President Abdulla Yameen has vowed to file criminal charges against an opposition leader who had implicated the president in the 2012 murder of MP Afrasheem Ali.
Several defectors from the ruling coalition, including Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, have said that the president and the tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb know the truth behind the brutal murder.
“I am being accused falsely. This government will penalise them. I want to file charges against those who are making these accusations. Not that of defamation, but criminal charges. I will file charges against Sheikh Imran,” President Yameen said at a ceremony to open a domestic airport at Raa Atoll Ifuru.
Afrasheem, an MP for the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) representing Ungoofaaru constituency in Raa Atoll and also a moderate religious scholar, was stabbed to death outside his home on the night of October 1, 2012.
Police had said the killing was politically motivated.
President Yameen said the government will build an Islamic Centre on Ungoofaaru in Afrasheem’s memory.
Hussain Humam, the chief suspect in the murder and the only person convicted of the crime so far, has alleged the president and the tourism minister’s involvement in the killing.
At the first hearing of his appeal at the High Court in April, Human, who was sentenced to death in January 2014, said the pair “will know best” the details of the crime.
Sheikh Imran, at a mass anti-government protest on May 1 said: “Humam said the truth. President Yameen and Adeeb know best those who murdered Afrasheem.”
The home minister, Umar Naseer, was the first to link Afrasheem’s murder with President Yameen.
Speaking at a public rally after he lost the PPM’s 2013 presidential primaries, Naseer accused Yameen of having illicit connections with gangs, the drug trade and said he had witnessed a visit to Yameen at the PPM’s office by a suspect who was arrested and questioned by the police over the MP’s murder.
He retracted the allegations when he joined the cabinet.
The Maldives decriminalised defamation in 2009. The parliament then set the maximum penalty for civil lawsuits against slander at MVR5,000 (US$325).
The Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin last week said his office is looking into what sort of criminal charges could be filed over the allegations against the president and the tourism minister.
Several politicians, including ex-PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof and ex-police chief Abdulla Riyaz, revived claims of links between Afrasheem’s murderers and President Yameen after joining a campaign against government authoritarianism.
The police in early May questioned Abdulla Riyaz over comments he had made over Afrasheem’s murder on opposition-aligned Raajje TV. The now-opposition MP had said he will reveal information of the murder “when the time comes.”
The president’s half-brother, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, sued a newspaper editor in 2011 for re-publishing a New York Times article on misuse of state funds revealed in a 2008 audit report.
He lost the case, but successfully sued the late historian Ahmed Shafeeq over claims that 111 people had been killed in police custody during Gayoom’s 30-year reign.
Imprisoned ex-president Mohamed Nasheed has recently said he will sue four judges of the Criminal Court over claims made regarding his terrorism trial, in which he was sentenced to 13 years in jail.