President sets terms for negotiations, rules out ex-president’s release

President Adbulla Yameen has set terms and representatives for talks with the opposition amidst growing domestic and international calls for dialogue.

Two teams of seven ministers will hold separate discussions with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and with the Jumhooree Party and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

President Yameen’s proposed agenda focuses on three aspects; political reconciliation, strengthening the judiciary and legal system and political party participation in economic and social development.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali, however, ruled out negotiations over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, insisting the president has no role in the pair’s release.

“The President’s Office has sent letters to the Maldivian Democratic Party, Adhaalath Party and Jumhoory Party today. In the letters, the government has officially requested for discussions,” he said.

“The discussions will proceed within legal limits. The problem before was the president does not have the legal means to meet the demands of the opposition,” Muaz said, referring to president Yameen’s earlier comments ruling out any dialogue with the opposition over jailed opposition leaders.

“Now, the president’s interest is to protect the country and its people. The president will consider the interest of the whole nation rather than that of individuals,” Muaz said.

The terms set by the president are:

  • Seek solutions within the perimeters of the Maldivian legal system to ‎resolve existing political tensions and differences of opinion towards ‎establishing political reconciliation, and to explore avenues to strengthen ‎national solidarity; ‎
  • Determine measures needed to further improve the constitutional, ‎legislative and judicial models within the country, for the purpose of ‎strengthening the Maldivian democratic system based on our own past ‎experiences and international best practices;‎
  • Encourage the cooperation of all political actors within the country ‎towards the nation building process, and in securing the social and economic ‎development of all Maldivian citizens

The opposition on Thursday welcomed President Yameen’s call for talks, but had separately demanded the release of leaders who were detained from the mass antigovernment rally on May 1.

MDP’s chairperson Ali Waheed and Adhaalath president Sheikh Imran Abdulla were remanded for an additional seven days and 10 days, respectively, by the criminal court yesterday.

JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim was released last week when the high court overturned the criminal court’s 15-day remand.

The government has proposed home minister Umar Naseer, fisheries finister Mohamed Shainee and minister of the president’s office Abdulla Ameen to hold talks with the MDP.

A team of four state officials including tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, minister of the president’s office Mohamed “Mundhu” Hussain Shareef, housing minister Mohamed Muiz and environment minister Thorig Ibrahim will participate in the talks with the JP and the Adhaalath Party.

The Adhaalath Party had previously stated they will not sit down with the tourism minister, who Imran has accused of corruption and illicit connections with criminal gangs.

But Muaz said no party has officially set any conditions for talks with the government yet.

Of the 193 people who were arrested from the May Day protest, only a few remain in police custody.

The prosecutor general Muhthaz Mushin yesterday said only 30 will be charged for now, and that a committee is reviewing charges against 98 protesters who are “first time offenders.”

The charges range from disobedience to order, obstructing police duty and assaulting police officers, and carry a penalty of MVR3000 or a six-month jail term.


Prosecutor general to charge 30 May Day protesters

Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin says he will press charges against 30 of the 193 protesters arrested from a mass antigovernment protest on May 1.

“Out of the 128 cases we accepted from the police, we’ve forwarded around 98 cases to the committee on reviewing first time offenders. That means we will press charges against only about 30 people. That includes repeated offenders and the people suspected of attacking police officers at the protest,” he said.

Over 20,000 opposition supporters took to the streets on May 1 over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim. Police cracked down on protesters at dusk when they attempted to enter Malé’s restricted Republic Square.

Nearly 200 were arrested and scores were injured, including two police officers.

Muhsin at a press briefing today said his office will uphold the rights of the accused, but said he had noticed protesters were committing serious crimes at the opposition’s demonstrations.

“Article 32 of the constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. The law does not allow attacking and inciting violence against law enforcement agencies, and causing terror in society. This is terrorism under Maldivian law,” he said.

Muhsin warned of harsh penalties for individuals who commit such acts and advised political parties to refrain from encouraging terrorism.

Charges against protesters at present range from disobedience to order to assaulting police officers.

Muhsin also said public prosecutors are looking at charging individuals over libel and slander following allegations by recent defectors from the ruling coalition accusing President Abdulla Yameen and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb of links with the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in 2012.

The ex police chief Abdulla Riyaz was summoned to the police last week over comments he had made in an interview with opposition aligned Raajje TV on Afrasheem’s death and the torching of the station in 2013.

“People are acting however they want. They are trying very hard to defame state institutions in front of the public. The constitution does not give us the right to commit crimes hiding behind a political party,” he said.

“People in responsible posts are publicly accusing others of murder. We are researching on pressing charges against individuals who accuses some one of a crime and which the punishment is had.”

Muhsin said the PG office will appeal cases where the criminal court releases protesters from remand on the condition they avoid further protests: “My stand is the court cannot release a detained person imposing conditions barring him from attending protests. If I know of such a case and the subjected person do not have the ability to appeal, the PG office will appeal the case.”

The criminal court in March imposed such conditions on dozens of protesters. MP Ahmed Mahloof spent weeks in police custody and house arrest when he refused the criminal court’s conditions to stay away from protests. The high court brought the practice to an end when Mahloof appealed the criminal court’s ruling.

Muhsin also dismissed the opposition’s claim that the police is now imposing restrictions on freedom of assembly, by requiring prior permission for protests and banning the use of four wheeled vehicles in protests without prior notice.

“I don’t believe the right to protest has been narrowed in Maldives. I believe the right to protest and freedom of assembly is much wider in Maldives compared to other countries, to the extent that we eventually end up violating rights of others,” he said.

The opposition has criticized Muhsin over the rushed trial of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges and for accepting a discounted luxury flat by the government. The flats were also given to the five Supreme Court judges, and several heads of independent institutions.


“Help me gain my freedom”: ex-immigration chief’s passport held in stalled corruption charge

The criminal court has held former controller of immigration Ilyas Hussein Ibrahim’s passport for a third consecutive year over stalled corruption charges, preventing him from visiting his family in New Zealand or sending them money through banks.

Ilyas, who served as the controller from 2008 – 2012, is accused of abusing authority for undue financial gain in a US$39 million border control system project. The charge carries a penalty of imprisonment, banishment or house arrest not exceeding three years.

“But my liberties have been constrained for a period nearly as long as a guilty verdict. I’ve been deprived of seeing my family, of spending on them. I cannot send them any money,” Ilyas told Minivan News.

Ilyas’s wife and two daughters have been residing in New Zealand since 2011.

At the case’s last hearing in 2012, chief judge Abdulla Mohamed said a verdict would be delivered at the next hearing, but three years later, Ilyas was told a new judge was now in charge of the case.

Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf met with Ilyas and told him Judge Abdulla had failed to keep any record of case proceedings.

The case is symptomatic of the severe delays in completion of trials in the Maldives’ criminal justice system. In February this year, an Indian woman, arrested over the death of her child was released after four and a half years in pre-trial detention.

“I appeal to human rights organisations, both local and international, to empathise with my plight and help me gain my freedom,” Ilyas said.

He says he was threatened with death by anonymous sources when charges were first filed in 2012: “I cannot bring my family back here. If I do, I fear they too may be targeted.”

The criminal court was not responding at the time of going to press.

The prosecutor general’s office says it has no influence in expediting cases once charges are filed at the criminal court.

“We can only order the police to speed up investigations and file charges at the court promptly,” public prosecutor Ahmed Hisham Wajeeh said. “In a majority of criminal cases, liberties and freedoms are held. We would like to see cases reach completion as soon as possible. But there are delays with the criminal court, they do have a lot of challenges.”

Human rights NGO Maldivan Democracy Network said Ilyas’ case was an example of lack of justice in the Maldives. Serious corruption charges must be swiftly investigated and prosecuted, the organisation’s executive director Shahindha Ismail said, adding: ‘The court’s incompetence is no reason for the accused to suffer.”

Ilyas’ charges relate to the 2010 agreement signed between the Maldives and Malaysia-based Nexbiz Pvt Ltd for a border control system.

Under the agreement, the government has to pay Nexbiz US$2 for every foreigner processed through the system and US$15 for each work permit over the project’s 20-year life span.

The Anti-Corruption Commission ordered a halt to the project, claiming it would cost the Maldives US$162 million in potential lost revenue over the lifetime of the contract.

The ACC filed for an injunction and the Supreme Court in 2013 ruled the watchdog has no authority to suspend contracts. But by then, the parliament had voted to terminate the contract and replace it with the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) provided by the US government.

Ilyas was appointed as the state minister for defence months after his brother Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan assumed the presidency in 2012.

“My wish is to be free of the torture this brutal government is inflicting on me. To be able to live a dignified life with my wife and children,” Ilyas said.


Public outrage after two children suffer burns in fireworks display

Two children and an adult suffered burns during a government organized fireworks display at the Raalhugandu area in Malé last night, sparking public outrage.

Local media reported that a father, his child and another child were burned from falling gunpowder. The father and child were treated at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, while the other child was taken to the Senahiya military hospital for treatment.

Pictures of the burn victims circulated on social media last night, showing that all three of the injured suffered burns on the hands.

Only the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) is allowed to operate fireworks in the country, with all profit from the fireworks going to the military welfare company the Sifainge Corporative (SifCo).

Speaking to Minivan News , MNDF spokesperson Major Adnan Ahmed said the military operates fireworks with stringent safety precautions, and is investigating the incident from last night.

“We cordon off the area during fireworks. Spectators are only allowed to stay at 300 feet distance from the fireworks operating area,” said Adnan.

Adnan said the three who were injured last night were standing outside of the cordoned area when they got burned, but refused to comment further on the incident. Meanwhile, minister of defence Moosa Ali Jaleel expressed his condolences to the victims in a tweet last night.

However, several social media users have slammed the government over the mishap, with one questioning as to why the government was holding children’s day fireworks six days after the actual date.

Fireworks displays have become commonplace in the Maldives during the past year, with the government and ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) using such displays to celebrate “victories.”

Most recently, the PPM used fireworks on May 2 to celebrate the government’s “victory” over the May Day protesters the previous day.

Nearly 200 individuals were arrested at a mass anti-government rally on May 1, including opposition Maldivian Democratic Party chairperson Ali waheed, Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla and Jumhooree Party deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim.

The government also used a fireworks display to celebrate President Abdulla Yameen delivering his presidential address at the parliament, amidst protests from opposition MPs over the arrest of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed has since been sentenced for 13 years of imprisonment over terrorism chargers for the military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in 2012.


Comment – 48: 24 In and out of prison

It was May 1991. On the small island of Dhoonidhoo, by the beach, stood a windowless corrugated iron shed 4ft wide, 6ft long, and 6ft high. During the day, the hot tropical sun beamed its rays directly onto the tin roof, making the air inside as hot as the inside of an oven on full blast. Under the moon, damp air from the sea wrapped itself around the shed, chilling the atmosphere within. Entrapped inside, in solitary confinement since November 1990, was a young man of 23 years. On 17 May 1991, exactly 24 years ago today, he turned 24.

Mohamed Nasheed, from G. Kenereege, Male’, had spent the previous year and a half inside the confines of the small shed. For 18 months his existence had been strictly controlled and designed to cause maximum pain and humiliation. He was allowed one shower a week. Everything he did had to be done inside the confines of the shed. His water was rationed – one litre every 24 hours for all his needs: drinking; cleaning; and ablutions.

The only ‘break’ from the relentless routine came when he was taken out for ‘interrogations’. Prior to each, he was allowed a bath and given a clean shirt to wear. All the sessions were videotaped. Instead of being asked questions, however, he was provided with a list of offences to which he was to ‘confess’: attempts to overthrow the government; inciting violence through distribution of subversive literature; concealing information on alleged anti-government terror plots; immorality; and un-Islamic behaviour.

His refusal to ‘confess’ resulted in a litany of punishments: his food was laced – sometimes with crushed glass, sometimes with laxatives, sometimes both at once. The laxatives caused diarrhoea; the glass cut him from within. It was a bloody combination, intended to cause optimum harm. At other times he was kept chained inside the shed; his water rations cut from one litre to half a litre every 24 hours. Once he was chained to a chair outside for 12 consecutive days, exposed to the elements; be it the merciless tropical sun or the ceaseless monsoon rains. He spent 14 days tied to a loud, throbbing electric generator, breathing in its fumes. For an entire week, he was subjected to sleep deprivation; allowed only 10-15 minutes’ sleep a night.

After 18 months of such inhumane treatment, on 8 April 1992, about a month before his 25th birthday, Nasheed was brought before a summary court and sentenced to three years and six months in prison. This time he was held captive on the island of Gaamaadhoo. Due to external pressure—mainly from the British government and Amnesty International—and changes in the domestic political landscape, Nasheed was released in June 1993, two years and four months before the end of his sentence.

By then he had spent another birthday, the third in a row, in jail. He was suffering from severe back pain, the result of police beatings in custody. He was bleeding internally, the result of food laced with crushed glass he had been forced to eat. He had just turned 26.

Journalism is a crime

Nasheed’s crime had been journalism. In the dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (1978-2008), where the State and its cronies tightly controlled all media output, Nasheed’s was the first voice that refused to be sweet-talked, bought, coerced, or threatened into silence.

On 24 January 1990, at the age of 22, Nasheed published the first issue of, Sangu, the first magazine to be openly critical of the regime in 12 years. It was banned almost immediately. Nasheed responded by publishing the very article, which the government had objected to most, in Sri Lanka’s The Island newspaper. For this, Nasheed was put under house arrest, the first of many times in which he would be deprived of his freedom. He doggedly persisted on his chosen path as a public watchdog, willingly meeting with foreign reporters in his house, including correspondents from the BBC and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) who, with Nasheed’s contributions, reported on the burgeoning political corruption and oppression in the Maldives. His 18 months of torture in Dhoonidhoo began the day after ABC broadcast its report.

There was more journalism, more writing, more threats, and more jail time to come. The next prison term was in November 1994 when he spent two weeks in solitary confinement for having written about yet more political arrests and repression by Gayoom. In February 1995 he spent another two weeks in prison where it was made clear to him that unless he stopped writing, he would be back behind bars yet again. Faced with the stark choice, he relinquished political journalism, and concentrated on writing longer, historical works.

In 1996 Nasheed published his first book, Dhagandu Dhahana, an account of the domestic affairs that culminated in Maldives becoming a British protectorate in 1887. Despite the book’s focus on history, he was ordered to have it removed from the shelves. He refused. Gayoom’s response was to charge him in relation to an article published two years previously, in November 1994. It was back to jail for another three months, then house arrest for a long period while his appeal was being considered, followed by another three months in jail. For the fourth time he was in captivity for his birthday. He had turned 29.

Free again in 1997, he stayed home to look after his first-born and write. His wife, Laila Ali, was the breadwinner. Writing under a pseudonym, he published Hithaa Hithuge Gulhun (A Connection of Hearts), a non-political novel. It became a best-seller.

Into politics

Nasheed’s first foray into politics was not pre-planned but initiated by Gayoom’s archrival, Ilyas Ibrahim, in October 1999, ahead of scheduled parliamentary elections. Hearing about a meeting between the two men, Gayoom had Nasheed’s house raided. Police took his computer along with several unpublished manuscripts. They were never returned. By then Nasheed had made up his mind to run for one of two seats as a Male’ Member of Parliament. He was successful. Two years later, after many efforts at reform as an MP, he was back in jail.

This time, the charge was theft. Among the documents police found when they raided his home in October 1999 was an old school notebook belonging to former President Ibrahim Nasir’s son. Nasheed picked it up from dumpster outside the Nasir residence which the government had emptied of all contents. Having been in school with the younger Nasir, the notebook, destined for the bin, was of sentimental value to Nasheed. Nevertheless, charged with theft—a Hadd crime in Shari’a—Nasheed was stripped of his parliament seat and sentenced to two years banishment to An’golhitheemu, an island with a population of just 30. After six months in virtual isolation on the island, he was transferred to house arrest. With pressure from Amnesty International, Reporters Sans Frontiers, the International Parliamentary Union (IPU), and other international bodies, he was free again after three months. By now it was August 2002, and Nasheed was 35.

A year of relative calm and more writing followed. Nasheed published two more books,Enme Jaleel, a historical novel, and Dhan’dikoshi, a genealogy of leading families in Male’. In English, he wrote two more, A Historical Overview of Dhivehi Polity 1800-1900, and Maldives in Armour: Internal Feuding and Anglo-Dhivehi Relations 1800-1900.

Trouble, and more jail time, was not far away. On 20 September 2003, the National Security Services (NSS), killed Evan Naseem, a young prisoner in Maafushi jail. Nasheed was instrumental in exposing Evan Naseem’s death for the murder that it was. He beseeched the examining doctor to deviate from what was then a standard procedure of signing prisoners’ death certificates without examining the body first. Naseem’s battered and bruised body, once examined by the doctor and seen by his family and the public, brought most of the public’s endurance of Gayoom’s regime to an end; and lit the fire of the Maldivian democracy movement that refuses to die to this day.

Much of what happened between then and now is well documented. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) was declared as an entity in exile in Sri Lanka on 10 November 2003; Nasheed and several other close associates, in danger of losing their lives, sought asylum in the UK; and party leaders, members and activists continued their highly effective non-violent civil resistance actions in Male’. There were several heavy and brutal crackdowns, including the event now known as Black Friday on 12-13 August 2004 when the now infamous SO police brutally cracked down on thousands of protesters injuring hundreds and arresting 200.

Nasheed returned to the Maldives not long after, on 30 April 2005. Within a month—during which time he turned 38—he was back in Dhoonidhoo jail with several other MDP members and activists. This turned out to be a brief overnight stay, but it was not long before he was back in jail, dragged into custody from the Republic Square on 12 August 2005 where he was leading a mass gathering to mark the first anniversary of Black Friday. He remained in prison for about a week, then brought to court to face a battery of charges from inciting hatred against government and ‘creating fear in people’s hearts.’

Nasheed was back in jail—in solitary confinement—for the 80 days in which the ‘trial’ was held. It was followed by 324 days under house arrest. Mounting external pressure forced the government to withdraw the charges against Nasheed and release him on 21 September 2006. Another birthday had passed in captivity.

The freedom was short lived. Six months later, the people of Male’ were confronted with another dead body—another prisoner last seen alive in police custody. The body of Hussein Solah, carrying marks of torture was seen in the sea, near the remand prison where the police had held him. Large crowds gathered near the cemetery to view Solah’s body. Police dispersed the crowd brutally. They singled Nasheed out, pushed, shoved and beat him up, then dragged him into jail for another night. Released the next day, he left abroad to seek treatment.

Sweet but short

In November 2008 Nasheed became the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives. Both he, and the Maldivian people, experienced true freedom from tyranny for the first time in decades. Freedom of expression and assembly flourished. It was safe to speak, to criticise, to write, to draw, to feel, to debate, to dissent.

But, just like the many short-lived moments of liberty in Nasheed’s own history, this freedom for both him and the people was short lived. The beginning of its end came with the coup on 12 February 2012. In the year and nine months that followed, caretaker ‘President’ Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, genuflecting deeply, held the door open for the Gayoom family to return: to occupy the seats of power; shut the door on civil and political rights of the people; and to lock Nasheed away in prison. The new regime did not waste much time. Nasheed was back in Dhoonidhoo in October 2012, and again in March 2013. He was released on both occasions, pending a ‘trial’. On 13 March 2013, after what the entire world sees as a sham trial–charged and found guilty of ‘terrorism’ for the custody of a corrupt judge during his presidency–the regime threw Nasheed into jail yet again. This time to serve a 13-year sentence.

Today Mohamed Nasheed turns 48. It is the fifth birthday he marks in jail, 24 long years since he marked his first, 24th, birthday in jail back in 1991. And just as his fortunes have changed, so has the country’s. Counting the days behind bars today are many dissidents, critics and writers. Protesters as old as 70, and children under 18, are being brutally assaulted, pepper sprayed, arrested and tortured. Opposition leaders are being detained solely for being opposition leaders.

Once again, it is not safe to criticise the government; it is no longer allowed to freely assemble to peacefully protest without prior permission from the authorities; journalism is, once more, a crime. Journalist and writer Ahmed Rilwan was abducted in August 2014 and has been ‘disappeared’. Several prominent social media critics were dragged into jail, picked up from anti-governments protests like baitfish in a drag net. Dozens of Twitter users were detained for days and held in inhumane conditions. Some have been released, others like Shafeeu and bloggerYameen Rasheed, remain in custody for no other reason except for their dissenting voices.

The trajectory of Nasheed’s life and that of the Maldivian democracy movement are closely intertwined. Every birthday he marks in jail marks another year in which the country’s struggle for democracy remains under captivity. Without Nasheed’s freedom, there would be no freedom for the majority agitating for a government of the people by the people–they are bound together, like ‘a connection of hearts’.

This article was originally published on It has been republished with permission. 

Azra Naseem is a former journalist who now works as a Research fellow in Dublin City University. 

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to


PPM proposes MVR3,000 Ramadan bonus for state employees

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) is considering paying a sum of MVR3,000 (US$194) as a bonus for all state employees for the Islamic month of Ramadan.

The Employment Act entitles all Muslim workers in the Maldives to a sum no less than one-third of their monthly salary for the month of fasting, with a minimum of MVR2,000 (US$129) and a maximum of MVR10,000 (US$645).

The government wants to equalise Ramadan bonuses for all state employees, but the plan requires an amendment to the employment law as well as an extra funding of MVR36 million (US$2.3million).

Speaking to the press on Saturday, PPM parliamentary group leader MP Ahmed Nihan said the current budget for Ramadan allowance stands at MVR92 million (US$5.9million)

“When we look at equalising the amount given as Ramadan allowance, we want to give at least, MVR100 per day for each employee, which amounts to a total of MVR3,000. To enforce this, we need an extra MVR36 million,” he said.

Statistics published by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) shows almost half of the country’s civil servants are paid less than MVR 4999 (US$ 324).

The parliament is on recess now and changes to the law can only be made when sittings resume in early June. The first day of Ramadan falls on June 18.

Nihan also said private businesses will be affected if the law is changed at the last minute. PPM MPs are “searching for a quick solution,” he said.

Finance minister Abdulla Jihad told Haveeru today that the government has the funds to pay the proposed amount.

The government last week obtained a grant of US$20million from Saudi Arabia to manage cash flow.

Of the 24,742 civil servants in the Maldives, 9,914 are paid up to MVR4,999, while the large majority (14,380) are paid between MVR5,000 and MVR9,999 (US$ 648).

Only 373 civil servants are paid between MVR10,000 and MVR14,999 while only 75 are paid above MVR 15,000 (972).


Afrasheem murder suspect dead in Syria, claims family

A suspect in the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali, Azlif Rauf, has died while fighting in Syria, his family has claimed.

Azlif’s brother wrote on Facebook on Friday that he had “lived like a lion and died as a hero.” The family was reportedly informed of Azlif’s death on Thursday night by Maldivians in Syria.

Sources close to the family told Haveeru that the Maldivian jihadis had sent a photo of the dead ex-military officer.

However, there has been no independent verification of Azlif’s death and opposition politicians have questioned whether he had gone to Syria.

A police media official said the police do not have any information on the case. The police are not investigating any cases involving Azlif at present, the official said.

Reliable sources told Minivan News in January that Azlif left to Turkey with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang and crossed the border into Syria.

Azlif was under house arrest at the time and police had forwarded terrorism charges against him to the prosecutor general’s office in relation to Afrasheem’s murder. However, the PG office had not filed the case at court.

A counter-terrorism expert told Minivan News today on the condition of anonymity that the reports of Azlif’s death were “not convincing.”

In other cases where Maldivians had died in Syria, there was confirmation from credible independent sources as well as reports from jihadist media, the source noted.

The death of most Maldivian jihadis were reported by online group Bilad Al Sham Media, which describes itself as “Maldivians in Syria.” The group says it represents Maldivians fighting with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra militant organisation.

The expert also questioned whether Azlif had been radicalised enough to leave for Syria.

Another possibility is that Azlif’s “associates here who wished to hide him” were spreading false reports of his death, the expert suggested.

Hussain Humam Ahmed, now serving a life sentence over the murder of Dr Afrasheem, had said Azlif had planned the murder in October 2012. Humam later retracted the confession and claimed it had come under duress.

Speaking at an opposition alliance rally on Thursday night, ‘Sandhaanu’ Ahmed Didi alleged that Azlif is hiding in Malaysia. He further alleged that tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb had facilitated Azlif’s departure while he was acting defence minister in early January.

After Humam alleged President Abdulla Yameen and Adeeb’s involvement in the murder last month, Adeeb accused the opposition of orchestrating the convict’s remarks in a “character assassination” attempt.

A senior police officer has meanwhile told Haveeru that Azlif is in Armenia while other sources claimed he was in Sri Lanka last week.

An investigative report published by Maldivian Democratic Network (MDN) identified Azlif’s brother Arlif Rauf as the owner of a red car which may have been used in an abduction reported on the night Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan disappeared.

Eyewitnesses told Minivan News they saw a man being forced into a red car at knifepoint in front of Rilwan’s apartment building around the time he would have reached home on August 8.

The report also suggested gang leaders had been exposed to radical Islam during incarceration in prison, saying that they openly supported the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and recruited jihadists for the war in Syria and Iraq.


Opposition alliance to discuss president’s offer for talks

The opposition ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ alliance will discuss President Abdulla Yameen’s invitation to hold talks for the “stability and benefit of Maldivian citizens” at a meeting tomorrow.

“There will be a steering committee meeting of the opposition coalition tomorrow. We will decide then,” main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) vice president Mohamed Shifaz told Minivan News today.

Shifaz had previously said the MDP will accept the president’s invitation only if imprisoned ex-President Mohamed Nasheed and MDP chairperson Ali Waheed could represent the party.

The Adhaalath Party (AP) also demanded the release of the party’s leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla as a condition for participating in the talks.

However, Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim welcomed the president’s appeal for dialogue.

The AP leader, MDP chairperson, and JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim were arrested in the wake of a mass anti-government demonstration on May 1 along with nearly 200 protesters. They were accused of inciting violence against the government.

Last week, the tax authority froze the bank accounts of several companies owned by Gasim, while the criminal court reportedly issued an arrest warrant for the JP leader the following day. The business tycoon is accused of funding the May Day rally.

The opposition alliance meanwhile continued its activities with a rally on Thursday night and a protest march in Malé on Friday. The allied opposition parties have been protesting since February, calling for the release of former President Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

President Yameen had initially rejected the opposition’s calls for dialogue to resolve the political crisis, insisting that he cannot interfere with the judiciary and urging the pair to appeal their sentences.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told Minivan News last week that the government’s stance has not changed and that discussions can only be held on “lawful demands.”

Asked if the president’s office was ruling out negotiations on Nasheed and Nazim’s release, Muaz said the government has not set an agenda or a representative for negotiations, but reiterated that talks can only proceed on “demands the president can meet.”

Speaking at Thursday night’s rally following his release from police custody earlier in the day, Ameen Ibrahim said President Yameen is “miscalculating” by imprisoning opposition leaders and protesters.

The president believed the opposition’s mass gatherings on February 27 and May 1 have failed, but the alliance’s resolve has not weakened and will eventually “emerge victorious”, he said.

Both Ali Waheed and Imran urged supporters to remain steadfast and continue protests against tyranny and injustice, Ameen said.

Ameen said the three opposition parties will jointly propose rules or conditions for talks with the government, but did not reveal any details.

The opposition alliance has also accused the government of illegally imposing restrictions on the constitutional right to freedom of assembly after the police announced that the opposition must obtain prior permission before holding a protest.

Since the May Day demonstration, the police have cracked down on opposition street protests by briefly detaining key figures.

On Thursday, the police banned the use of four-wheeled vehicles in the opposition’s protests without prior permission. The step was necessary after a lorry drove through police lines at high speed during the May Day protest, police have said.

The opposition frequently uses lorries and pickups at protests to hold speaker systems, and for public announcements during the day.

Following the ban on vehicles, the opposition alliance used a handcart to carry the sound system during Friday’s protest march. Senior members of the allied parties took turns dragging the cart across the capital.