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Court delays verdict over Ibthilaal's murder, allows Aafiya time to hire counsel

30 November 2020, MVT 16:48
In 2015, at only three years old, Ibthilaal was brutally murdered. His mother, Aafiyaa, is the prime suspect of the murder, having previously delivered a detailed confessional. PHOTO: ASAD PHOTOGRAPHY
30 November 2020, MVT 16:48

The Criminal Court, on Sunday, adjourned the verdict hearing for Aafiyaa Mohamed from Rakeedhoo, Vaavu Atoll, charged with the murder of her 3-year-old son Ibthihaal Mohamed, due to her seeking further time to secure legal representation.

According to the state prosecutors, throughout her previous hearings, Aafiyaa declined her right to legal counsel.

Aafiyaa’s court-appointed defence attorney Aminath Rukshana, present at the recent hearing, stated that despite the defendants earlier insistence that she did not want to hire a lawyer, Aafiyaa had now made it clear otherwise.

Stating the above, Rukshana appealed to the court on Aafiyaa’s behalf, for a period of 10 days to seek and secure legal representation.

Judge Mohamed Sameer, presiding over the case, after questioning the defendant and confirming her choice, said he would not stand in the way of exercising her rights.

Noting Aafiyaa’s curt manner in the hearing during which she had made her initial statement, Judge Sameer observed that since she had sought a lawyer, she could be granted the opportunity of 10 days to act on her wishes, after which the court would reschedule a later date for the verdict hearing.

The defendant Aafiyaa Mohamed was arrested after her 3-year-old son was found dead in January 2015 in their home on Raakeedhoo, Vaavu Atoll, with visible injuries on his body. She stands accused of beating Ibthihal to death. In addition to first-degree homicide, Aafiyaa also faces charges over non-compliance.

Aafiyaa had initially confessed to killing Ibthihal and gave a detailed account of the murder in court.

However in 2018, during one of her hearings, she made a U-turn regarding her confessions, claiming she had been threatened into accepting a guilty plea. In September 2019, she denied signing a confession to her alleged crimes and has since maintained that she did not abuse Ibthihal.

Since, in this tragedy that shook a nation, the state had moved charged a number of Gender Ministry's employees and Maldives Police Service personnel with negligence over Ibthihaal's murder.

Nevertheless, the Criminal Court has already rejected some of the cases, with the Supreme Court sustaining a High Court and Employment Tribunal's decision to reinstate one such civil servant hailing from the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Sevices.

Although the case has been active since 2015, and the state urged judicial bodies to expedite the matter in 2019, a resolution is yet to be reached in Ibthilaal’s murder. Earlier this year, the Criminal Court scheduled the final hearing of the trial to take place in February and stated that the verdict would be announced on the 26th.

Across 2020, a wave of public ire has been observed to be steadily rising over Maldives’ meagre record of arresting and convicting perpetrators of abuse and gender-based violence, which has, in turn, led to the formation of multiple movements and holding of rallies, even despite the ongoing pandemic and subsequent, continued state of a public health emergency.

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