Sri Lanka ‘sniper’ denies charges in pres assassination plot

The 24-year-old Sri Lankan national, Lahiru Madhushanka being escorted to the criminal court on Wednesday. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

The 24-year-old Sri Lankan national, Lahiru Madhushanka being escorted to the criminal court on Wednesday. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

The Sri Lankan man charged over the alleged sniper plot to kill Maldives president denied the charges on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old Sri Lankan national, Lahiru Madhushanka has been in police custody since his arrest in October last year.

In addition to Madhushanka, former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor who is already serving 33 in prison over two separate counts of terrorism, two locals Fazeel Hameed and Ishaag Hussain have been charged in the case.

Adheeb and the remaining two locals had also denied the charges earlier.

Adheeb, Fazeel and Madhushanka have been charged with conspiracy to murder while Ishaag has been charged as an accessory.

Prosecutors had said Adheeb and Fazeel had conspired to hire a sniper to assassinate president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Madhushanka had accepted the contract and flown into the Maldives to carry out the assassination, the charges said.

According to prosecutors Ishaag was the mediator who delivered the contract payment.

During the hearing on Wednesday, the defence requested more time to present its case which was granted by the judge.

Court had previously ordered Madhushanka to be kept in remand until the end of the trial.

Madhushanka was reportedly arrested a day after Maldivian security forces confiscated assault rifles and hand guns in what has been the biggest weapons bust in the country’s history. The weapons had been seized from Hibilhadhoo island in Baa Atoll being developed as a resort.

The army had confirmed that two assault rifles found in the weapons bust belonged to the state armoury.
The items showcased during a press conference included several hand guns, a T56 assault rifle and a MP5 sub-machine gun. In addition, a large quantity of bomb making material were also displayed at the press briefing.

Maldives declared a month-long state of emergency in November after the discovery of a bomb near the presidential palace. The state of emergency was, however, later cut short after a week.

Maldives military had confirmed that the suspected device found in a vehicle parked near the presidential residence of Muliaage in capital Male was an improvised explosive device which had been subsequently been diffused.

The discovery of the IED came just over a month after an explosion aboard the presidential speedboat carrying President Yameen now confirmed as an attempt to kill the president.

President Yameen was unhurt but his spouse and two others were hurt in the explosion.

Adheeb who was arrested on October 24 as soon as he arrived from an official trip to China was convicted.

The Sri Lankan sniper’s arrest affected the relations between the Maldives and Sri Lanka, which accused the Maldives of using historically warm bilateral ties to crackdown on Maldivian political and social media activists.

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