High Court overturns one acquittal in Noor murder case

High Court. (File Photo/Sun)

High Court, on Wednesday, overturned an acquittal issued to a minor who stood trial in Juvenile Court for the 2015 murder of Noor Adam Hassanfulhu and has sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Noor (Male’ Dhafthar) had passed away from stab injuries he sustained after getting attacked on Buruzumagu, towards the emergency entrance of Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, at approximately 1:42 am on March 28, 2015. His attackers had been on two motorcycles.

The State had charged two adult males and two juvenile males over the murder.

Of the two juveniles, one, who had been 15 years of age at the time, was charged with murder with intent using a sharp-edged weapon.

The Juvenile Court found him guilty of the charge and sentenced him to death.

The second juvenile was charged as an accessory to murder with intent using a sharp-edged weapon.

He was 17 years of age at the time and is now 23 years of age.

The Juvenile Court issued him an acquittal, citing lack of any witness testimony to support the claim he made any attempt to aid in the attack against Noor, made any attempt to hide the identity of the attackers, or served as an accessory to the crime in any way.

The State appealed the acquittal with the High Court in February 2016. The verdict came four years later, on Wednesday, February 26.

The appeal proceedings were overseen by a panel of three judges; Judge Abdulla Hameed, Judge Abdul Rauf Ibrahim, and Judge Ali Sameer.

The ruling had been two-to-one, with Judge Sameer offering a dissenting opinion.

Judge Abdul Rauf and Judge Hameed opinioned that evidence proved the cause of death to be a stab wound to Noor’s left side with an eight-inch blade.

They said that the State had provided evidence the appellee had been on the backseat of one of the motorcycles when the attack had taken place and that following the attack, both motorcycles had sped away together – serving as evidence of his complicity in the crime.

The appellee had denied the charge and entered a plea of not guilty during the original trial. The State had submitted evidence and witness testimony to prove the charge.

Witnesses testified to seeing the appellee sitting and waiting on the motorcycle when the attack had taken place, and seeing both motorcycles leaving together following the attack.

Judge Abdul Rauf and Judge Hameed reasoned that attempting to commit a crime, aiding and abetting in a crime, or serving as an accessory to a crime in any way were all crimes.

While a person may not be held criminally responsible for being a bystander at a scene of a crime, if the person is aware of the crime and encourages the perpetrator, it can be viewed that the person is responsible for the crime.

It can also be viewed that the person was in the location to help or assist the perpetrator or save the perpetrator from a danger or help the perpetrator escape.

The judges also resonated that the attack on Noor was preplanned by people that came on two motorcycles to carry out the attack based on the surrounding evidence and circumstances. It was also resonated that the appellee in the case had been present in the area to assist the perpetrators.

The two judges found the unanimously agreed that the responsibility for the crime lay with the appellee based on the evidence and witness testimonies presented by the state. the decision of the lower court was overruled on this basis.

The dissenting judge in the case, Judge Sameer stated that there was insufficient evidence to prove the charges against the appellee and that witness statements had shown that the appellee had done nothing else other than sitting on the back of the motorcycle and that it was up to the state to present enough evidence to show actions of the appellee linked to the crime.

Judge Sameer also agreed that if a person is present at the crime scene with the knowledge of the crime and assisting or encouraging the perpetrators, the person would be criminally liable. The judge also agreed with the assenting judges on the general rule that a mere bystander would not be criminally liable for being a particular location of a crime.

He stated that actively taking part in the crime, or planning, or holding the victim, blocking escape routes and standing guard by a person would mean that the person in question had taken part in the crime.

He resonated that since the attack on Noor was by another person on a separate motorcycle, there was no constructive basis to believe that the appellee was criminally liable for the attack.

The court ruled in the case to find the appellee guilty of taking part in the murder beyond reasonable doubt, overruling the previous decision of the lower court. The appellee was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The appellee was sentenced under the Juvenile justice act since he was a child at the time of the crime.