Afrasheem murder suspect’s departure to Syria under investigation

President Abdulla Yameen has ordered an investigation into how a suspect in the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali was allowed to leave the Maldives in early January and travel to Syria.

“I have now ordered the police to investigate this. Azlif Rauf, who is said to have information on the murder, left the country while the case was ongoing,” Yameen said at a press conference at Muleeaage tonight.

“I want to raise the question as to why he was allowed to leave the country? Immigration officials and the defense minister who was in charge of immigration at the time must be accountable.”

Azlif is reported to have left the Maldives along with a suspect in the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan in the first week of January. His family claims he was killed in battle in May, and have publicised pictures of him in military fatigues carrying guns.

The police had forwarded accomplice to murder charges against Azlif to the Prosecutor General’s Office, but charges were never filed due to insufficient evidence.

At the time of Azlif’s departure, the criminal court told Minivan News it had not issued any order to withhold his passport, as there were no pending charges.

Azlif left the Maldives in the same week that the defense ministry was temporarily handed over to tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb. Defence minister Mohamed Nazim was on leave at the time.

Soon after Nazim returned, the police raided his apartment and found a pistol and three bullets in a bedside drawer. He was dismissed from the cabinet and jailed in March on weapons smuggling charges.

President Yameen’s announcement comes after local media reported today that the police had brought back a Maldivian man from Malaysia last week, after his family reported that he was attempting to travel to Syria to join the civil war.

The police in January brought back four Maldivians from Malaysia on the same charges. The government has recently submitted to parliament an anti-terrorism bill that hands out a jail sentence of up to 20 years for Maldivians who leave the country with the intent of fighting in a foreign war.

Meanwhile, several opposition politicians and Yameen’s own home minister have accused the president of involvement in Afrasheem’s murder. Home minister Umar Naseer made the allegations after he lost the ruling party’s presidential primaries to Yameen in 2013. He retracted the allegations after assuming the cabinet portfolio.

Yameen in May vowed to file criminal charges against Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla over statements linking him with the murder. Imran is currently in police custody facing terrorism charges over an anti-government protest.

Reiterating concern over “unfounded allegations” tonight, Yameen censured journalists for “biased reporting,” claiming the media had failed to seek comments from the president’s spokesperson over the murder allegations.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is negotiating with the government for Nazim, Imran and former president Mohamed Nasheed’s release.


High Court grants Humam a month to appoint lawyer in death penalty appeal

The High Court has granted a man convicted of killing MP Dr Afrashim Ali one month to appoint a lawyer.

Hussein Humam had requested the period at the first hearing of the appeal at the High Court this morning.

The Criminal Court sentenced Human to death on January 16, finding him guilty of intentional murder, stating Humam had assaulted the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP with a sharp object and intentionally killed him.

Dr Afrasheem was found brutally murdered in the stairwell of his apartment building on October 1, 2012.

Humam gave contradictory statements in court regarding his involvement in the crime. Although he initially confessed to the crime, he later retracted his statement claiming the statement had been given under duress.

He appealed the death sentence in May, just before the 90 day appeal period for lower court rulings was about to expire.

Death penalty

Shortly after the Criminal Court sentenced Humam to death, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer announced plans to implement the death penalty ending an unofficial sixty year moratorium on the practice.

Speaking on a show on state broadcaster TVM on Sunday night, Naseer said the incumbent government will not “shy away” from implementing the death penalty despite pressure from foreign countries and human rights organizations.

“We are not one to shy away from implementing the death penalty by showing various excuses. Nothing will stop us from implementing the death penalty as planned,” Naseer said.

He said that while he respected the views of European countries which are calling on the government to continue with the moratorium on the death penalty, he believed that the decision lies solely with the Maldivian government.

“While European countries are speaking against the death penalty based on their set of principles, the US, Indonesia, China are not, even though they are by far the more populated countries. Each country has a separate viewpoint on it, and I understand and respect that. However, I believe there is a need for the death penalty to be implemented here, and come what may, we will implement it”.

The decision to reintroduce implementation of the death penalty  has given rise to public debate.

While Islamic groups have said that capital punishment is a crucial aspect of the Islamic Shari’ah, Mauhadini Sanawi and Azhar University graduate Scholar Al Usthaz Abdul Mueed Hassan previously told Minivan News that Islam is a religion of forgiveness first, and called on the state to abolish the death penalty.

“In taking qisaas, it is prescribed that it must be done in the manner that the crime was committed. Like the metaphor an eye for an eye. Taken in the exact same manner. How can this be done in cases of murder? How can the life of the murderer be taken in the same manner as that of the murdered? This is prescribed so as to discourage the taking of qisaas,” Mueed said at the time.

The government has previously announced that lethal injection is the state’s preferred method of implementing capital punishment.


Witnesses seek to provide alibi for Afrasheem murder suspect

Four witnesses have testified that Ali Shan was at the Jalapeno restaurant on the night that MP Dr Afrasheem Ali was murdered, reports local media.

Shan is accused of killing the moderate religious scholar on October 1, 2012 together with Hussain Human, who was found guilty and sentenced to death by the Criminal Court in January.

At a hearing yesterday, four witnesses for the defence testified that Shan was at the restaurant until 1:15am.

However, there were slight discrepancies in the testimonies. While one witness – Ali Hashim ‘Smith’ – reportedly claimed he joined Shan and four others for a coffee at 11:30pm, a second witness suggested Hashim arrived around 10:30pm.

While the fourth witness said he left Jalapeno with Hashim around 1:00m and went to the Labamba restaurant, Hashim had said he left around 12:30am and went to the Laban restaurant in front of the Hulhumalé ferry terminal.

As a fifth witness failed to appear yesterday, Judge Abdulla Didi said his testimony would be heard at the next trial date.

Judge Didi also refused a request by Shan’s attorney to release the defendant from police custody and said he would announce a date for hearing closing statements at the next hearing.

At a hearing in February, state prosecutors presented evidence against the accused, including two witness testimonies, the confession of Humam, and a recording of a phone call.


MDP MP Ali Waheed calls to exhume body of murdered MP Afrasheem, conduct post-mortem

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Deputy Parliament Group Leader MP Ali Waheed has called on the state to exhume the body of murdered scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in order to conduct a post mortem.

Referring to the MP’s murder last year as the “most serious crime ever committed in the Maldives”, Waheed said that various allegations and rumours were being spread to create confusion and suspicion in society about the case.

He said that these allegations had prominently focused on the involvement of certain senior politicians in the crime, including the MDP’s own Chairperson MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik and PPM presidential candidate, MP Abdullah Yameen.

Waheed stated that it was therefore of utmost importance to conduct a post mortem in order to bring an end to this speculation and allegations over the case, while ascertaining the facts around Dr Afrasheem’s murder.

Prior to Waheed’s comments, MDP Chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik also spoke of the importance of clarifying facts regarding Afrasheem’s murder.

Echoing comments previously raised by former President Mohamed Nasheed at a party rally, Moosa spoke of the need to verify if there was any truth in information that individuals suspected of involvement in the murder had fled the country on the day of the attack.

He further questioned why street surveillance cameras installed by the police had not been in operation on the night of the murder.

MDP MP Mohamed Riyaz also spoke of the allegations that Sudanese nationals may have had involvement in the crime, while stressing the importance of verifying the truth behind claims that Afrasheem had been summoned to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs shortly before his murder.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan was not responding to calls today from Minivan News today. Meanwhile, Dr Abdulla Mausoom, Parliamentary Group Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), said he was unavailable for comment at time of press.


Maldives Police Services announced in October 2012 that the FBI were extending assistance in the investigation of the MPs murder.

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz later stated in a press conference held in December 2012 that the murder of Afrasheem had been carried out with a political motive, and that the culprits were to be paid MVR 4 million (US$ 260,000).

Riyaz had at the time dismissed claims that the murder was linked to religious fundamentalists, stating “no evidence has been gathered which suggests this murder had a religious motive.”

The main murder suspect identified by the police investigation into the attack, Hussain Humam, initially denied charges. He later confessed to the crime at a hearing held in May.

At the hearing, state prosecutors read out a statement which was said to have been given by Humam at one of the initial hearings. The statement claimed that son-in-law of ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, Abdulla ‘Jaa’ Javid, had offered to pay him MVR 4 million for the murder of MP Afrasheem.

In the last hearing held in early June, Humam once again retracted his confession, claiming that he had been coerced into confession by police.

Humam’s father has also written to the Criminal Court and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives alleging police of conducting psychological abuse against the suspect and exerting coercion to confess to a crime he did not commit.

Religious scholar and MP Dr. Afrasheem Ali was found brutally murdered in the early hours of October 2, 2012 and was buried at a state funeral after Asr prayers on the same day.


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.


Afrasheem’s murder was well planned, worth MVR 4 million, claims Police Commissioner

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has claimed that the murder of MP for Ungoofaaru constituency Dr Afrasheem Ali was a well planned murder worth MVR 4 million (US$260,000).

In a press conference held on Tuesday to brief the media about the high profile murder case, Riyaz stated that the new revelations came made amidst several difficult challenges for police investigators.

The commissioner claimed that the investigation team included consultants from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and 80 police officers including forensic, multimedia and legal experts. He added that this was the first case that had been worked on by such a large criminal investigation team.

In a presentation shown during the press conference, Riyaz claimed that 11 suspects were initially arrested, however three had now been released. He added that about 200 items had been analysed as evidence, including forensic and digital evidence, which he claimed was enough to prosecute the prime suspects.

“Over 500 hours of CCTV footage have been analysed, more than a hundred people have been interviewed and about 13,000 phone call recordings have been analysed out of which 12,000 were from one single tower,” Riyaz said.

Afrasheem’s movements right before the murder

The commissioner claimed that Afrasheem was last seen alive inside the premises of the state broadcaster, Television Maldives (TVM). The presentation suggested that Afrasheem was seen leaving the premises in his car around 11:04pm, according to the nearby CCTV camera footage.

Afrasheem left the station after participating in a religious TV program called “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Life), with Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Qubad Aboobakuru.

In his last words, aired on the show, 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.

Photo snaps taken from several CCTV cameras suggested that he had passed the Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) building, the Bank of Maldives (BML) building and Raalhugandu Area, all of which are located in the outermost road of Male, Boduthakurufaanu Magu, police claimed.

Afrasheem had parked his car just a few metres from his residence and had entered it at about approximately 12:04am, police said. The murder occurred just a few minutes later, police alleged.

Afrasheem’s body was discovered by his wife at the bottom of the stairs of their apartment building shortly after midnight.

According to the presentation, the first few police officers arrived at the scene at about 1:30am, exactly one and a half hour later. A second police jeep arrived soon afterwards.

Riyaz stated that following the report of the incident, all police officers patrolling in the capital were brought to alert and were ordered to focus on finding anyone that was acting suspiciously.

Minivan News journalists on the night of the incident observed that police officers in Specialist Operations (SO) uniform entering several coffee shops including Sea House Café’, however no one was seen being arrested.

The Police Commissioner claimed that the first suspect was arrested at 1:55am, just 20 minutes after the incident was reported.

Police also revealed the identities of two suspects arrested in connection with the murder case: Hussen Humaam Ahmed and Ali Shaan, while a 17 year-old minor was also arrested on suspicion of assisting the murder.

Commissioner Riyaz expressed confidence in prosecuting the suspects stating that the police had “enough evidence” to prove all of them guilty. He added that the cases of the suspects would be sent to the Prosecutor General (PG)’s office by the end of this week.

“Political motive behind the murder” – Commissioner of Police

Commissioner of Police alleged that sum of MVR 4 million (US$260,000) was to be paid for the murder of the MP, which he alleged involved a political motive.

“This is an act of terrorism and the people behind this are politicians,” Riyaz claimed.

He alleged that two suspects had been arrested for supposedly financing of the murder, but declined to reveal their identities claiming that the investigation was still ongoing.

He also said that  police had concluded the first part of the investigation which involved identifying who had been directly involved in murdering the MP, and how it was carried out.

“We have been able to establish who did this. We have been able to establish how this happened. The next thing is to find out who was behind this,” he said.

The commissioner also dismissed the rumours that the murder was linked to religious fundamentalists, stating “no evidence has been gathered suggesting that this murder was carried out for a religious motive.”

He further claimed that the findings of the investigation were based on fact and solid evidence and not were intended to create political leverage against the political rivals of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Riyaz claimed that the prime suspects involved in the murder were from a local gang named ‘Kuda Henveiru’ (Little Henveiru-ward), whose members had previously been involved in several criminal activities.

“The findings reveal that a dangerous trend of ‘killing for money’ is growing within our society. I call upon businessmen and politicians to not to pay money to young people to conduct criminal activities for their benefit,” he said.

Riyaz added that new cases of criminal activities were being revealed through the investigation and that such cases would be dealt with firmly.

Despite repeated questions from journalists as to what the “political motive” involved, Riyaz at first responded stating that he could not go into the details of the case, but later said that police were able comprehend a picture out of its findings but said this needed to be “verified”.

“Zero tolerance”

Riyaz called on parliament members to not to hesitate in giving more powers to the police and said that such vast powers were required to curb growing criminal activities within Maldivian society.

“I know that members of the parliament are hesitant to grant more powers to the police because of the political views they hold. But we need stricter laws to stop such acts from happening. Hesitance to grant more powers isn’t a solution for police discrepancies. Powers should be granted and at the same time they can establish a proper accountability mechanism,” he said.

The commissioner said that police would have “zero tolerance” towards criminals and would utilise all powers and resources at hand in preventing crimes.

“That means, we will not allow a drunkard to freely wander around the street. Police officers will question suspicious people on the road and they have been given the order to stop and search anyone who they feel is suspected of  being a criminal or carrying out a crime,” he said.

He added that special measures have been taken and orders have been given to SO officers to do “crime patrolling” throughout the capital city 24 hours a day.

Riyaz also expressed concern over former President Mohamed Nasheed’s latest remarks in which the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate suggested that Afrasheem’s were foreigners and had fled the country after committing the crime.

“We have no evidence that suggesting the murder was carried out by foreigners. It is really concerning when such remarks are made for political gain,” Riyaz said.

High profile murder

MP Afrasheem was brutally stabbed to death on the night of October 1, outside his home.

Local media reports suggested that the MP was stabbed four times in the back of the head and a chunk of his skull was missing, and that he also suffered stab wounds to the chest and neck. The MP was rushed to ADK hospital where he was pronounced dead.

He was buried shortly before 5:00pm the following day at the Asahara cemetery in Male’.

Thousands gathered for the funeral prayers which took place in the Islamic Centre. The prayers were led by former President and leader of Afrasheem’s party, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Initially, four suspects were arrested by police in connection to the murder and the Criminal Court extended the detention period of the arrestees by an additional 15 days.

However, a female suspect arrested – Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activist Mariyam Naifa – was given a conditional release on October 21 while the detention of the remaining two suspects were extended for another 15 days.

Another suspect was also arrested later in November, after police claimed he was wearing the same coloured shirt as someone caught on CCTV footage near the area where Afrasheem was murdered.

Dr Afrasheem was elected to parliament in 2009 as a member of the then-opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP). Following the opposition’s split, Afrasheem sided with the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and faded into the political background.

Widely considered an Islamic moderate, Dr Afrasheem took outspoken and controversial positions on issues such as the permissibility of playing music, and praying next to the deceased.


Islamic Ministry denies religious pressure on murdered Afrasheem, while police seek foreign help with case

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.