Twenty regional organisations, including Maldives Democracy Network, have issued a joint statement calling on the Criminal Court to hold open hearings in blogger and social media activist Yameen Rasheed’s murder trial.
The statement said, while there have been serious concerns with regard to the Rasheed’s brutal murder and the integrity of the investigation from the very beginning, decision to hold closed-door hearings has “further confirmed those concerns”.
At the request of the Prosecutor General (PG), both the hearings held thus far were held behind closed doors. However, the PG reportedly requested the preliminary hearings, not the entire trial, to be held behind closed doors.
Referring to Article 42 (b) of the constitution, which states that all hearings and trials must be conducted in an open and transparent manner, the organisations said none of the three exceptions provided under the constitution for closed-door hearings was referred to in the court's decision.
“While this is the first time hearings have been held behind closed doors in a murder case, there has been a worrying trend in the Maldives where other high profile cases have seen the same happen.”
According to the organisations, at a time murders have increased as a result of surging crime rates, transparent criminal justice processes are crucial to gain public trust. “As such, the way the case of Yameen is treated becomes a case of public interest. Victims of heinous crimes, their loved ones and the general public have the right to be assured of the efficacy of the criminal justice system, without which a state of fear and panic may give rise to other, additional problems.”
Six people were charged in connection with Rasheed’s murder: Ismail Haisham Rasheed of H. Annaarumaage, Ahmed Zihan Ismail of M. Iraasmikuge, Ismail Rasheed of M. Thaaif, Hassan Shifaz of M. Kudhehi, Mohamed Dhifran of Sindhubaadhuge/GDh. Gadhdhoo, and Hussain Ziyad of East/M. Kolhufushi.
Rasheed, a 29-year-old from Addu City’s Feydhoo, who poked fun at the nation's politicians on his blog The Daily Panic, was found in the stairwell of his apartment building with multiple stab wounds to his neck and chest on April 23, and died shortly after being taken to hospital.