed the majority opinion.
Judge Mohamed Niyaz issued a dissenting opinion to uphold the guilty verdict.
During the criminal court trial, Fayaz was accused of ordering explosives experts Moosa Zameer and Ahmed Thiham to get rid of evidence before police investigators went on the speedboat.
The soldiers spent four months and 24 days in prison on a misdemeanour charge of obstructing justice.
Former vice president Adeeb’s military bodyguards, Hassan Rikaz and Ahmed Amir, were also found guilty of planting a bomb on the speedboat, and handed 10-year prison terms. A third explosives experts testified to making two bombs on Adeeb’s orders but was granted witness protection.
In May, the High Court overturned the convictions of Rikaz and Amir and ordered retrials.
In December, the former spokesman at the president’s office cast doubt on the alleged attempt to assassinate his boss with a bomb on the presidential speedboat, alleging a video showing fire was doctored.