The Maldives Police Service has said two US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials are providing “technical consultancy” in investigating the murder of religious scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Dr Afrasheem Ali on October 2.
At a press conference held on Thursday (October 11), Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz also confirmed that two additional suspects have been arrested with regard to the case, increasing the total number of arrests in connection with the murder to six.
According to local media reports, Riyaz confirmed the same day that a total of 80 police officers have been assigned to the case. The police have now questioned 75 persons and are analysing 130 video clips from security cameras around the capital of Male’.
Riyaz further stated his belief that the murder had been committed as a pre-planned, calculated attack.
Talking to local media, Riyaz revealed that police officers had uncovered sufficient evidence, and were further investigating reports of related financial transactions to the case.
He confirmed that police would continue with the investigation until the culprits were found.
In an unprecedented move, the police service also announced that reward money amounting to MVR 500,000 would be granted to any person providing evidence that would lead to a conviction in the country’s courts.
Riyaz added that in cases where threats were made to ‘high-profile’ persons in future, police would be taking necessary precautionary actions to protect them.
Politics and religion
Following the murder of Dr Afrasheem, Maldivian Democratic Party(MDP) activists Mariyam Naifa and Ali Hashim were arrested on Tuesday, October 3 from Dolphin Cafe.
Although police failed to confirm at the time that the arrests were made in relation to the MP’s murder, Naifa’s lawyer confirmed that authorities had arrested her colleague based on ‘intelligence reports’ about the attack.
The MDP has since alleged that the arrests were politically motivated, expressing concerns that the “brutal murder of a respected and elected member of the Parliament” was potentially being used to frame political opponents.
In a press conference held on October 3, Assistant Commissioner of Police Hassan Habeeb stated, “We are not arresting people based on their political affiliations.”
Prior to his murder, Afrasheem had made his last public appearance on a live talk-show on TVM titled, “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Living).
In his last broadcast 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 later stated that the Islamic Ministry had in no way forced Afrasheem to offer a public apology for anything in his last TV appearance.
Earlier in September, local media had reported that the Islamic Ministry had held a meeting titled ‘Scholar’s Dialogue’ to hold discussions about how Afrasheem’s religious views contradicted those of other local scholars.
Shaheem had stated at the time that they had not been able to reach a common consensus, but that further meetings had been planned.