The Supreme Court has overturned former vice president Ahmed Adeeb’s 10-year terror conviction over an alleged plot to use a pistol ahead of an anti-government protest in May 2015.
The top court was asked to quash the sentence by state prosecutors in late April in a U-turn that came days after Adeeb was submitted as a key witness against former president Abdulla Yameen.
Delivering the judgment on Monday, Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi reportedly noted the prosecution’s failure to produce the gun or submit expert evidence to prove what eyewitnesses claimed to have seen was a weapon. The three-judge panel also cast doubt on the crime scene report.
The judgment reduces Adeeb’s combined 33-year jail sentence to eight years after the High Court last week set aside a conviction on a separate terrorism charge raised over an alleged attempt to assassinate Yameen.
The only remaining sentence relates to the alleged theft of US$5 million paid as a resort acquisition fee. The former vice president has served more than three years of the eight-year sentence on the corruption charge.
Adeeb was found guilty over the alleged pistol plot in June 2016 and the verdict was later upheld on appeal by the High Court.
During hearings at the Supreme Court last month, state prosecutor Abdulla Rabiu argued the conviction should be quashed because guilt had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt based on the testimony of anonymous witnesses.
Asked why the prosecution’s stand has changed since the High Court appeal, Rabiu said “a review of the case has made it clear that the testimony of firearm experts or forensic evidence of the weapon was needed to prove it was an actual weapon.”
He conceded that the first two witnesses lacked the technical knowledge to identify a firearm. The third witnesses did not examine the pistol close enough.
Adeeb has been under house arrest since late March.
In the wake of Yameen’s heavy defeat in last year’s presidential election, Adeeb was transferred home in November after three years in prison.
The prisons authority authorised the transfer based on doctor’s recommendations after he underwent surgery to remove kidney stones. He was taken back to prison in early January but was immediately rushed to the hospital in Malé for emergency medical care.
Adeeb’s return to prison was condemned by his Maldives Third-Way Democrat party. It was contrary to doctor’s recommendation to keep him home for two months to recover from a surgery to remove kidney stones, the MTD and Adeeb’s family contended.
In late January, the Supreme Court overruled a High Court order to transfer Adeeb from prison to house arrest. After granting a stay order halting enforcement of the High Court’s order, the Supreme Court upheld the order on May 2.