Maldives National Defence Force Captain Ali Ihusan testified at the High Court yesterday in former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim’s appeal of his 11-year jail sentence on a weapons smuggling charge.
Yesterday’s appeal hearing was closed to the media, but Captain Ihusan was seen entering the court.
During Nazim’s trial in March, the criminal court had refused to call all but two of the 37 defence witnesses, claiming some were not relevant while others could not negate the prosecution’s case.
Nazim was convicted after a rushed trial that drew widespread condemnation over apparent lack of due process. The retired colonel maintains he was framed by rogue police officers acting on the orders of then-Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.
According to local media, a police officer was also summoned to testify at yesterday’s hearing. Ameen Abdul Gayoom had also testified at the criminal court trial about a pen drive found in Nazim’s apartment with documents detailing a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen.
Captain Ihusan had not testified at the lower court trial. The senior officer is also a member of the national inquiry commission formed to investigate the September 28 blast on the president’s speedboat.
Nazim’s appeal hearings resumed on December 3 after a five-month hiatus. The appeal had stalled in June when the Supreme Court transferred two judges on the five-judge panel to a newly-created regional branch in the south.
A hearing held on Sunday was also closed to the public as as judges deliberated on whether to accept a confidential document submitted by the state earlier this month.
At a previous hearing, Nazim’s lawyer Husnu Suood asked the High Court to consider sentencing Nazim under the new penal code if judges decide to uphold the criminal court’s verdict.
Under the new penal code, the punishment for weapons possession is a jail sentence not exceeding one year. Nazim would have served a one-year prison sentence by April next year.
But the state prosecutors contended that the new penal code is irrelevant in Nazim’s case as it came into force after he was convicted.
During the first appeal hearings in June, Nazim’s lawyers highlighted several lapses in due process, including the criminal court’s refusal to call defence witnesses, discrepancies in testimony by anonymous police officers, and the police’s alleged failure to follow the law and standard procedures in the midnight raid.
The human rights watchdog had also questioned police conduct during the 3:00am raid. The failure to videotape the raid “raises questions about the actions of police officers,” the Human Rights Commission of Maldives had said in July.