Former police chief questioned over Dr Afrasheem murder, Raajje TV arson

Former police commissioner and opposition MP Abdulla Riyaz was summoned to the police headquarters last night over comments he had made over the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali and the torching of the Raajje TV studios.

Riyaz said he was questioned about remarks made in an appearance on Raajje TV on April 20.

The MP had said he would reveal information on Dr Afrasheem’s murder in October 2012 “when the time comes” and that police had been negligent in the arson attack in October 2013 that had destroyed the opposition-aligned private broadcaster’s offices.

The Jumhooree Party (JP) MP for Thaa Kibidhoo said he was asked if he had any additional information on the two cases.

“I said any information I got at the time will be with the police,” he told reporters outside the police headquarters.

Riyaz was police chief from February 2012 until his resignation in November 2013, shortly after president Abdulla Yameen assumed office.

Police accused him of disclosing state secrets or confidential information, Riyaz said, but the specific information in question was not made clear.

Riyaz stressed that he had not revealed any sensitive information during the Raajje TV interview, adding that he had faced criticism from the public for not doing so.

Explaining what he meant by revealing information “when the time comes,” Riyaz said he will answer truthfully if he is questioned at court or the parliament’s national security committee.

Police did not take his statement as he spoke “off the record” and told interrogators he would remain silent over the allegations against him.

Riyaz said he chose to remain silent because “the government is framing politicians”.

The MP said he was afraid to drive his car without checking to see if anything has been planted, he said, claiming that attempts were being made to frame him with drugs.

Riyaz has maintained that police framed ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim, who was sentenced to 11 years in jail in March over weapons smuggling charges after police found a pistol in his apartment in late January.

He also called on police to provide updates to the public about the investigation of Dr Afrasheem’s murder, the Raajje TV arson, and the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

The police summons for Riyaz came amid heightened political tension in the wake of a crackdown on a mass anti-government rally on Friday. Nearly 200 protesters were arrested after clashes with riot police in the largest anti-government demonstration in a decade.

Opposition leaders involved in organising the May Day protest, including senior members of the JP, have since been arrested. Riyaz is the deputy leader of the JP’s parliamentary group.

In December 2012, Riyaz had said that Dr Afrasheem’s murder was politically motivated with a local gang offered MVR4 million (US$260,000) to carry it out.

The late moderate religious scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives MP was brutally stabbed to death on October 1, 2013 in a murder that shocked the nation.

Hussain Humam, the chief suspect in the murder and the only person convicted of the crime so far, has alleged president Abdulla Yameen and tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb’s involvement in the killing.

However, Adeeb accused the opposition of orchestrating Humam’s remarks in a “character assassination” attempt. Humam had said at the first hearing of his appeal at the High Court last month that president Yameen and Adeeb “will know best” the details of the murder.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom meanwhile told reporters yesterday that president Yameen should sue opposition politicians alleging his involvement in the murder for defamation and strongly condemned the insinuations.

Humam was found guilty and sentenced to death in January 2014 while a second suspect charged with Dr Afrasheem’s murder, Ali Shan, was acquitted in September last year with the court citing insufficient evidence.

Shan was implicated in Humam’s confession, but the judge said several witnesses had testified that the accused was at a restaurant at the time the murder took place.

A third suspect, Azlif Rauf, who Humam said had planned the murder, left to Turkey with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang in January.

The Raajje TV studio was meanwhile torched and completely destroyed on October 7, 2013. Suspects arrested in connection with the arson attack have yet to face trial despite CCTV footage of the arsonists.

Reporters Without Borders at the time condemned the police for failure to defend the station despite repeated requests for protection, and the forwarding of a specific threat the previous evening.