‘Leaked letter’ revives claims over Afrasheem murder

A leaked letter apparently written by the now home minister has surfaced on social media repeating claims that President Abdulla Yameen was linked to the 2012 murder of MP and cleric Afrasheem Ali.

The letter – apparently from Umar Naseer, who went on to become home minister in 2013 – is addressed to ex-president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and asks him to refrain from supporting Yameen because Naseer has concrete evidence linking Yameen to Afrasheem’s murder.

However, Naseer tweeted on Wednesday: “A forged letter in my name is being distributed on social media”, and claimed that the signature on the letter was different from his own.

Naseer has a history of making such claims against Yameen, but retracted them when he joined the government in 2013. Yameen denies allegations from the opposition of corruption and affiliation with criminal groups.

The letter received dozens of retweets, with many social media users linking it with previous public comments by Naseer making accusations against Yameen – although one Twitter user labelled it an “April fool”.

At a 2013 rally, Naseer accused Yameen of having illicit connections with gangs, the drug trade and the murder of Afrasheem. His comments followed his defeat by Yameen in the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives  presidential primaries.

Naseer said he had witnessed a visit to Yameen at the PPM’s office by a suspect who was arrested and questioned by police over Afrasheem’s murder.

Naseer was subsequently dismissed from the party and went on to back Jumhooree Party (JP) candidate Gasim Ibrahim. He was appointed home minister when the JP joined the ruling party in a coalition, but after that coalition later broke up, he stayed in government and rejoined the PPM.

In an exclusive interview with Minivan News in January 2014, Naseer described his allegations against Yameen as merely “political rhetoric”.

“We were repeating MDP’s lines. What happens in presidential primaries is that you are competing for the top position of the nation, so you use every tool you have. I am now the home minister, but I do not see any indication of [Yameen] being involved in such acts,” said Naseer.

Afrasheem, an MP for the 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 said the killing was politically motivated.

He was known for taking relatively liberal positions on some religious issues, which had prompted criticism from other clerics. On a TV talk show on the night of his death, Afrasheem had apologised for “misunderstandings” over some of his religious views.

A 2012 UNDP study of the Maldives’ gang culture found that “political and business elites” exploit gangs to carry out illegal activities including the suppression of opponents and carrying out tasks to help maintain popularity or divert media attention from political issues.

There have also been growing links between gangs and religious extremists, with a series of secularist bloggers apparently targeted because of their views.


Two immigration officers and Afrasheem murder suspect among group of twelve jihadis

Two immigration officers and a suspect in the brutal murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali are among a group of twelve Maldivians to travel to Syria for jihad, reliable sources have told Minivan News.

Afrasheem murder suspect, Azlif Rauf of Henveiru Hilton, left to Turkey with six members of Malé’s Kuda Henveiru gang four days ago, sources have said. They have now crossed the border into Syria.

The two immigration officers were among a group of six individuals who traveled to Syria on December 27. The five included two women and a one year old infant.

Azlif’s group also included an individual arrested over the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, one man arrested for issuing a death threat, one man classified by the police as a dangerous criminal, and three men with criminal records, local media have reported.

The Maldives Police Services declined to comment on the report.

According to Haveeru, Azlif had attempted to take his pregnant wife, one-year-old son and four-year-old daughter with him, but his wife’s family had prevented them from accompanying him.

Hussain Humam Ahmed, now serving a life sentence over the Afrasheem murder, named Azlif and five others in the organising of the killing in October 2012. Humam later retracted the confession claiming it had come under duress.

The police have forwarded accomplice to murder charges against Azlif to the Prosecutor General’s Office, but charges have not yet been filed at the Criminal Court.

The Criminal Court in December fined Azlif and ordered him to pay back a MVR50,000 loan to the Bank of Maldives.

An investigative report published by Maldivian Democratic Network (MDN) identified Azlif’s brother Arlif Rauf as the owner of a red car which may have been used in an abduction reported on the night Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan disappeared.

Eyewitnesses told Minivan News they saw a man being forced into a red car at knifepoint in front of Rilwan’s apartment building around the time he would have reached home on August 8.

According to MDN’s report, police were investigating Arlif’s car for having been illegally imported to Hulhumalé on August 4, and returned to Malé sometime between August 13 – 15.

It also suggested gang leaders had been exposed to radical Islam during incarceration in prison, saying that they openly supported the actions of the Islamic State in Iraq and recruited jihadists for the war in Syria and Iraq.

Last month, Home Minister Umar Naseer reported that there are more than seven Maldivians fighting in foreign civil wars.

In November, a jihadist media group called Bilad Al Sham Media (BASM) – which describes itself as ‘Maldivians in Syria’ – revealed that a fifth Maldivian had died in Syria.

BASM had made a threat to Rilwan shortly before his disappearance in which they stated ‘his days were short’.

Earlier in November, Sri Lankan police detained three Maldivians who were allegedly preparing to travel to Syria through Turkey.

The incident followed reports of a couple from Fuvahmulah and a family of four from Meedhoo in Raa Atoll travelling to militant organisation Islamic State-held (IS) territories.

This article previously incorrectly stated two immigration officers were among the group of seven Maldivians to travel to jihad in January. The officers were in fact among a group of six who traveled to Syria in December.

Related to this story

Six Maldivians reported as latest to travel for jihad, taking one-year-old infant

More than seven Maldivians fighting in foreign civil wars, reveals home minister

MDN investigation implicates radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance

Police detain Maldivian jihadis caught in Sri Lanka


Humam’s confession used against Shan in Dr Afrasheem’s murder trial

The Criminal Court has today heard the prosecution’s evidence against H. Hikost Ali Shan in the case of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali’s murder.

Evidence was presented separately in support of four separate assertions: Shan’s involvement in conspiring to murder, his going to to Dr Afrasheem’s house with the intent of murder, attacking the victim with a sharp object, and Dr Afrasheem’s subsequent death from the attack.

The confession from the Hussein Human Ahmed – who was recently sentenced to death for Afrasheem’s murder – was used to back all four assertions. Humam later stated that the confession was obtained by the  Maldives Police Service through coercive means.

Other evidence presented include two confidential witnesses, audio recording and the script of a phone call, and Dr Afrasheem’s medical report and death certificate.

The defense also presented evidence at today’s hearing. Sun Online reported that the evidence was presented to prove that Shan was in ‘Jalapeno Restaurant’ from 9:00pm on October 1 2012 until 1:00am.

CNMreported that Shan’s Defense lawyer Abdulla Haseen had requested anonymity for defense witnesses stating that, due to the nature of the case, revealing their identities could endanger their lives. The request was granted by the judge.

According to ‘Haveeru‘, a request for leniency regarding Shan’s detention was rejected, with the judge stating that more importance would be given to finishing the case as soon as possible, and that previous scheduled hearings were canceled upon requests from the prosecutor general. The court has been extending Shan’s detention since late 2012.

The judge has  said that a hearing is likely to be scheduled within the next week, and that the case will be concluded as soon as statements of the witnesses are collected.

Dr Afrasheem Ali, a moderate Islamic scholar who was at the time representing Ungoofaaru constituency in the People’s Majlis, was found brutally murdered at his apartment building on the night of October 1 2012.

Shan, along with Humam, was charged with with the murder. In a hearing on May 6 2013, Humam denied the charge before changing his statement and confessing to the murder. He also implicated several others investigated for the murder. After nine days, however, Humam retracted the confession saying that it had been obtained by police through coercive means.

Other suspects mentioned in Humam’s confessional statement – a key piece of evidence on both his own and Shan’s cases – included a juvenile  identified as ‘Nangi, a Maldives National Defence Force officer Azleef Rauf, Abdulla ‘Jaa’ Javid (son-in-law of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik), Jaa’s brother Jana, and another person identified only as ‘Spy’.

In December 2012, then Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz described the murder as a “‘preplanned politically motivated act of terrorism carried out by politicians”.

He also said that both Humam and Shan belonged to a local gang who often carry out criminal acts for politicians and businessmen. Riyaz said that MVR14million was paid for the murder.

Politicians have similarly blamed the recent stabbing of MP Alhan Fahmy on criminal gangs with political paymasters.

Shan, who was arrested at the time of Riyaz’s press briefing, was only charged with the crime on  April 21 2013, where he requested to appoint a defense attorney for himself.

A hearing was held again on 5 May 2013, during which Shan’s defense refused to respond to charges until the findings of police investigations and statements of witnesses were presented. Agreeing to grant the request, the judge said that it was the prosecutor’s wish that it should not be presented.

Since May 2013 several scheduled hearings have been cancelled upon request from the prosecution, including one in July and December last year.


Father of main suspect in Afrasheem murder case accuses police of coercion

The father of Hussain Humam, the main suspect in the murder of MP and religious scholar Dr Afrasheem Ali, has alleged his son was psychologically traumatised and under coercion by the police when he confessed to the crime.

The suspect has since retracted the confession he gave at a hearing held June 1.

In two separate letters dated May 26 that were sent to Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), Humam’s father Ahmed Khaleel asks for assistance from authorities to “ensure [my] son is granted a fair trial devoid of coercion and undue influence.”

Referring to the May 22 hearing of the case, the letter sent to the Criminal Court and obtained by Minivan News reads: “I observed that when my son, Hussain Humam, was brought to the hearing, he was under psychological fear. I observed that he was in a very bad condition, was physically weak and his eyes were reddened. And during the trial, my son, Hussain Humam Ahmed, displayed signs of mental instability, including staring upwards, placing his handcuffs against his mouth, and laughing. Owing to these circumstances, I believe it is of utmost importance to assess Humam’s mental status prior to scheduling another hearing.”

During the previous hearing Judge Abdulla Didi denied a request by Humam’s lawyer that his client be psychologically tested, stating the lawyer had not mentioned any psychological disorder during a prior hearing to extend Humam’s detention.

Alleged police intimidation during trial

Khaleel also alleged in the letter that during the May 22 hearing, police acted “outside of the norms of a court hearing: attempting to psychologically intimidate Humam, and acting in many ways to influence what Humam had to say.”

Khaleel alleges that police  forced Humam into initially rejecting his right to have a defence lawyer, stating, “When the Judge enquired if he wished to have a lawyer, Humam quietly said ‘I do want a lawyer too’, at which point the police officer on his right, and the two officers on his left – Ali Ismail and Shamin – gave angry looks towards Humam and gestured with their eyes in a way that seemed to indicate that Humam was not permitted to say so. I believe that this forced my son to give up and lose this constitutional right.”

“The police also continued to converse with each other while the hearing was ongoing, discussing different aspects of the case itself, and speaking in such a way that it seemed Humam was being threatened. They also exchanged written documents with the state prosecutor outside of court proceedings,” his father alleged.

“Despite the judge unfailingly working to carry out a trial based on fairness and equality where the rights of both concerned parties are protected, with reference to the actions of police in and out of the courtroom, I do not accept that the hearing in question was a fair and just hearing,” Khaleel wrote.

Khaleel called on the court to review video footage of the hearing to confirm his claims, and pleaded for his son to be granted a fair trial and the constitutional rights entitled him.

CP Riyaz and other senior police officials accused of coercion

Khaleel alleged in his letter that in every instance he had visited Humam, his son had repeatedly complained that the police were trying to force him to confess to the MP’s murder.

“I have also observed that the police have phrased their words in such a manner that forces [Humam] to confess. For instance, police brought Humam to Male’ as a hearing had been scheduled for May 16. However, your court cancelled the hearing in the end, and instead of taking Humam back to the Villingili Police Station (where he is being held in detention), he was kept in police headquarters in Male’,” Khaleel wrote.

“I have learnt that while he was being kept in Male’, several police officers of various senior ranks questioned him, outside the processes of investigation, including Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz. They all pushed him to confess, assuring him that he would be spared the death sentence if he did so, and threatening that if he did not, they would ensure that he was sentenced to death. Police further said that if he chose to confess, he would be spared from both the death sentences and charges previously raised against him, and tried to confuse and delude him,” he alleged.

“I have also learned that police, even in other instances, have tried to threaten and coerce Humam into a confession, and have asked him to make use of the opportunity presented.’”

“The confession was an exaggerated mix-up of disjointed statements”

“My wife – Humam’s mother – and I met Humam on May 23 and my wife asked him to tell the truth for her sake and the nine months and ten days she carried him inside her, and Humam cried out, ‘No, mother, I did not kill Afrasheem’. He said the same when I repeatedly questioned him about it,” Khaleel stated.

“Therefore, Humam having stated in front of both of us in the court hearing, in such a way that will be heard by the whole of the country, that he had killed Afrasheem, he then told us that he had, in fact, not committed the murder, and this gives rise to many questions in my mind about how this could have happened,” he continued.

“I am now certain that the police and various political leaders, in a bid to hide the truth behind this, and to conceal the real murderer, have made police question Humam and get details about his life and past. I am also certain that the statement that was submitted to the court as one provided by Humam, is in fact an exaggerated account mixing together responses Humam gave to police about unrelated matters, adding and taking out details, and changing and editing it to align with what the police want it to state,” Khaleel alleged.

“When police are exerting undue influence and interfering with a case under the jurisdiction of your court; forcing Hussain Humam to give up a constitutional right, concealing the actual culprits behind the murder for different political gains, telling Humam various things in a bid to pin this on innocent people, and senior police officers are pushing their long arms into this matter outside the boundaries of the trial, I would like to bring this matter to your attention,” he wrote in conclusion of his letter to the Criminal Court Chief Judge.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Khaleel confirmed that officials of the Criminal Court had met with him and advised him on the best way to proceed.

“They told me that some of the matters I had pointed out can only be raised through a lawyer. They were helpful and listened to my concerns,” Khaleel said.

Criminal Court Media Official Ahmed Mohamed Manik was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Police deny coercion allegations

“It is an outright lie. The hearing proceeded in the presence of the judge. Media was also present in the room. Police did not at all intimidate or threaten Humam in any way, nor did police attempt to influence the courts in any form,” stated a police media official, requesting to remain unnamed.

“We can say with certainty that at no time, during or after the investigation stages, did senior officials talk to Humam to pressure him into a certain action or to influence the trial,” the police spokesperson said.

“Confused how HRCM defines human rights”

Khaleel also wrote to HRCM, expressing concern that his son was being subjected to psychological trauma, threats and intimidation while being held in police custody.

He further alleged that Humam was being coerced into confessing to a crime he did not commit, requesting the commission to look into the matter, and to grant an appointment in which he could provide further details of the allegations.

Khaleel further claimed that police had initially prevented Humam from seeking legal representation, thereby stripping him of the constitutional right stipulated in Article 16 of the Constitution of Maldives.

“I have not had any response from HRCM. I have been endlessly trying to get them to do something about this. I have called them lots of times, and they either say they’ll call back or that there’s no one relevant to talk to. Once, I was told there was no point in meeting the HRCM President just yet, that maybe I should meet someone else they recommend. My point is, how will I be able to meet anyone unless they grant me an appointment, at the least?” Khaleel told Minivan News.

“If they call themselves the Human Rights Commission, shouldn’t they be looking into matters like this where a citizen is being deprived of his rights? I am no longer sure how this commission defines human rights, or just how much they are able to protect such rights,” he said.

HRCM Media Official Sajidha Majdi confirmed that the commission had received the letter, but declined from commenting on the matter, stating it was against the commission’s policy to speak about an ongoing case.


US calls for Maldives to address rights abuses, lift restrictions on religious freedom

The Maldivian government’s respect for freedom of religion has declined in the past year, according to the US State Department’s 2012 Report on International Religious Freedom.

The report highlighted “increasing reports of abuses of religious freedom, religious intolerance and governmental restriction of religious freedom and pressure to conform to a stricter interpretation of Islamic practices” in the Maldives.

The report concluded these concerns were especially relevant after the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.

The US State Department said it had emphasised during regular missions to the Maldivian government the importance of the right to religious freedom. It detailed that “the embassy advocated for the right of all residents of the country to practice the religion of their choice, and encouraged efforts to promote religious tolerance.”

Pointing out that the Constitution of the Maldives and other laws and regulations restricted freedom of religion, the report found the government to have enforced these in practice.

“The law prohibits citizens’ practice of any religion other than Islam and requires the government to exert control over all religious matters, including the practice of Islam. There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief or practice,” the findings reported.

“There was an increasing trend among political leaders to call for greater limits on religious groups and activities. There was an increasing use of religion in political rhetoric, which led to derogatory statements about Christianity and Judaism, and harassment of citizens calling for a more tolerant interpretation of Islam. Anti-Semitic rhetoric among conservative parties continued.”

The report added that according to government records, all 350,800 citizens are required to be Muslim, with the majority of this number practicing Sunni Islam. Non-Muslim visitors to the country are only allowed to practice their religion in private, it added.

Increasing abuse of religious freedom

The US issued study claimed there was also an increase in reports of abuse of religious freedom, ranging from detention of individuals to pressure to conform to a stricter interpretation of the religion.

Pointing out that conversion to Islam from another religion can lead to the rescinding of the convert’s citizenship, the report stated that no such incidences were reported in 2012.

“The government subjected individuals who made public calls for religious tolerance to extended extrajudicial police detention”, the US State Department said in the report.  It added that the government had also “deported individuals found with Christian images” while detaining “several individuals for periods of several weeks on charges of ‘anti Islamic’ behaviour before releasing or deporting them”.

The report found that the government continued to control all religious matters, mainly through its Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

The State Department also stated that the Ministry published a weekly newsletter advocating a line of religion thought as that of the ministry itself.  The report added that government officials had said the newsletter was aimed at “maintaining a moderate Islamic environment.”

Banning ‘unauthorised gatherings’, state inaction against violence

The US State Department noted a number of incidences that occurred in 2012 to back its findings.

These included a government ban on discos and the deployment of police to conduct patrols to close down ‘unauthorised gatherings’. It also refers to the mob attack on the National Museum, which saw pre-Islamic artifacts destroyed. The attack occurred at the time of last year’s controversial power transfer on February 7.

“The ministry continued efforts to curb what it described as the ‘prevalence of un-Islamic practices’ in the country due to lack of religious awareness,” the US State Department claimed.

The report highlighted the case of a Bangladesh national who was kept in detention for 23 days prior to deportation, without being charged with any crime. According to the report, his employer alleged that he was deported after police discovered books on Christianity in his possession.

The report also accused the government of inaction over the attacks on local freelance journalist Ibrahim ‘Hilath’ Rasheed, who is described in the report as being “known for his moderate views on Islam.”

The report states that Hilath believes the “attack was carried out by violent extremists in the country.”

The report claimed that the blocking in the country of Hilath’s personal blog by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in 2011, on the justification that it had anti-Islamic content, remained in effect.

Meanwhile, the US State Department said that one of the “more prominent theories” about the murder of moderate Islamic scholar and parliamentarian Afrasheem Ali October 2, 2012, was “that violent extremists viewed Afrasheem’s very public moderate approach to Islam as apostasy and killed him to send a message to moderate Muslims that a strict interpretation of Islam is the only acceptable approach.”

The report highlighted incidences of societal harassment and abuse targeted towards citizens, especially women, who do not conform to strict, narrow “acceptable guidelines”.

Religion in political rhetoric

The report claimed there had been an increased use and continuation of anti-Semitic rhetoric by public officials throughout the last 12 months.

One example given was a pamphlet titled “President Nasheed’s Devious Plot to Destroy the Islamic Faith of Maldivians”, authored by a former home minister of the current administration, Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

Dr Jameel was recently removed from his cabinet post by President Waheed over concerns of a potential conflict of interest after he became the presidential running mate for the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – becoming a direct rival of the incumbent.

“The pamphlet received wide-spread attention upon it’s release and played a role in the events that eventually led to the February 7 transfer of power,” it read.

The report further refers to statements made by President Waheed, who came to office following last year’s transfer of power.

“During the year, President Waheed warned the nation that foreign parties were attempting to influence the country’s ideology and promote secularism; he urged citizens to resist these impulses,” the report read.

Laws governing religion

According to the findings of the report, the government interprets the Constitutional clause naming Sunni Islam as the official religion and the government regulations being based on Islamic law as imposing a requirement that all citizens must be Muslim.

Stating that Civil Law is subordinate to Islamic Law, the report points out that the law prohibits the making of public statements which are contrary to Islam, leaving offenders subject to a two to five year jail sentence.

Furthermore, all are prohibited to publicly discuss Islam unless by prior government invitation, and Imams are not allowed to prepare sermons without government authorisation.

Several constitutional articles declare the practice of Islam as mandatory, and all schools are required to “inculcate obedience to Islam” and “instill the love of Islam” in students.

The report said that any actions found to breach the country’s Religious Unity Act were subject to criminal penalties.

Specific crimes included in the act, which is highlighted in the US issued report, include “working to disrupt the religious unity of Maldivians”, “delivering religious sermons or engaging in public discussions in a way that infringes upon the independence and sovereignty of the country” and “propagating any religion other than Islam”.


Police release two suspects in Afrasheem murder case

Police have released one man and a minor arrested in connection with the murder of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP and religious scholar Dr Afrasheem Ali.

Local newspapers have identified the man released as Ali Hashim ‘Smith’. Minivan News understands that a 17 year old boy was also  released last week, on condition that he not talk about the police investigation or face rearrest.

The Criminal Court extended the pretrial detention period of the suspects arrested in the Dr Afrasheem’s murder case.

Afrasheem was killed on October 1. His wife discovered the body lying on the staircase of their home.

Immediately prior to his murder 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 during his last television appearance and disputed that there was any religious motivation in the death of the moderate scholar.

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has sought assistance from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Singaporean police to analyse 200 items collected as evidence during the ongoing investigation.

Evidence gathered so far includes recordings of phone conversations, forensic samples and over 300 hours of CCTV footage, which were being analysed at the police forensic laboratory with the help of foreign experts.

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed has publicly alleged that the people behind the MP’s murder have fled the country.

He made the remarks during a rally held in Haa Dhaal Atoll Vaikaradhoo Island in Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s ongoing campaign trip ‘Vaudhuge Dhathuru’ (Journey of Pledges).

Nasheed said that two foreign intelligence agencies had informed him that the murder of Afrasheem was related to an incident that took place in a neighboring country and that the culprits had fled to a Middle Eastern nation after murdering the Maldivian MP.

“According to information I received, the person who murdered Dr Afrasheem fled the country on the same night the murder took place. This murder is related to an incident that took place in a neighboring country. This is an international issue. I was informed of this by the intelligence agencies of two friendly states,” he said.

Nasheed expressed his disappointment over the senior officials of the current government, including cabinet ministers, who had politicised the case, accusing the MDP of murdering the MP for political gain.

Despite the allegations, Nasheed contended that his party would neither commit such a gruesome act nor use it for political gain. He also said that despite all the false allegations, the party had won twice the number of votes it did in 2009, during the recently held by-election to elect a parliamentarian to the vacant seat.

After rigorous campaigning, PPM candidate Ibrahim Ameen won the by-election 1159 votes in polling held on the islands of Ungoofaaru, Hulhuduffaaru, and Maakurathu, all in Raa Atoll, as well as a special polling station in Male’. He defeated MDP candidate Dr Ahmed Ashraf who had 1078 votes.

The former president meanwhile also alleged that the police were trying to force out a confession from those currently under arrested in connection with the murder. This confession, he said, would be used to hold trials against the suspects to cover up the real case. Nasheed said the suspects should not be tried on confessions extracted in such a manner.

“Trial should not be held based on confessions. I urge the police to properly investigate the case. But even as I say this, I know that [Commissioner of Police] Abdulla Riyaz does not have the capacity to do this. That is because he is busy defending this government that was brought in through a coup, instead of being concerned for the general well being of the public,” he said.

“Highly concerning” – Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed

Meanwhile, Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed expressed concern over Nasheed’s remarks and said his statements “needed to be included in the investigation”.

Speaking to local newspaper Haveeru, Jameel claimed that Nasheed had been speaking about the murder differently in every island he had been visiting.  The Home Minister said that he felt that public remarks made on a case that is being investigated should be considered a criminal offence that needed to be addressed.

“From the day Afrasheem was murdered, the remarks made by Nasheed have been highly concerning. It is not a good thing for politicians to use the case for political influence. One should always consider the fact that it may involve a hidden motive,” he said.

“This not a practice that would be accepted anywhere in the world,” he added.

Jameel affirmed that Nasheed’s remarks which he claimed to have been following information from foreign intelligence agencies would be included in the murder investigations.  Jameel also called on him not to make  emarks that would hinder the ongoing murder investigations.


Comment: And the killer is…

This article first appeared on DhivehiSitee. Republished with permission.

The government knows who killed MP Afrasheem Ali.

The Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has appeared in the media twice in the last week to repeat the claim. Both times he stopped short of sharing the knowledge with the public.

The first time was on 24 November, when Haveeru reported Jameel as saying “MP Afrasheem’s murderer has been found”. The only thing he shared with reporters, however, was his incredulity that the murder had been premeditated in great detail. He observed gravely:

This is a matter of serious concern.

In another Haveeru piece, on the same subject the same day, Jameel also implied that the murder involved  politicians with money and violent gangs of disaffected youth, all with the potential to be hired hit men. Again, he chose not to reveal who was involved in the suggested assassination.

Although Jameel said the killer has been found but, according to Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, the investigation is ongoing. He was on-message with Jameel, though, when it came to government policy for sharing information with the public:

…details will be revealed as soon as it is time to reveal them.

From the very beginning, the murder of MP Afrasheem has been more than about the murder of MP Afrasheem. Within hours, he was being eulogised as ‘one of the greatest scholars we have ever seen’. His funeral was a State sponsored spectacle, aired live on ‘TVM’. Afrasheem’s family was invited to the Majlis so he could be honoured and his beneficiaries financially compensated.

When investigations began, the FBI was reported to be helping. Until now, however, the only visible sign of FBI’s involvement has been a typical ‘information leading to the arrest’ reward worth MVR50,000.

This is not to say the FBI has not been of any use to the government. President Waheed is holding up FBI involvement as the reason people should believe in the impartiality of the investigation.

“When agencies like these are involved, you can be sure it’s all very professional,” he said recently. Good for Waheed that not many Maldivian government supporters have heard of General Petraeus, or of the FBI  and the Patriot Act.

With or without FBI help, the police took into custody six people in connection with the murder. Several were MDP activists. None of them have been charged, but their detention period continues to be extended every 15 days. Only one person arrested after the murder, Mariyam Naifa, was released. The police never gave a reason for her arrest, and imposed extra-legal conditions on several personal liberties before freeing her.

Then followed a period of almost complete silence about the murder. It was ‘broken’ in late October, with this  news briefing which revealed:

…200 items are being investigated in the forensic lab and more than 300 hours of CCTV footage have been collected as evidence.

Apart from this, the only things police could confirm with certainty were that Afrasheem had been murdered, and that the body was really Afrasheem’s.

The police also used the news conference to announce a change of approach to their investigations. Whereas previous cases had emphasised speed—as in lawyer Najeeb’s case—now the emphasis would be on caution. This was an emphatic sign that police were going to take their own sweet time telling the public what happened.

Then, on 11 November, former President Mohamed Nasheed very publicly criticised the investigation. MDP followed Nasheed’s speech with a request for a parliamentary review of the investigation. It was as if a sleeping dog had been kicked in the balls. Jameel quickly deviated from the official line of ‘this can take forever’ to declare ‘the killer has been found.’

This also when his press conferences began to sound like a promotional gig for a Hitchcock movie. He has since appeared several times to tell the public he knew, but was not telling, who killed Afrasheem.

This morning, Haveeru  ran a new update of the non-story. Jameel is very ‘disconcerted’ by former President Nasheed’s remarks that he thinks police are biding their time in order to pin the murder on an MDP member. Nasheed also said he suspects that ‘the right time’ will be as close to the by-election on 1 December to elect Afrasheem’s replacement as possible.

Jameel dismisses Nasheed’s accusations as dangerous impediments to justice. Here is in the words of Haveeru, what Jameel said next:

Jameel further added that the people of Ungoofaaru must secure Afrasheem’s seat in Parliament to a member of his party and described it as a duty of the Ungoofaaru constituency people.

Did he really say that it was ‘the duty’ of the people of Afrasheem’s constituency, his home island, to make sure PPM retained its seat? Straight after dismissing Nasheed’s allegations that he is attempting to influence the election?

As always, Haveeru lent support to the government line with an opinion piece asking people to see MDP’s accusation of bias in the investigation in the same light as their accusations of bias against CoNI. That is to say ‘baseless’.

This is part of the government’s plan all along to pre-empt any criticism of the results when they are finally rolled out. Waheed had begun preparing for just such an eventuality by referring to the FBI presence as ‘proof of integrity’. Any criticism of the investigation from now on could and would be labelled as ‘the unreasonableness of MDP.’

Whatever about the motive of Afrasheem’s killer, it has been clear from the beginning that it is politics dictating the official response to his killing.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to editorial@minivannewsarchive.com


Criminal Court extends detention of two suspects in Dr Afrasheem’s murder case

The Criminal Court has extended the pre-trial detention period of two suspects arrested in connection with the murder of MP and religious scholar Dr Afrasheem Ali.

Local press identified the two suspects as Ali Hashim ‘Smith’ from the island of Dhidhoo in Haa Alifu Atoll, and Hassan Humam from Male’.

The Criminal Court and the police did not give any information to the public on the case and did not revealed what evidence was obtained and produced to the court.

However, Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel held a press conference on Sunday where he said that police had found enough evidence to bring the culprits to justice. He declined to provide further details but said police would soon provide more information.

Little is known about the investigation as the police and the government have not divulged any information relating to the investigation.

At a recent Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally, former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged that Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz would by now know the person behind the murder and called on the government to bring them before justice.

Nasheed also recalled that police had not been providing any information on the case and claimed that the government was not doing enough to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Several days later, President Dr Waheed Hassan Manik responded to these comments by saying the investigation was underway and that the police would update the public on the investigation.

Minivan News understands that another suspect was arrested in connection with the case, after the police noticed that on the night of Afrasheem’s murder he wore the same colored shirt as caught on the CCTV footage near the area where Afrasheem was murdered.

According to a family member of the suspect arrested, he has not been released yet and his pre-trial detention period has been continuously extended along with the other suspects.

Afrasheem was killed on October 1. His wife discovered the body lying on the staircase of their home.

Immediately prior to his murder Afrasheem had made his last public appearanceon 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 during his last television appearance and disputed that there was any religious motivation in the death of the moderate scholar.

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has sought assistance from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Singaporean police to analyse 200 items collected as evidence during the ongoing investigation.

Evidence gathered so far includes recordings of phone conversations, forensic samples and over 300 hours of CCTV footage, which were being analysed at the police forensic laboratory with the help of foreign experts.


MDP asks parliament to review progress of MP Afrasheem murder investigation

The Maldivian Democratic Party(MDP) has requested that Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid review the investigation into the October murder of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Afrasheem Ali to ensure that it was progressing in a “just” manner.

The party suggested that this be done through the concerning parliamentary committees by contacting relevant government authorities.

The MDP expressed concern that it is still not known whether the police had managed to identify a suspected murderer even one and a half months after the brutal murder of the MP.

The party also stated that it believed it was of utmost importance that the public, and especially those from the constituency of Ungoofaaru which was represented by Afrasheem, gained confidence that the investigation would be carried justly.

The statement further pointed out that citizens were speculating about the murder of Afrasheem on social media and in general gatherings, highlighting that it was often mentioned in social forums that Dr Afrasheem’s views on religious matters had not aligned with those of certain other religious scholars.

In his last TV appearance hours before his murder, Afrasheem had said that he was deeply saddened and asked for forgiveness from citizens if he had created a misconception due to his inability to express himself in the right manner.

Less than a week latar, Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed told media that the ministry had not forced Afrasheem to offer a public apology for his views.

Speaking at a gathering on Republic Day, MDP presidential candidate, former President Nasheed appealed to the Commissioner of Police to “stop hiding Afrasheem’s murderer,” adding “You know who Afrasheem’s murderer is. Please send the related details to the judicial institutions and courts of the Maldives. Ensure Afrasheem’s murderer is brought to justice immediately.”

The police then announced a press conference regarding the case on the following day, which was later “postponed indefinitely.”

Among those arrested in regard to the murder were MDP activists Mariyam Naifa and Ali Hashim ‘Smith’. Although Naifa was released, albeit under a gagging order 15 days after her initial detention, ‘Smith’ and another arrestee Hassan Humam are still under detention for a period of 45 days, as approved by the criminal court.

Police revealed in October that they are seeking assistance from the FBI and the Singaporean police force to analyse the evidence they have gathered.

Police Media Official Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at time of press.