State witnesses are under pressure not to testify in the trial of blogger Yameen Rasheed’s murder, a prosecutor told the criminal court on Wednesday.
Three secret police witnesses were due to appear at court but only two attended, Judge Ali Rasheed Hussain announced at the start of Wednesday’s hearing.
Defence lawyers objected to taking their testimony on the grounds that they were not informed of the change in the witnesses who were due to testify.
In response, prosecutor Ibrahim Zihunee told the court that state witnesses were reluctant and fearful about testifying.
“There are difficulties for the witnesses to appear in court and testify. Especially the secret witnesses are being influenced,” he said.
Defence lawyer Maumoon Hameed called on the prosecution to investigate the alleged influence and demanded that the Prosecutor General’s office reveal the source of influence.
But Zihunee declined to elaborate.
Judge Rasheed concluded Wednesday’s hearing in the face of the protests by the defence lawyers and scheduled a hearing for next week.
The six defendants – Haisham Rasheed, Ahmed Zihan Ismail, Ismail Rasheed, Mohamed Dhifran, Hassan Shifaz and Hussain Ziyad – were arrested within days and charged with felony murder. All six pleaded not guilty.
In late July, the prosecution’s key witness claimed to have heard the defendants plotting the murder in various places – including the Furqan mosque and Thoiba mosque in Malé – and recounted how they planned to kill “apostates.”
The witness said he was able to identify Haisham and Zihan from photos released by police of two suspects inside Yameen’s building. Police also released a photo that showed the pair getting on two separate motorcycles waiting outside.
Ismail Rasheed kept watch outside the building, he said.
At the last hearing on July 7, a secret witnesses identified the three prime suspects and placed them at the crime scene.