Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia's high court on Thursday threw out the motion for dismissal of the charges against three Mexican brothers accused of drug trafficking, a crime punishable by hanging in the Asian nation.
The ruling, which was announced by Judge Mohamed Zawawi, shattered the hopes of brothers Luis Alfonso, 47, Jose Regino, 36, and Simon, 33, Gonzalez Villarreal, who have been jailed since their arrests in March 2008 during a police raid on a garage in the city of Johor.
Dismissal of the charges would have opened the way for the brothers' deportation to Mexico.
The Mexicans and the two other men accused in the case - a Malaysian and a Singaporean - were led away in handcuffs after the two-hour hearing and were taken to the Sungai Buloh federal prison on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
"I am a bit sad about what happened," Jose Regino, the only one of the men to comment, told reporters.
The judge read the 37-page ruling, which was translated into Spanish for the brothers by an interpreter, to the courtroom.
On March 28, Judge Zawawi, considered one of the toughest magistrates in Malaysia because he has handed down a number of death sentences, postponed the start of the trial in response to a defense request for a review of the handling of the evidence.
The defense contends that there are discrepancies in the police reports about the color and chemical composition of the drugs and chemical precursors that the Mexicans allegedly had in their possession.
"This court does not agree with the contention that justice will not be done if it does not review its own conclusions," the judge said.
A Mexican Embassy official, several Malaysian lawyers interested in the case and reporters watched the proceedings, but no relatives of the Gonzalez Villarreal brothers attended the hearing.
The court lacks the power to review a case that it already ruled there was enough evidence of drug trafficking to move forward with, Judge Zawawi said, adding that the court feared that dismissal of the charges could have a negative effect on the judicial system.
"Accepting the motion (filed by the defense) would unleash a tsunami on the judicial system," Judge Zawawi said.
The judge rejected all of the arguments made by the defense, which was trying to keep the brothers from facing the questioning of prosecutor Umar Saifuddin Jaafar in court.
The only request accepted by the court was that Yasin Ibrahim, the National Chemicals Department official who analyzed the evidence, be made to testify in the Gonzalez Villarreal case.
The defense contends that the reports prepared by Ibrahim contain "clear discrepancies."
The government chemist will testify either on June 28 or June 29, when the Mexicans will be questioned by the prosecution in court.
"I am disappointed and surprised by the judge's decision. We are preparing ourselves for the worst, the questioning," Kitson Fong, one of the attorneys representing the Mexicans, said.
The Mexicans and the two other suspects were arrested by police in a raid that resulted in the seizure of 29 kilos (64 pounds) of methamphetamines worth 44 million ringgit ($15 million).
The five men are accused of producing and distributing illegal drugs.
If convicted, the five could be hanged under Malaysian law, which makes the possession and trafficking of more than 15 grams of heroin or cocaine, or 200 grams of marijuana, a capital offense.
The death sentence is automatic and cannot be appealed, and only the governor of Johor, where the crimes were committed, can provide clemency.