Family members of a murdered MP have asked the supreme court to delay the death penalty for the 22-year-old man convicted of killing him.
The court is set to rule on the high-profile murder case tonight.
In a letter to the chief justice, the father and brother of late MP Afrasheem Ali cited an incomplete murder investigation in delaying their earlier wish for the death penalty for his killer, Hussain Humam Ahmed.
Humam remains a key witness in identifying those who planned and funded the murder, they said.
“The police had previously said there are people who planned and funded [the murder of Dr Afrasheem]. Not knowing who they are, and what has been investigated about them, and because I believe Hussain Humam Ahmed’s word is needed to clear these doubts, I do not want qisas to be carried out against Humam until the investigation is complete,” said the letter, signed by Dr Afrasheem’s father Ali Zafir and brother Abdul Nasir Ali.
In Islamic Sharia qisas, meaning retaliation in kind, gives the murder victim’s family the right to demand the life of the convict.
The supreme court refused to accept the letter, saying documents can only be submitted during working hours.
Humam, a young man with a troubled history of violence, had confessed to killing Afrasheem during a remand hearing. When the case reached the court, he retracted the confession, claiming he was coerced into confessing.
Afrasheem’s body was discovered hacked to death in the stairwell of his home on October 2, 2012. Humam was arrested moments later.
The police said the murder was premeditated and politically motivated. But three and a half years on, the masterminds behind the killing have not been identified.
Prosecutors have admitted that the murder investigation is incomplete, but argued that the apex court should uphold the death sentence for Humam, claiming his confession and other evidence prove he killed Afrasheem.
On Tuesday, Humam used a final opportunity to speak in his defence to tell the five-member bench: “Those who issue sentences without a fair trial will receive their just punishments.”
Under Maldivian law, only family members of murder victims can spare killers’ lives as the high court had recently abolished the president’s power to commute death sentences.
Humam’s lawyer Abdulla Haseen said the supreme court can no longer sentence his client to death.
“Afrasheem’s family had expressed their desire for qisas at the lower courts. This is what the death penalty is based on. It is one of the fundamental aspects of it, even the prosecution based their charge on the family’s consent, and without it, the death penalty cannot be enforced on Humam,” he said.
President Abdulla Yameen’s administration has pledged to hang death row inmates within 30 days of the supreme court upholding or issuing a guilty verdict. Yameen overturned a six-decade old moratorium on the death penalty in 2014.
Regulations on the death penalty state that the government should play a mediating role between the convicted killer and victim’s family with a view to spare the killer’s life up until the day of execution.
Human rights NGO, the Maldivian Democracy Network, has called for a retrial for Humam, saying that the trial against him was riddled with irregularities. They have also supported Humam’s father’s call for an independent psychiatric test on his son.
MDN has also expressed concern over the death sentence issued by the criminal court, claiming it contravened the principles of Islamic Shariah.
For a court to sentence a convict to death, all of the victim’s heirs must demand the death penalty. Since two of Afrasheem’s children are underage, the NGO claims the state must wait until the pair are 18 years of age and able to make a decision on qisas.
The criminal court had waived the condition citing “social harmony.”