The trial of the only suspect charged over the arson attack on the opposition-aligned Raajje TV resumed today after a six-month hiatus.
Mohamed Meead is the only suspect to stand trial out of 18 young men arrested in connection with the attack. The Prosecutor General’s office cited lack of evidence to charge the others.
Meead was serving a lengthy jail sentence for drug trafficking when he was charged with terrorism in October last year.
At today’s hearing, the prosecution submitted a list of four witnesses, a medico-legal report, and video analysis to show that Meead was the one who lit the fire.
The prosecutor said burn marks were found on his neck, arms, and leg. DNA analysis from gloves found near the Raajje TV building was also submitted as evidence.
The studio was torched on October 7, 2013, in the middle of presidential polls. CCTV footage shows six masked men armed with machetes and iron rods breaking through a reinforced steel grill and a wooden door before dousing the control room and lobby with petrol.
The fire destroyed the station’s offices, control room, computer systems, and broadcasting and transmission equipment, causing damages worth MVR11.6 million (US$752,200).
Meead meanwhile presented a list of nine witnesses today that he claims would prove that he was out of the country at the time.
The convict was without legal representation as the Attorney General’s office has yet to arrange for a public defender. Withdrawing his previous request, Meead told the judge today that he would hire a lawyer ahead of the next trial date.
The second hearing of the trial had taken place last March, four months after the first hearing in October.
The trial resumed today after new revelations about the torching of Raajje TV in an Al Jazeera corruption exposé.
Based on evidence gathered from three mobile phones of the jailed former vice president, the ‘Stealing Paradise’ documentary aired earlier this month showed a conversation between then-Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb and Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed.
“Blast it again,” reads a text from Adeeb in August 2014 to the police chief, who suggested that it would be better to “control” the station’s sponsors instead.
An inquiry by a police watchdog had found that Raajje TV staff asked for police protection when they learned of the imminent attack. But police officers failed to respond. The now-defunct Police Integrity Commission had recommended pressing criminal charges against two policemen.
Meead was meanwhile sentenced in late 2013 along with alleged drug kingpin Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzak on drug trafficking charges. Citing insufficient evidence, the high court overturned Shafaz’s sentence in 2014.
Shafaz and ruling party MP Ibrahim Sujau were pictured at the Maafushi jail in August 2015, receiving a convict who was pardoned by President Abdulla Yameen after he was sentenced over the same drug bust.