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Witnesses in Yameen's case attacked, state retracts evidence

Shahudha Mohamed
12 October 2019, MVT 08:52
Yamin Rasheed's murder
Shahudha Mohamed
12 October 2019, MVT 08:52

The state on Thursday withdrew statements of witnesses refusing to testify in court during Yameen Rasheed's murder trial, following reports that some state witnesses were attacked.

Yameen, an IT professional and popular blogger, was brutally stabbed over 35 times in the stairwell of his home on April 23, 2017.

The state charged six individuals with first-degree murder over Yameen's death. They are Ismail Haisham Rasheed, Ahmed Zihan Ismail, Mohamed Dhifran, Hassan Shifaz, Thaaif Ismail and Hussain Ziyad.

During Thursday's hearing at Criminal Court, the state only brought forward one confidential witness out of the two that were scheduled to give their testimonies.

According to the state, one witness refused to testify since some witnesses to the case were threatened and physically harmed.

Since there was no evidence against the perpetrators behind the acts, the defence lawyers claimed that the state was implying blame on the defendants and their lawyers by making the announcement in court.

Zihan's lawyer Abdulla Haseen stated that since all the charged were under state custody, only the Prosecutor General's (OG) Office, Maldives Police Service and the court knew the identity of the witnesses.

Adding that investigations into the matter should be conducted by the Police, he argued that the state's accusations targeted those facing the murder charges and the lawyers defending them since the perpetrators were not disclosed.

Ismail Rasheed's lawyer Maumoon Hameed expressed similar concerns, requesting a court order to launch investigations into the matter if the Police were not probing it already.

The state confirmed that the matter was under investigation.

The state also withdrew the names of two secret witnesses from the list of witnesses, in addition to four crime scene officers' reports, citing that the officer who prepared the report was currently overseas.

The witness in attendance "did not remember much"

The secret witness brought forward in Thursday's hearing, when questioned by the state, iterated that he does not remember anything about the incident since it happened so long ago.

However, he assured that all the facts in the statement he had previously given were true.

When the state continued questioning after the witness stated that he does not remember any events, the defence lawyers objected, claiming that only the testimony in court will be counted as evidence.

The judge allowed an additional question to the state, for which the witness testified to stopping on his vehicle in the area where the murder took place.

However, he said he did not know that anything happened and he does not remember the time he was in the area.

According to the witness, he moved a vehicle which was blocking the way on a narrow road and he thought he saw someone sitting on a motorcycle on the other side of the road, but he was not sure.

When asked if he heard any questionable noises at the time, he said he did, but could not identify what the noise was. He also added that he could hear sounds of conversation as well.

When the state aimed questions based on the witness' prior statements, the defence bench objected that such questions cannot be posed. The objection was sustained.

The Presiding Judge Hussain Rasheed decided to hold an administrative meeting after the hearing to discuss the trial proceedings.