Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death sentence of a man convicted of the brutal murder of former MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.
The verdict delivered in the wee hours of Friday morning could make Hussain Humam Ahmed the first person to be executed in the Maldives for more than 50 years.
However, Humam's life could still be spared as Afrasheem's family has asked the supreme court to delay the death penalty.
In a letter to the chief justice hours before the ruling, the father and brother of the late MP cited an incomplete murder investigation in retracting their earlier wish for the death penalty for his killer.
The family in the letter said Humam remains a key witness in identifying those who planned and funded the murder.
“The police had earlier said there are people who planned and funded [the murder of Dr Afrasheem]. Not knowing who they are, and what has been investigated about them, and because I believe Hussain Humam Ahmed’s word is needed to clear these doubts, we do not want qisas to be carried out against Humam until the investigation is complete,” said the letter, signed by Dr Afrasheem’s father Ali Zafir and brother Abdul Nasir Ali.
In Islamic Sharia qisas, meaning retaliation in kind, gives the murder victim’s family the right to demand the life of the convict.
However, Mihaaru has found that the top court refused to accept the letter, saying documents can only be submitted during working hours.
Chief justice Abdulla Saeed who delivered the verdict said "it had been proven beyond any doubt that Humam had killed the Afrasheem Ali."
The unanimous ruling rejected defence's claim of mental illness, and upheld the guilty verdict, noting the 22 year old had confessed to the murder at the lower court on two separate occasions.
The chief justice also highlighted the fact that Humam had not sought the final appeal on his own also proved that he had accepted the High Court ruling.
Humam had confessed to killing Afrasheem during a remand hearing. When the case reached the court, he retracted the confession, claiming his confession had been coerced.
Afrasheem’s body was discovered brutally stabbed to death in the stairwell of his home on October 2, 2012.
Prosecutors have maintained that the murder was premeditated and politically motivated. But three and a half years on, the masterminds behind the killing nor the motive are yet to be determined.
On Tuesday, Humam used a final opportunity to speak in his defence to tell the five-member bench: “Those who issue sentences without a fair trial will receive their just punishments.”
Under Maldivian law, only family members of murder victims can spare killers’ lives as the high court had recently abolished the president’s power to commute death sentences.
The government meanwhile has amended the capital punishment law to adopt hanging instead of lethal injection.
Maldives overturned a six-decade-old moratorium on capital punishment with the adoption of a new regulation in 2014 that allows for the death penalty to be used to punish certain crimes.
Execution facilities at the Maldives’ Maafushi Prison were being built to carry out sentences. Since reenacted, 20 people have been sentenced to death but all the cases are yet to complete the entire appeal process.
While the age of criminal responsibility is 10 in the Maldives, some crimes under the country’s Sharia laws — known as Hadd offenses — have an age of responsibility of 7. This means that juveniles could potentially face execution in the archipelago.
The government had included MVR4 million in the budget this year to build an execution chamber.
However, over mounting pressure from human rights bodies, companies have been refusing to supply the fatal dose to countries still carrying out capital punishment, the government had said earlier.
Maldives opposition has also expressed grave concern over the government rushing to impose the death penalty at a time when the public has lost trust in the justice system.