Legal Politics

State seeks to anonymise witnesses in Faris identity fraud trial

State prosecutors asked the criminal court Sunday to anonymise two witnesses on the grounds that they could lose their jobs if they testify openly in the identity fraud trial of MP Faris Maumoon.

Faris, the son of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was charged with identity fraud for the use of the flag and logo of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives at a joint opposition press conference in March.

The Dhiggaru MP’s three-member defence team strongly objected to the prosecution’s motion.

“If the [Prosecutor General’s office] is not able to act in accordance with the criminal procedures law, let us rip and discard it. The PG’s actions are a shame to justice,” said lawyer Maumoon Hameed.

The new criminal procedures law require both the prosecution and defense to submit such requests during the pre-trial hearings.

In response, Prosecutor Aishath Reesha said the court has not rejected the state’s list of witnesses that was submitted earlier.

The two witnesses were present at the March press conference and may lose their jobs or face “economic losses” if their identities are revealed, she contended.

But Hameed continued to protest over the prosecution’s justification. Faris was in no position to influence the witnesses, he said.

“That economic loss you are referring to, do you mean they will not be able to benefit from bribe money?” Hameed asked as Faris, dressed in a white shirt, sat quietly next to him.

Judge Ibrahim Ali said he would announce a decision at the next hearing. He also granted three days for the defence to present its list of witnesses.

Hameed also objected to a letter submitted as evidence against Faris from PPM deputy leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla to the police seeking an official investigation over the use of the party’s flag and logo.

The defence counsel insisted that Gayoom, formerly the PPM’s elected leader, had dismissed Abdul Raheem as the PPM’s deputy leader and from the party’s council in October 2016.

As in previous hearings, the defence also raised several objections over the opposition lawmaker’s “unlawful arrest and detention” and “the lack of necessary regulation as required by law”.

But the prosecutor said Faris was detained in connection with a separate trial. She also argued that the court could proceed with the identity fraud despite the lack of regulations required by the criminal procedures law.

The identity fraud charge was raised under section 312 of the penal code, which criminalises causing a person to falsely believe that the defendant was lawfully exercising official or legislative authority. If convicted, the MP faces a maximum jail term of nine months and 18 days.

On Saturday afternoon, Faris was taken back to the high-security Maafushi jail after ten days under house arrest.

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