Maldives court rejects witnesses in major blow to pres' election challenge

Maldives' apex court on Tuesday refused to hear the three witnesses presented by incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom to back his motion to annul last month's presidential election.

The decision by the five judge bench was a major blow to president Yameen's hopes of annulling the election as the three witnesses were key to prove his claims of vote rigging and electoral fraud.

The Supreme Court has now ended the hearings on the challenge and a verdict is expected next. However, it remains unclear when the top court would deliver its verdict.

President Yameen had filed a legal challenge at the Supreme Court on Wednesday citing rigging and electoral fraud.

The case largely accused the Elections commission of using pens with disappearing ink while ballot papers had also been laced with a chemical that wiped votes for president Yameen.

During the three hearings, president Yameen's legal team had asked the Supreme Court to take the testimonies of the three witnesses in secret to protect them citing a threat to their lives.

Lawyers alleged that elections chief Ahmed Shareef had facilitated visa for an unnamed person who had flown to China to bring the 'pen rings' to the Maldives which was then used by election officials to secretly mark blank ballots during the counting process.

The Supreme Court was also told that the log of people entering and leaving the storage room where the ballot papers were kept was not properly maintained which proved that the elections commission had not tracked access to the ballot papers prior to the elections.

President Yameen's legal team had urged the Supreme Court to order the security forces to conduct an investigation into the case after annulling the election.

Opposition alliance legal team has continued to argue that the entire case was based on pure "conspiracy theories."

The alliance has repeatedly insisted that president Yameen had not presented a single shred of evidence to back his outrageous claims of vote rigging and fraud.

Yameen lost the September 23 election by a margin of 16 percent to opposition alliance candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in an outcome hailed as a win for democracy in the crisis-hit archipelago.

The result was widely accepted, including by the United States, China, India, and the European Union.

Yameen conceded defeat a day after the election but had alleged widespread irregularities in the vote.