Maldives court rejects Yameen's secret witnesses

Wednesday 17th October 2018 02:37 EDT

Colombo: The Maldives Supreme Court has refused to call secret witnesses and concluded hearing in President Abdulla Yameen’s petition to annul the September 23 election. The president’s lawyers wanted testimony from three unnamed witnesses who would confess to conspiring with Elections Commission chief Ahmed Shareef to tamper with ballots. But the full bench ruled unanimously the witnesses were inadmissible.

After hearing closing arguments, Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi said a judgment would be delivered at the next hearing. He did not announce a date. “We noted that these are conspiracy theories based on a lot of allegations and possibilities,” joint opposition lawyer Hisaan Hussain told the press. There was no evidence to substantiate the claims, she stressed.

Yameen sought a Supreme Court order for fresh polls despite conceding hours after provisional results were announced. He asked the court to order police to examine ballot papers. During hearings over the past two days, lawyers representing the Elections Commission and joint opposition mocked the claims of pen rings, disappearing ink and chemically treated ballot papers.

“What this conspiracy theory is missing is a flying carpet,” Hisaan told the court. According to the president’s lawyers, a pen with disappearing ink was left at the voting booth and elections officials used a ring with a secret pen to discreetly mark blank ballot papers. The officials were alleged to have used the pen rings while unfolding and counting ballots, which took place in front of observers, media monitors and candidate representatives.

A chemical was also applied to make the checkmark disappear in the square next to Yameen’s name whilst a checkmark was printed in the other square and hidden with a special mineral layer. The hidden checkmark reappears when “heat pressure such as folding the paper is applied.”

Suspicion was cast on the local company that won the bid to print ballot papers. M7 Print’s shareholders include Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim’s children, it was noted. The EC awarded the bid unfairly, lawyers argued, alleging collusion and breaches of public finance rules.

Other complaints included lack of security for storing ballots, failure to use UV lights for verification at some polling stations, and the shifting of the national complaints bureau office. But none of the complaints was raised by the ruling party on polling day.

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