Politicians blame powerful individuals behind gangs for Alhan stabbing

MPs have today condemned the stabbing of Maldivian Democratic Party MP Alhan Fahmy, decrying the apparent impunity enjoyed by the criminal gangs deemed responsible for the attack.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party member Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed called for community to root out those who use local gangs to carry out politically motivated attacks.

Saturday’s attack has been described by Alhan’s family and colleagues as premeditated and political in nature.

Meanwhile, one of the three men arrested in relation to the stabbing of MP Alhan Fahmy has been released from police custody today.

Mohamed Kinanath Ahmed was arrested shortly after the incident. Police have confirmed that, after appearing before judges yesterday evening, Kinanath was released before being re-arrested the same evening, then released once more this morning.

Kinanath is the brother of Hussain Humam Ahmed, who currently faces the death sentence for the murder of Progressive Party of Maldives MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.

Alhan is reported to be recovering from surgery in Colombo after receiving a stab wound to the back while in the popular Breakwater cafe in Malé.

Speaking with local media today, members of Alhan’s family have said that the surgery to repair damage to his spine was a success, though whether he recovers fully from paralysis in his right leg is yet to be determined.

Police arrested one man at the scene, with a further two individuals – including Kinanath – being taken into custody the same evening. Two suspects remain in custody, having had their detention extended for 10 days.

Kinanath is well known to authorities, previously having been listed as one of the most dangerous gangsters in the capital. He is said to be a member of Malé’s prominent Masodi gang.

Debating a motion condemning the attack in the People’s Majlis today, MPs expressed alarm at the dangerous gang culture in the country’s capital.

“There is no motive for gangs to attack and kill Alhan or the Ungoofaaru constituency MP Dr Afrasheem. I say this, because there are no reasons for people like Alhan or Afrashim to have issues with the gangs,” said Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed.

The real killers hidden behind a curtain includes businessmen and politically motivated killings through paid gangs, he continued.

“We have to find the Ace hiding behind the curtain if we want to reform this community.”

Maldivian Democratic Party MP Ilyas Labeeb suggested that gangs were not hesitant to commit such acts in public because they are protected. He also warned that, at this point, gang members would not hesitate to enter the Majlis chambers and slaughter MPs.

A 2012 report by the Asia Foundation found that Malé’s 20-30 gangs worked closely with politicians:

“Political and business elites exploit gangs to carry out a range of illegal activities that serve their political or business interests in exchange for financing the gangs,” read the report.

After being sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for possession of a knife in 2011, Kinanath was released under the President Mohamed Nasheed’s ‘Second Chance’ programme, Sun Online has today reported.

After the ousting of Nasheed in February 2012, the programme – designed to improve rehabilitation and reduce recidivism – was blamed by then Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed for a rise in crime rates. The programme was subsequently shut down.

The new administration of President Abdulla Yameen – in which Jameel serves as vice president – has adopted its own policies to reintegrate offenders deemed not a threat to society, involving the commuting of sentences and the removal of criminal records.


Humam sentenced to death for murder of Dr Afrasheem

The Criminal Court has today sentenced the prime suspect in the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali , Hussain Humam Ahmed to death.

The verdict said it was proven beyond doubt that Humam assaulted Dr Afrasheem with a sharp object and intentionally killed him. Humam was found guilty for the crime of intentional murder and sentenced to death as a penalty for the crime.

Dr Afrasheem –  then MP for Ungoofaaru Constituency and a moderate Islamic Scholar – was found brutally murdered at the his apartment building on the night of October 1 2012.

Maldives Police Service launched an investigation immediately and found it to have been a politically motivated and premeditated murder.

Suspicion had been cast upon various political groups including Maldivian Democratic Party, religious conservatives and even President Abdulla Yameen –  though current Home Minister Umar Naseer recently discarded his earlier comments as “political rhetoric”.

Humam’s Trial

Humam was arrested within hours and was accused of murder on 20 January 2013. On 6 May 2013 Humam denied the charge of murdering Afrasheem, while admitting to many other crimes including several stabbings.

Contradicting his previous statement on 22 May 2013 Human confessed to the murder and said that he wished to apologise to the victim’s family and repent. At the hearing he requested that the judge not to sentence him to death.

On that day Humam gave a detailed account of the planning and execution of the crime, involving Ali Shan of Male’s Henveiru Hikost (also charged with murder), and the juvenile suspect in the case – identified only as ‘Nangi,.

Also said to have been involved were Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officer Azleef Rauf,  and Abdulla ‘Jaa’ Javid (son-in-law of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik) and his brother Jana and another person identified only as ‘Spy’.

According to Humam, Jana promised to give him MVR 4 million for carrying out the murder, and Azleef provided him with an identity card and money to buy SIM cards and mobile phones. He said that ‘Spy’ worked with Azleef in organising the crime and ‘Nangi’ provided Shan and himself with a machete, a bayonet knife, jeans, t-shirts and gloves.

Humam said he attacked Afrasheem with the machete when he entered the apartment building that night and when he fell on the ground Shan attacked him with the bayonet knife.

At that hearing state prosecutors told the court that Dr Afrasheem’s DNA was found on the jeans Humam was wearing on the night of the murder.

Again, on 1 June 2013 Humam changed his narration by retracting the earlier confession saying that it was obtained by police through coercive means.

His defence lawyers said the Police had assured Humam that he would not be sentenced to death should he confess to the crime and that if he didn’t, they would charge him with other crimes of which he was accused.

Humam’s Father Ahmed Khaleel also alleged his son was psychologically traumatized and under coercion by the police when he confessed. He wrote to Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives requesting them to “ensure [my] son is granted a fair trial devoid of coercion and undue influence.”

In the letter sent to the Criminal Court, Khaleel said that he observed during the trial that Humam displayed signs of mental instability, including staring upwards, placing his handcuffs against his mouth, and laughing, and requested an assessment Humam’s mental stability.  The same request by his lawyer and was rejected by the judge.

In his letter, Khaleel alleged that police officers intimidated Humam even at the hearing and called upon the court to review video footage of the hearing to confirm his claims.

On 19 August 2013, two police officers testified in court stating that they stopped and searched Humam’s person on the night of the murder, with one officer saying that he saw a text message sent from Humam’s mobile phone talking about failing to receive promised money.

They said Humam was behaving unusually, by failing to resist arrest, behaving scared, sweating, shaking and was under the influence of an illegal substance. The officer said Humam was arrested and taken to Atholhu Vehi police custodial. On 11 July 2013 Police forensic experts testified that Dr Afrasheem’s DNA was found on Humam’s jeans.

During the trial period, Humam was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in a drugs related case (28 January 2013 ) and to three years imprisonment for cannabis use (7 July 2013). He was also charged with assaulting a police officer on 18 March 2013.

Implementing Death Penalty

Islamic Shariah as interpreted in the Maldives allows families of murder victims to seek death penalty as Qisas (retaliation), however it is a requirement for all ‘warith’ (heirs in Shariah law) to agree upon it. Dr Afrasheem’s heirs have approved of executing Humam.

While many people have been sentenced to death over the years, the Maldives maintains a longstanding unofficial moratorium on the death penalty. Death sentences are currently commuted to life imprisonment under the power vested to the president in Clemency Act.

The parliament has accepted an amendment to the act in order to force the president to implement such sentences. This presidential authority has been challenged in the high court as well, arguing that it is in violation of Article 10 of the constitution which states no law contrary to a tenet of Islam shall be enacted.

No ruler has implemented the death penalty since 1953 when Hakim Didi was executed by firing squad under President Mohamed Ameen Didi’s authority.

President Abdulla Yameen has expressed his support to implement death penalty while his Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who was President Dr. Mohamed Waheed’s Home Minister – has said he would “not hesitate” in implementing death penalty and pushed for parliament to decide on an implementation procedure.

In order to facilitate implementation of death penalty, Dr Waheed’s government proposed a bill to the parliament with lethal injection as the preferred method – however, it was rejected.  Religious conservatives have demanded implementation of the death penalty and proposed beheading as the preferred method.


Verdict in Afrasheem murder case expected tomorrow

A verdict in the trial of Hussain Humam, the chief suspect in the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in October 2012, is expected tomorrow.

The final hearing of the case has been scheduled for 10:00am at the Criminal Court. The late moderate religious scholar’s heirs have all asked the court for the death penalty.

Humam had initially confessed to the murder, but later withdrew his statement claiming it had been extracted by the police under duress.

Humam is already serving a seven-year jail sentence for drug abuse.


MDP condemns Salaf preacher’s insinuation of party’s involvement in Dr Afrasheem’s murder

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned insinuations by religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim suggesting that the party was behind the brutal murder of moderate scholar and MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

The MDP in a press release on Wednesday (September 18) expressed concern with what it contended was the Salaf preacher’s “incitement of hatred among the public with the intention of influencing the [presidential] election.”

“We assert resolutely that the party had no involvement whatsoever in the brutal murder of late Dr Afrasheem Ali,” the press release stated.

“The party calls upon all parties not to use such a tragic atrocity in the name of religion and out of political rivalry in efforts to mislead the public.”

The MDP warned that NGOs “sowing discord in society for the undue political benefit of another party” could see the “increasing freedom of expression, economic development and civilisation of the present turn into the brutality and fear of the past.”

A religious sermon titled “Andalus” organised by Salaf – attended by senior members of the Adhaalath Party – was broadcast live on all local television channels except the MDP-aligned Raajje TV on Tuesday night. The MDP has since contended that Sheikh Shameem’s sermon amounted to negative campaigning against its candidate, former President Mohamed Nasheed.

In his lengthy sermon, the Salaf preacher criticised the MDP’s guest house policy and youth policy and accused the party of planning to introduce religious freedom in the Maldives. Sheikh Shameem also claimed that the 800-year-old Islamic faith of Maldivians was under threat and attempted to draw parallels between the Islamic empire’s loss of Andalus in the fifteenth century and present day Maldives.

Meanwhile, speaking at a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) rally last night (September 18), former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom reportedly said that the PPM and Salaf shared the same ideology and claimed the NGO would participate in the party’s campaign activities after endorsing PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen.

The late Dr Afrasheem

Dr Afrasheem Ali was found stabbed to death near the stairwell of his residence in Male’ on October 1, 2012. Soon thereafter, police arrested two MDP activists – Mariyam Naifa and Ali Hashim ‘Smith’ – in connection with the murder. Both suspects were however released without charge.

The MDP at the time accused the government of attempting to frame the party with “politically-motivated arrests” of its members. In November 2012, former President Mohamed Nasheed accused the government of negligence in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

On the night of his murder, Dr Afrasheem had made his last public appearance on a live talk show on state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) titled “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Living).

In the programme, Dr Afrasheem said 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 meanwhile quoted in local media as saying that the Islamic Ministry had not forced Dr Afrasheem to offer a public apology for anything in his last television appearance.

Dr Afrasheem’s moderate positions on subjects such as listening to music had drawn stringent 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”.

NGO Salaf had meanwhile released at least a dozen statements against the late Dr Afrasheem at the time of his death. In a three-page press release (Dhivehi) on July 10, 2008, Salaf listed Dr Afrasheem’s alleged transgressions and advised the moderate religious scholar to “fear Allah, stop talking any way you please of things you do not know of in the name of religion and [stop] twisting [Islamic] judgments to suit your personal wishes”.

The NGO also called on the public not to listen to “any religious fatwa or any religious talk” from the scholar.

MDP and Islam

The MDP press statement meanwhile reiterated that the party would protect Islam and not allow other religions to be introduced to the Maldives.

Referring to its track record in government, the party noted that a Ministry of Islamic Affairs was established for the first time in the country by the MDP government upon taking office in November 2008.

Local scholars were allowed the freedom for the first time to preach and conduct sermons and lectures, the press release continued, while 42 mosques as well as a number of prayer rooms in schools were built and 150 Islamic teachers were trained during the MDP’s three years in government.

It added that the National University’s faculty of shariah and law was strengthened with foreign assistance and a new government-funded building was constructed for Arabiyya School in Male’ by the MDP government.

An Islamic Bank was opened in the Maldives in March 2011 with MVR 22 million (US$1.4 million) spent out of the state budget in 2010 together with an investment of MVR 127 million (US$8.2 million) secured by the MDP government from the Islamic Development Bank, the press release noted.

Moreover, the MDP government began state-funded annual symposiums for local scholars to facilitate academic discussions of pressing religious and social issues, the press release stated.

“We note with pride that as a result of these measures, the stature of religious scholars in society was raised and opportunities opened up for scholars to be academically active and serve at a national level,” the MDP said.

The party’s 2013 manifesto meanwhile includes the construction of an “Islamic Knowledge Centre” in Male’ for MVR 200 million (US$13 million) that would include a library, lecture halls and a mosque with a capacity 5,000 worshippers.

Among other policies for the next five years include conducting an international Islamic conference in the Maldives at an estimated cost of MVR 25 million (US$1.6 million) with the participation of renowned foreign scholars, training 300 Quran teachers to first degree level, and allocating MVR 36 million (US$2.3 million) for renovating mosques across the country.

“We note that all these projects are costed and budgeted and the manifesto includes details for implementation,” the press release stated.


Military dismisses alleged planner of Afrasheem murder

The Maldives National Defence force (MNDF) has dismissed Corporal Azleef Rauf over his alleged involvement in planning the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

Azleef was dismissed for “disorderly conduct”, as well as “repeated actions that would harm the reputation and dignity of the armed forces”, according to the MNDF.

Azleef was arrested in relation to the Afrasheem murder case on May 23, and during a recent court hearing to extend his detention period, police accused him of terrorism, intimidation, gang crimes, operation of gangs, and using gangs to plan crimes, according to local media.

The prime suspect in the Afrasheem case, Hussain Humam Ahmed, accused Azleef of planning the murder of the MP during a recent Criminal Court hearing.

Additionally, Azleef was also previously apprehended for mugging, according to local media.


Female participants in Maldives tourism training declining: Four Seasons Hotels

The Four Seasons Hotels group has encouraged the government to promote technical and vocational training “much more aggressively”, while also expressing concern at declining female participation over the last decade in its apprenticeship program.

Four Seasons has graduated 288 apprenticeship students in the Maldives over the last 12 years, with 47 youths completing the latest program in 2013. However, only one female graduated from the scheme today during a special ceremony held in the capital Male’, while two women are enrolled in the 2014 program.

Four Seasons Resorts Maldives Regional Vice President and General Manager Armando Kraenzlin explained to Minivan News today (April 13) that the number of female apprenticeship program participants has been declining over the last 10 years.

“We never had many participants – 5 to 7 per batch – but it used to be easier [to recruit women] about ten years ago. Unfortunately, numbers have dropped,” he said.

Kraenzlin said he believed the declining number of women in the training program could be the result of more jobs being available outside of the tourism sector, or parents hesitating to let their daughters work at resorts.

“We are talking to government ministries and the press to promote idea of ladies working,” he added.

Also present at today’s ceremony, Education Minister Dr Asim Ahmed told Minivan News that he believed female participation in the tourism sector and Four Seasons apprenticeship program was increasing.

“Last year’s program had one woman, whereas two are enrolled in the 2014 batch. This is gradual improvement, although much less than we would like,” he said.

The small, insular Maldivian island environment instills very close family ties, which makes it difficult for parents to allow their children to leave and “stay long periods in a hotel”, according to Ahmed.

“The culture here is for children to grow up and grow old in same house,” he claimed.

“In the Maldives, you go to work [at a resort] and live there. It’s a very difficult thing to get your head around.”

Ahmed explained the nationwide need for women and parents to be more aware about the conditions of female employees working at resorts, particularly in terms of accommodation arrangements.

“It is important parents buy into this and believe resort work is beneficial and reliable [for their daughters].  The other challenge is we have to provide child care and other facilities that will release the women to go and work,” he added.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told Minivan News that he believed women were not participating in the industry because families were adhering to the “past culture” of keeping children at home, in addition to being concerned about where their children would be living.

“Females are leaders in the houses. The men go out to work,” said Adheeb.

“Kids grow up and take care of their parents. In many cases, when boys get married they go to the girl’s house to live, because parents like to keep their daughters with them.

“This is why especially parents don’t want their daughters to go and work,” Adheeb added.

“Radical change”

Earlier this year, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News that he believed a “radical change to the tourism approach” was needed in the country.

“Resorts must have close-by islands with flats so employees can go home to their families [after completing their shifts],” Hamid said.

Additionally, he believed the response rate for tourism training programs was decreasing in the country because Maldivian parents were discouraging children from participating due to “religious xenophobia”.

Hamid also accused the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) of propagating the view that “anyone who is not a Muslim is an enemy”.

“I’ll probably be the next Dr Afrasheem Ali for saying this, but maintaining this hate of the ‘other’ is very dangerous and not discussed openly. This confusion has to be sorted. It’s a race against time and ideas,” he stated.

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Adbulla was not responding to calls at time of press.

Public vs private programs

During the graduation ceremony for this year’s apprentice trainees held at Mandhu College in Male’ today, Kraenzlin praised the skills of the latest batch of participants, emphasizing that “the Maldivian work ethic is among the highest I’ve observed in my career”.

“It is very exciting to see what a well spent year can do in the life of a young person,” he added.

“Training young people requires commitment and resources. Resorts taking in the minimum number of apprentices a year and certifying them successfully should be supported, recognized and incentivised,” Kraenzlin said.

“We encourage govt to promote Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) performance objectives much more aggressively. It’s a great system.  In this way hundreds of vocational training positions can be created. We think it’s not that difficult.”

Tourism Minister Adheeb and Education Minister Ahmed also both praised the apprenticeship program for its development of young people in the Maldives.

“This corporate social responsibility effort takes a big burden from the government to the private sector,” stated Adheeb, during his commencement speech.

“All other resorts and general managers should follow the example of Armando [Kraenzlin] and the Four Seasons,” he added.

Minister Ahmed echoed these sentiments stating, “this is an important program for the rest of the tourism industry to emulate”.

Additionally, both ministers mentioned the STEP program, a training and education initiative launched this January for ‘O’ level graduates as part of a collaborative endeavor between the Education Ministry, Tourism Ministry, and Ministry of Human Resources Youth and Sport.  Some 15 partner resorts are also included in the scheme, according to the Education Ministry.

The year long Four Seasons Apprenticeship program was recognized as the Maldives’ first government accredited TVET certified apprenticeship scheme in 2010. Graduates are able to earn TVET, PADI divemaster, or Ministry of Transportation boat driving license certifications, the hospitality company claimed.


Maldives cleric’s murder raises fears of growing religious extremism: The Guardian

“The killers worked quickly. Their victim did not even have time to reach his own front door, only a few yards away. Stabbed repeatedly in the head and back, Afrasheem Ali, member of parliament and a cleric, bled to death in minutes,” writes Jason Burke for The Guardian newspaper.

“The murder in Malé, the capital of the Maldives, in October shocked many. Claim and counterclaim quickly circulated. The police hinted the killers of the cleric, from a party loyal to the former autocratic ruler of the island nation, had political links to the opposition. But according to Ibrahim, a gang leader in Malé, the murderers were from a gang of extremist Muslims angered by Ali’s moderate views. The cleric was slain immediately after a live television show in which he discussed his faith.

“I met the men who attacked him in prison. They are kind of fanatics. They are different to other gangs because they are religiously minded and think anyone who doesn’t think like them is not a true Muslim and can be killed,” Ibrahim said.

To read more click here.


Afrasheem’s murder “carefully planned”: Home Minister

The probe into the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali on October 1 has revealed that youth are being increasingly used in crimes, Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has said.

Speaking at a ceremony held on Thulusdhoo in at Kaafu Atoll, Dr Jameel said that individuals who offer alcohol, drugs and money to young people to kill cannot remain hidden.

“It is difficult for us to believe and for our minds to think about it. The investigation has revealed that the murder had been carefully planned. This is a matter of concern,” Jameel said.

Jameel claimed that Afrasheem’s murderer has been found and that culprits behind the crime will be revealed soon.

Speaking about issues in the Maldives, Jameel claimed that 90 percent of crimes are related to drugs, and that not enough attention has been given to substance abuse in the last three years.

According to Jameel, all illegal acts are related to alcohol and that those who dare mention it are being criticised. He further stated that there have been no prosecutions made in alcohol related cases in the last three years.