Police have revealed that they are seeking international expertise in solving the case of the murder of moderate scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.
Police declined to provide any further details about the international help they are seeking, saying instead that they would provide information once the international actors arrived in the country.
Police also confirmed that they had arrested an additional suspect in relation to the murder case, once again declining to identify the arrested “due to the nature of the case”.
Four people have already been arrested in relation to the case, one of whom is female. The criminal court has extended the detention of all four detainees by 15 days.
Although the police have not yet identified any of the arrested individuals, lawyers representing “front-line activists” of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have confirmed that Mariyam Naifa and Ali Hashim were arrested in relation to the murder case.
The party has alleged that the arrests are politically motivated.
Afrasheem “not forced to apologise”: Islamic Minister
Prior to his murder on Monday October 1, Afrasheem had made his last public appearance on a live talkshow on TVM titled “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Living).
In his last words, Afrasheem said that he was deeply saddened and asked for forgiveness from citizens if he had created a misconception in their minds due to his inability to express himself in the right manner.
Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed was quoted in local media as saying that the Islamic Ministry had not forced Afrasheem to offer a public apology for anything in his last television appearance.
Shaheem went on to say that Afrasheem had been given the opportunity to appear on the show following a series of requests by the murdered scholar. He said that Afrasheem had asked for the opportunity on Monday’s program, and so the previously arranged guests had been replaced with him.
Shaheem also said that Afrasheem had visited the Ministry of Islamic Affairs on Monday afternoon, requesting a discussion on the topics to be covered in the talk show.
Shaheem furthermore said that in this meeting, Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Gubadh AbuBakr, Afrasheem and himself had spoken about how religious disagreements had led to rifts between close friends, and said that he wanted to “escape from all of this”.
“[Afrasheem] said that he wanted everyone to know what his viewpoints were. And [he] wanted to share this on a channel watched by the largest audience, “ said Shaheem, sharing his discussion with Afrasheem in their last meeting together.
“I think this is a highly esteemed position that Allah has granted [Afrasheem] in timing this program in the midst of all that happened that night. It is fate that the show was arranged for the very night,” Shaheem said.
“Looking at the attack as a whole, it must have been planned for days and days. There’s no other way it could have been carried out under such secrecy,” Shaheem commented.
Shaheem said that he had no knowledge of anyone bringing about a situation where Afrasheem might have been forced to offer a public apology for his views.
Contradicting views on religious matters
Afrasheem’s moderate positions on subjects such as listening to music had previously attracted criticism from more conservative religious elements, who dubbed him “Dr Ibilees” (“Dr Satan”).
In 2008, the scholar was kicked and chased outside a mosque after Friday prayers, while more recently in May 2012, the religious Adhaalath Party released a statement condemning Afrasheem for allegedly “mocking the Sunnah”.
“After speaking to everyone, Afrasheem himself said that he was willing to apologise if the problem was in his statements. That he wanted to make clear what his stands were if he were to speak at any forum or place. That he does not call for wrong beliefs or things,” Shaheem explained.
Regarding the contradicting views on religious matters that had led to criticism of Afrasheem by other local scholars, Shaheem said that Afrasheem had approached him to find a solution.
“(Afrasheem) himself came to me and said Usthaz (scholar) Shaheem, you are the one person who can do this. So help me become one with everyone else. And so, it was under his request that the scholar’s dialogue was organised,” Shaheem was quoted as saying in local media on Sunday.
Although Shaheem said that at the end of the meeting the scholars were “happy with Afrasheem”, local media reported last month that the meeting had ended without reaching a general agreement.
At the time, Shaheem had said that the main focus of the meeting were the disagreements between Afrasheem and other local scholars on certain religious issues.
He had also stated then that the scholars involved had been unable to reach a consensus at the end of the meeting, and that he hoped Afrasheem would align his views with that of the other scholars.