The criminal court has acquitted two defendants 13 years after they were charged with the murder of Mohamed Shihab from the island of Villigili in Gaafu Alif atoll.
Shihab died of injuries in 2006 after he was severely beaten up by a group of young men while he was visiting the neighbouring Maamendhoo island.
The two defendants cleared of murder charges last week, Ali Masood Saeed and Mohamed Shifraz, were previously found guilty and sentenced to death in 2008 along with co-defendants Mohamed Gasim and Fariyaz Ahmed.
But their convictions were overturned on appeal and the High Court ordered a retrial in the cases of Masood and Shifraz.
In the verdict delivered last Thursday, Judge Mohamed Sameer cited inconsistencies in the statements of prosecution witnesses. A man and a woman who were standing outside the house where Shihab was beaten told the court that he was beaten by four men. But another woman testified to having seen only two assailants.
There were also significant discrepancies in how several other witnesses described the assault, the judge noted.
The previous conviction was heavily reliant on a statement from Shifraz to the police in which he confessed to beating Shihab with a piece of log. But the defendant retracted the statement during the trial and alleged to have been coerced by the victim’s friends who cornered him in prison.
The judge ruled that the court could not accept Shifraz’s statement as evidence to convict him of murder.
The verdict also questioned the circumstances of Shihab’s death. The judge noted Shihab’s transfer to three different hospitals and concluded that the victim was not properly treated without disruption.
Shihab was taken from Maamendhoo to Villingili hospital by fishermen. The men from the fishing boat also cleaned him at Villingili hospital after being instructed by a doctor there. The victim was then transferred to Gaafu Dhaalu atoll hospital on Thinadhoo island and then finally to the capital Malé.
The prosecution also failed to establish that the defendants beat Shihab with the intent of killing him, the judge noted.
“There is not enough evidence to prove without doubt that Mohamed Shifraz and Ali Masood Saeed murdered Mohamed Shihab,” the verdict stated.