FBI assisting with Afrasheem murder investigation: Police Commissioner Riyaz

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.


DRP condemns NYT ‘looters’ article as “cheap propaganda gimmick”

The Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) has issued a statement condemning an article published in the New York Times, in which journalist by Matthew Saltmarsh described former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as a “looter” and alleged he had misappropriated state funds.

The article further claimed that the present government was working with the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR), a joint initiative of the World Bank and the United Nations, to recover US$400 million allegedly stolen by the former administration.

The DRP stated that the repeated accusations of embezzlement leveled at Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom “are the MDP government’s last ditch efforts to resuscitate its waning public support and confidence in the face of its failure to manage the Maldivian economy.”

“The MDP government, in an year and a half of searching through its ‘presidential commission’, has failed to find anything that they can pin against President Gayoom to defame his character. The MDP government will continue to fail in their sinister plots,” the DRP statement read.

“This latest accusation is no different from that by MDP official Hassan Afeef in the run up to the 2008 Presidential Election. A defamation suit was filed against him. It is notable that Afeef has to date ignored the verdict of the court of the set compensation,” the statement noted, adding that “local MDP-controlled newsletter ‘Miadhu’ has also published an article repeating the many lies in Matthew Saltmarsh’s article.”

The party observed that the allegations in the NYT article were largely based on a 2009 report by Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, who “was sacked recently following serious acts of corruption and misappropriation of state funds.”

“It is common knowledge that Naeem’s audit reports were both politically-motivated and riddled with inaccuracies. References from such documents are unbecoming of professional journalists, albeit the MDP government utilises them as handbooks to achieve their political objectives. Furthermore, the fact that Finance Minister Ali Hashim had himself provided the quotes for the article is notable,” the DRP statement said.

“The DRP will take all necessary action to alert the international community to the government’s sinister motives behind the allegations against the Former President. We condemn the government for its continued attempts to shroud its incompetence in running the country behind cheap propaganda gimmicks.”

Speaking to newspaper Haveeru, Gayoom dismissed claims in the audit report as “politically-motivated” and “lies from A to Z”, and vowed to “protect myself from defamation” by taking both Saltmarsh and Hashim to court.

“He [the former Auditor General] issued the reports during the 2008 presidential election with certain political motives,” Gayoom told Haveeru.

“The reports were directly targeted at me with an agenda to attack my dignity, just a day before voting began. Moreover, the reports are definitely questionable, since he was sacked by parliament through a no confidence motion,” Gayoom said, insisting he had “never abused state funds.”

Government could be seeking US assistance

Meanwhile, newspaper Miadhu carried unverified claims this morning that Hashim, along with Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed, Home Minister Mohamed Shihab and Attorney General Husnu Suood, had rendezvoused in Europe to meet with FBI officials “at an unidentified location in the European continent.”

Hashim told Minivan News he had nothing to clarify as he had “never met FBI officials anywhere in the world.”

The Foreign Minister appeared to be in no hurry to dispel the rumours, however.

“Should that meeting have taken place, obviously we wouldn’t be talking about it,” Dr Shaheed said. “What I can say is that the government is serious about reclaiming stolen assets, and we’re very confident it will happen really quickly.”

He said he doubted Gayoom or the DRP had a viable case against the NYT.

“The DRP should consider the distinct international legalities governing past and present politicians, particularly heads of state. Mr Gayoom should recognise that people in such positions will face criticism.”

“I don’t think they are serious,” he said. “In defamation lawsuits the onus is on public figures to prove malicious intent or reckless disregard for the truth. One must have a lot of money to hire a hotshot lawyer capable of proving that against a particular article by the NYT.”