Police have submitted cases against two suspects for prosecution on charges of assaulting Raajje TV reporter Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed in February.
Police Spokesperson Chief-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today that the cases had been forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) yesterday (April 16), adding that the investigation into the murder attempt was still ongoing.
Police said evidence uncovered during the investigation implicated the suspects Ahmed Vishan, 22, M. Carinlight Northside, and Hassan Raihan, 19, G. Fehima, in the crime.
Asward, 22, news head of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)-aligned broadcaster Raajje TV, was attacked with an iron rod at 1:18am on February 23 while riding a motorbike near the artificial beach area of Male’.
Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz described the attack via Twitter as a murder attempt.
The attack left Asward unconscious, and he was transferred to a hospital in Sri Lanka for treatment, where he had to undergo major surgery last month to correct a maxillary fracture (broken jawbone).
At a press conference in March, police said two suspects had been arrested in connection with the “planned” attacked.
Head of Serious and Organised Crime Department Mohamed Daud revealed that both suspects had criminal records and belonged to “groups” or gangs in the capital.
Daud claimed at the time that the attack was not thought to be politically motivated.
Violence against media
Maldivian journalists took to the streets of Male’ to protest in the wake of the assault, joining international organisations who also condemned the violence.
The Commonwealth’s Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed alarm at the string of attacks against reporters, and “called on all sides in the political conflict to halt violence against the media.”
“We condemn these vicious attacks on reporters and call on all parties to do their utmost to ensure that journalists are able to work safely,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz.
The CPJ said journalists in the island nation “have faced numerous attacks since elected President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted a year ago.”
The attack on Waheed was the most serious incident of violence against a journalist in the Maldives since July 2012, when a group of alleged Islamic radicals slashed the throat of blogger Hilath Rasheed.
Rasheed, who had been campaigning for religious tolerance, narrowly survived and has since fled the country.
President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik meanwhile condemned the attacks on the journalists via his official Twitter account.
“Strongly condemn attacks on journalists. No justification for brutal acts of terror,” he wrote on the social media site.
Condemning the attacks in a press release, the opposition MDP called for a thorough investigation to determine the perpetrators “regardless of their political affiliation”.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s spokesperson, MP Mariya Didi said the attacks affected “everyone who believes in democracy and media freedom.”
“Since last year’s coup, journalists have been repeatedly threatened, harassed and, in some instances, violently attacked by the police and by criminals. However, the authorities continue to turn a blind eye to the problem,” she stated.
“Since the unlawful transfer of power there has been a sharp increase in violent crimes. But the police continues to preoccupy themselves with politically motivated arrests, rather than investigating these violent crimes. Over 800 MDP supporters have been arrested in the past year. Yet, murderers, drug traffickers and gangsters are left to roam freely,” she said.
“Months have passed since brutal murder of the MP Dr Afrasheem Ali and fatal attack on liberal blogger Hillath Rasheed, without perpetrators being found. Impunity enjoyed by the security forces is creating a culture of crime that is deeply concerning,” she added.