Police have arrested four suspects in their investigation into the murder of Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.
The member for Ungoofaaru constituency in Raa Atoll was murdered on Monday night shortly after returning home from appearing on the TVM show, “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Life).
The show finished around 11:00pm. Afrasheem’s body was discovered by his wife at the bottom of the stairs of their apartment building shortly after midnight.
The MP had been hit four times in the back of the head and a chunk of his skull was missing. He also suffered stab wounds to the chest and neck, according to reports at the time. He was buried on Tuesday after Asr prayers with full state honours.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Hassan Habeeb in a press briefing today revealed that three men and one woman had been arrested, but declined to identify them as it could “hinder the ongoing investigation.”
Habeeb urged the public to provide any information relating to the murder case. He said police were particularly interested in speaking to anybody who had seen Dr Afrasheem or his car between 10pm to 11pm the night he was murdered.
He also declined to confirm reports appearing within local media that the arrested female was a member of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
MDP activist Mariyam Naifa was arrested in Male’s Dolphin Cafe on Tuesday night, and will appear in court at 7:00pm on Wednesday. Naifa’s lawyer said she was arrested in connection to intelligence received by police in the Afrasheem case. Supporters began a campaign for her release on social media.
“We are not arresting people based on their political affiliations,” Habeeb insisted during today’s press conference.
Meanwhile, police on Wednesday conducted a search of the MDP’s protest camp at Usfasgandu. Police did not confirm if the search of the site with metal detectors was related to the death of Afrasheem. However MDP MP Eva Abdulla, who was at the site when police arrived, claimed an officer had informed her that the area was being searched in connection with the Afrasheem case.
Police on May 29 raided the site on the pretext that it was being used for the practice of black magic, discovering what they claimed was black magic paraphernalia and a packet of condoms.
Police meanwhile today disputed allegations in local media that they had made a decision to withdraw MP Afrasheem’s security shortly before his death.
Deputy Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed told reporters that Afrasheem had contacted him on September 5 requesting security be provided.
According to local newspaper Haveeru, Deputy Commissioner Waheed said Afrasheem had called for police protection twice as of September 22, but had then informed him “that I’m quite cool and relaxed now.”
Waheed said Afrasheem had not elaborated as to why he had requested protection in the first place, claiming only that he was experiencing “trouble” from certain people.
Condemning the attack
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has condemned Dr Afrasheem’s murder, “the first MP to have been killed [amid] constant political tensions in the Maldives [that] have led to many serious outbreaks of violence.”
“The death is the latest and most tragic act of violence in a country that has been in a political crisis since the start of the year,” the IPU stated.
“The organisation is seriously concerned of reports that other MPs are receiving death threats, including through social media channels such as Twitter. A number of Maldivian MPs are registered with the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians because of the violence, intimidation and political harassment they are suffering. The IPU will be monitoring them and following up on developments in Maldives very closely to help ensure their safety,” the international group stated.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed, currently campaigning in the southern atolls of the country, condemned Afrasheem’s murder and called for people to embrace the moderate Islamic views of the murdered religious scholar.
Local media reported that the MDP held a minute’s silence during its rally on Kolamaafushi in Gaa Alif Atoll.
UN Resident Coordinator Andrew Cox issued a statement calling for “mourning, reflection, and national unity.”
“Dr. Afrasheem distinguished himself in many ways, as a public servant, an accomplished scholar and as a member of parliament. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues in the People’s Majlis,” the statement read.
Amnesty International condemned the “shocking act of violence”.
“We call on the Maldives authorities to ensure that the investigation into the killing meets international human rights standards, and that no suspect is ill-treated or tortured,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Researcher on the Maldives.
“Given the current tense climate in the Maldives, all political actors must show restraint and ensure that this killing does not lead to more violence,” Faiz stated.