This article first appeared on DhivehiSitee. Republished with permission.
The government knows who killed MP Afrasheem Ali.
The Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has appeared in the media twice in the last week to repeat the claim. Both times he stopped short of sharing the knowledge with the public.
The first time was on 24 November, when Haveeru reported Jameel as saying “MP Afrasheem’s murderer has been found”. The only thing he shared with reporters, however, was his incredulity that the murder had been premeditated in great detail. He observed gravely:
This is a matter of serious concern.
In another Haveeru piece, on the same subject the same day, Jameel also implied that the murder involved politicians with money and violent gangs of disaffected youth, all with the potential to be hired hit men. Again, he chose not to reveal who was involved in the suggested assassination.
Although Jameel said the killer has been found but, according to Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, the investigation is ongoing. He was on-message with Jameel, though, when it came to government policy for sharing information with the public:
…details will be revealed as soon as it is time to reveal them.
From the very beginning, the murder of MP Afrasheem has been more than about the murder of MP Afrasheem. Within hours, he was being eulogised as ‘one of the greatest scholars we have ever seen’. His funeral was a State sponsored spectacle, aired live on ‘TVM’. Afrasheem’s family was invited to the Majlis so he could be honoured and his beneficiaries financially compensated.
When investigations began, the FBI was reported to be helping. Until now, however, the only visible sign of FBI’s involvement has been a typical ‘information leading to the arrest’ reward worth MVR50,000.
This is not to say the FBI has not been of any use to the government. President Waheed is holding up FBI involvement as the reason people should believe in the impartiality of the investigation.
“When agencies like these are involved, you can be sure it’s all very professional,” he said recently. Good for Waheed that not many Maldivian government supporters have heard of General Petraeus, or of the FBI and the Patriot Act.
With or without FBI help, the police took into custody six people in connection with the murder. Several were MDP activists. None of them have been charged, but their detention period continues to be extended every 15 days. Only one person arrested after the murder, Mariyam Naifa, was released. The police never gave a reason for her arrest, and imposed extra-legal conditions on several personal liberties before freeing her.
Then followed a period of almost complete silence about the murder. It was ‘broken’ in late October, with this news briefing which revealed:
…200 items are being investigated in the forensic lab and more than 300 hours of CCTV footage have been collected as evidence.
Apart from this, the only things police could confirm with certainty were that Afrasheem had been murdered, and that the body was really Afrasheem’s.
The police also used the news conference to announce a change of approach to their investigations. Whereas previous cases had emphasised speed—as in lawyer Najeeb’s case—now the emphasis would be on caution. This was an emphatic sign that police were going to take their own sweet time telling the public what happened.
Then, on 11 November, former President Mohamed Nasheed very publicly criticised the investigation. MDP followed Nasheed’s speech with a request for a parliamentary review of the investigation. It was as if a sleeping dog had been kicked in the balls. Jameel quickly deviated from the official line of ‘this can take forever’ to declare ‘the killer has been found.’
This also when his press conferences began to sound like a promotional gig for a Hitchcock movie. He has since appeared several times to tell the public he knew, but was not telling, who killed Afrasheem.
This morning, Haveeru ran a new update of the non-story. Jameel is very ‘disconcerted’ by former President Nasheed’s remarks that he thinks police are biding their time in order to pin the murder on an MDP member. Nasheed also said he suspects that ‘the right time’ will be as close to the by-election on 1 December to elect Afrasheem’s replacement as possible.
Jameel dismisses Nasheed’s accusations as dangerous impediments to justice. Here is in the words of Haveeru, what Jameel said next:
Jameel further added that the people of Ungoofaaru must secure Afrasheem’s seat in Parliament to a member of his party and described it as a duty of the Ungoofaaru constituency people.
Did he really say that it was ‘the duty’ of the people of Afrasheem’s constituency, his home island, to make sure PPM retained its seat? Straight after dismissing Nasheed’s allegations that he is attempting to influence the election?
As always, Haveeru lent support to the government line with an opinion piece asking people to see MDP’s accusation of bias in the investigation in the same light as their accusations of bias against CoNI. That is to say ‘baseless’.
This is part of the government’s plan all along to pre-empt any criticism of the results when they are finally rolled out. Waheed had begun preparing for just such an eventuality by referring to the FBI presence as ‘proof of integrity’. Any criticism of the investigation from now on could and would be labelled as ‘the unreasonableness of MDP.’
Whatever about the motive of Afrasheem’s killer, it has been clear from the beginning that it is politics dictating the official response to his killing.
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