Former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim had his appeal against a weapons smuggling conviction thrown out Sunday by the supreme court.
The surprise ruling comes days after judges heard both the prosecution and the defence’s arguments, and follows an admission by the police that former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s DNA was found on the pistol seized from Nazim’s home.
The findings were taken widely as evidence that Adeeb had ordered rogue police officers to plant the weapons cache to orchestrate Nazim’s dismissal and arrest.
The supreme court registrar, in a letter to Nazim, said judges had “decided not to hear the appeal” as they had found no reason to overturn the guilty verdict issued by the high court.
The full five-member bench had already held two hearings in to Nazim’s appeal this month.
Lawyers who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the apex court’s decision was unprecedented. “Both the prosecution and the defence had presented their arguments. Cases are never discussed in a hearing without judges deciding to accept it,” a lawyer familiar with the case said.
The supreme court’s registrar has previously rejected hearing cases before for administrative reasons, but never thrown out cases half-way through the appeal. “The court cannot make a ruling on the validity of the appeal without a complete assessment,” the lawyer added.
Nazim’s brother Adam Azim said: “We did not expect this to happen, especially in light of the new evidence. We thought it would be hard for the government to keep Nazim detained after the DNA analysis by the police backed our claim that he was framed.
“All the arms of the state are now conspiring to keep Nazim hostage.”
Home Minister Umar Naseer, a close associate of Nazim, had resigned from his post in the fallout over the findings of the DNA report. The police have meanwhile stressed that the breakthrough did not “conclusively” prove a set-up.
Nazim, currently under house-arrest, has already spent more than 18 months in and out of jail.
Amnesty International has asked the UN working group on arbitrary detention to declare Nazim’s jailing unlawful.
The former minister’s arrest and 11-year jail sentence last April was widely condemned as unfair, and helped trigger the breakup of the ruling coalition, leading to a series of prosecutions against key political leaders.
Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives’ first democratically elected leader, was also sentenced to 13 years in jail on a terror charge. He is now in the UK and has been granted political asylum there.
Nazim, Nasheed and their former rival, Adeeb, have now teamed up to oust President Abdulla Yameen.
Adeeb, who was tourism minister at the time of Nazim and Nasheed’s arrest and jailing, went on to assume the vice-presidency in mid 2015. He was jailed recently on a charge of plotting to assassinate Yameen by planting a bomb on the presidential speedboat.
Additional writing and reporting by Zaheena Rasheed