Lawyers representing former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb named today 13 witnesses to speak in his defence over charges of abuse of authority relating to a blast on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat.
State prosecutors say Adeeb, who is also facing terrorism charges over the alleged assassination plot, boarded the presidential speedboat, Finifenmaa, on the eve of the blast to plant an improvised explosive device.
Yameen had escaped unhurt from the September 28 blast, but the first lady and two of her aides sustained minor injuries. The explosion triggered a major political crisis, leading to a purge of the cabinet and the security forces.
The 13 defence witnesses include two of Adeeb’s secretaries, eight soldiers, and three crewmembers.
His lawyers claim Adeeb did not ask his secretary, Aminath Maureena, to specifically arrange the Finifenmaa speedboat for a trip to the presidential retreat island, Aarah. The boat was chosen by the Maldives National Defence Force, they said.
“The request was made in accordance with the necessary rules and procedures set for such arrangements and it was MNDF officials who arranged Finifenmaa for Adeeb’s use,” lawyer Moosa Siraj told The Maldives Independent.
The three crew members will testify that they were on board the speedboat at all times and that Adeeb did not board the boat while it was docked at Aarah, Siraj said.
Two of the soldiers will also testify that Adeeb did not board the boat once he reached Aarah, while three others would testify that he underwent a security check before boarding the boat, he added.
The prosecution’s witnesses include five soldiers and an anonymous person, to prove that Adeeb had used the boat on the eve of the blast, and had specifically asked for Finifenmaa despite never having travelled on the boat before.
Judges said some of the witnesses will be summoned on May 31, according to Sun Online.
Judges Ahmed Rasheed, Saeed Ibrahim and Ibrahim Ali are presiding over the trial.
Today marked the second hearing of the abuse of authority trial. A hearing was postponed last week when Adeeb’s lawyers failed to attend court.
The terror charges are being heard separately.
Adeeb and his bodyguards Hassan Rikaz and Ahmed Amir are accused of terrorism for allegedly planting the explosive device on the boat.
At a second hearing of the trial on April 21, Adeeb’s lawyers claimed the investigation into the blast was not complete as police had failed to question former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Yameen’s half-brother, who had used the boat soon after Adeeb on the same day, according to Sun Online.
Prosecutors reportedly plan to call the same six witnesses to prove the terror charge against Adeeb.
Three other soldiers are also on trial over the boat blast.
Colonel Ahmed ‘Papa’ Fayaz, the former head of the military’s Special Protection Group, tasked with providing security for the president, is being charged with tampering with evidence and obstructing police officers from inspecting the speedboat after the explosion.
Soldiers Ahmed Thiham and Moosa Zameer, both explosives experts, are also accused of tampering with evidence.
At a hearing on May 11, Chief Inspector Ahmed Azmath Abdulla told judges a soldier by the name of Ali Farooq had prevented him from boarding the speedboat on Fayaz’s orders. Forensic police were only allowed on the boat after MNDF explosives experts left the boat, he said.
“I had the opportunity to go onboard after MNDF left the scene of the crime was tampered with,” Azmath said, adding that he saw some debris in the sea floating next to the boat.
Ali Farooq and the boat’s captain meanwhile testified that police officers were not allowed to board the boat on Fayaz’s orders, while two anonymous witnesses testified that Fayaz had prevented them from boarding the boat.