One of six on trial for the murder of social media blogger Yameen Rasheed, on Sunday retracted several of his defense witnesses citing “insufficient evidence to convict” him.
Ismail Haisham Rasheed, along with Ahmed Zihan Ismail, Mohamed Dhifran, Hassan Shifaz, Thaaif Ismail and Hussain Ziyad, are facing first-degree murder charges under Section 110 of the Penal Code.
At the hearing held at the Criminal Court, Maumoon Hameed, the defence lawyer for Ismail Rasheed, requested to retract seven of his defense witnesses because the state prosecution could not provide enough evidence to convict Rasheed. Previously, the defense had submitted 11 witnesses to testify in court.
However, the defense stated that they wished to keep four witnesses, including Zahid Rameez, a former council member of current opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), all of whom are accused of having issued death threats to the murdered blogger.
Adding that the police should be able to assist in the matter, Hameed requested the court’s help to summon the defence witnesses to testify in court.
Despite the prosecution objecting to the defense’s request, Ali Rasheed Hussain, the judge presiding over the case, agreed to summon Rameez to testify. However, citing that the defence has not submitted the required details of the other three, Judge Hussain stated that the court could not summon them.
Yameen Rasheed, a human rights defender who led the "Find Moyameeha" campaign to seek justice for the disappeared journalist Ahmed Rilwan, was stabbed to death more than 36 times in the stairwell of his apartment building on April 23, 2017. His brutal murder is under investigation by the Presidential Commission on Investigation of Murders and Enforced Disappearances.
Pointing to the evidence presented by the prosecution, the legal team for Hassan Shifaz, another defendant, appealed for lighter remand conditions.
However, the judge denied the request, accepting the state’s objection over the violent nature of the crime.
The court has now concluded hearing state witnesses and will continue to hear the testimonies of the defense. A verdict is expected to be delivered in January 2020.