State submits witness against second suspect in Dr Afrasheem murder trial

The Prosecutor General’s Office yesterday presented a witness against Ali Shan of Henveiru Hikost, the second suspect arrested and charged with the 2012 murder of religious scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

Local media present at the court hearing reported that the witness gave evidence and answered the questions of Shan’s defense lawyer via a voice link.

The witness told the court that he met Hussain Humam – the main suspect sentenced to life for the murder – and Shan on the afternoon of October 1, 2012, at which time they told him there was a big mission and they could make a lot of money from it.

He said that later that day he again met with Human and Shan inside the park opposite to Usfasgandu area.

According to local media, the witness told the court he was waiting near the Children’s Park and he saw Humam entering Henveiru Funviluge [the residence of Dr Afrasheem].

A while later, the witness reported seeing a man carrying a pile of books in his hand entering Funviluge, was Shan went inside after him.

The witness said he didn’t realise it was Dr Afrasheem Ali that was carrying the books.

He said that a while later Shan called him and asked to come inside to help them, and when he went inside he saw Shan holding a bayonet knife in his hand while Humam was holding a machete in his hand. The witness also reported seeing Dr Afrasheem’s body lying on the floor.

In 2012, Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz alleged that the murder of the Ungoofaaru MP constituency was a well-planned murder worth MVR4 million (US$260,000).

In a presentation shown during a press conference in 2012, Riyaz claimed that 11 suspects were initially arrested, however three had been quickly released. He added that about 200 items had been analysed as evidence, including forensic and digital evidence, which he claimed were 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.

The commissioner claimed Afrasheem was last seen alive inside the premises of the state broadcaster, Television Maldives on the night of the murder. 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.

On 16 January, 2014, the Criminal Court sentenced Humam to death. The Prosecutor General’s Office had also used Humam’s confession as evidence in Shan’s trial.

Other evidence presented against Shan includes two witnesses, audio recording and the script of a phone call, and Dr Afrasheem’s medico legal report and death certificate.

Shan had submitted evidences in his defense to prove that he was in Jalapeno Restaurant from 9:00pm on October 1 2012 until 1:00am the following morning.


Week in review: February 9 – 15

The Supreme Court’s running battle with the Elections Commission resurfaced this week, with a trial for contempt of court – including the dissolving of political parties – being sprung on commission members.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) slammed the case as an attempt at intimidation prior to the Majlis elections, with Mohamed Nasheed suggesting that an election boycott would do less harm to democracy than participating in a fraudulent poll.

As campaigning for the March elections began in earnest, the MDP criticised the current government’s development plans, while the ruling coalition questioned the opposition’s commitment to separated branches of government.

Estranged coalition member the Adhaalath Party, meanwhile, continued its plan to field candidates in direct competition with its supposed allies, much to the chagrin of Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim.

As the government approached 100 days in charge, ambitious plans to double the current pension pot through “innovative” investments were announced, while plans to enhance the role of Islam in society took further shape.

Plans to increase Islamic education are likely to hindered slightly, however, after the Teacher Association revealed its plan for strike action should the government not heed requests for reform. Elsewhere, court employees refusing unpaid overtime were suspended.

The development of Kulhudhuffushi airport appeared a step closer this week, with environmental regulations altered in order to allow dredging of the island’s mangrove.

Local NGO Ecocare continues to view the project as unconstitutional and economically unviable.

The cabinet’s promised discussion on the implementation of the death penalty took place this week, with ministers urging President Abdulla Yameen to establish regulation for execution procedures.

The confession of the country’s most recent recipient of the sentence, Hussein Humam was used as key evidence in the continuing Criminal Court case against his alleged accomplice in the murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali.

The recent recipient of an 18 year sentence for drug trafficking, Ibrahim Shafaz ‘Shafa’ Abdul Razzaq, this week appealed his sentence from Sri Lanka after being allowed to leave the country on medical grounds last week.

Questions regarding the Criminal Court’s own actions were also asked this week as it continued to refuse new cases sent by the the Prosecutor General’s Office, despite requests from the Supreme Court. The new PG will now start the job with a backlog of over 500 cases.

Members of the Majlis national security committee were informed by the Asia Pacific Group of the country’s obligation to enact anti-laundering legislation, while the parliamentary privileges group summoned police to give information on the investigation into the Alhan Fahmy stabbing.

Former Police Integrity Commission Chair Shahindha Ismail this week accused both the Majlis and the police watchdog of “intentional negligence” in investigating the chaos that followed the controversial transfer of presidential power two years ago.

Rising numbers of tourists in Malé led the council to issue a suggestion to all local hoteliers that visitors be made aware of appropriate dress codes in inhabited areas.

The latest figures from the Maldives Monetary Authority revealed that tourist arrivals has risen by 17 percent in 2013, though this was not sufficient to prevent Air Asia X suspending its Maldives services.

Finally, the Maldives slipped further down RSF’s Press Freedom Index, dropping to 107th in the list. Elsewhere in the media, DhiTV and it’s sister station DhiFM Plus were asked to stop broadcasting upside down pictures of Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek.


Gayoom urges authorities to expedite justice in ‘politically motivated’ Afrasheem murder

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has this week said there could be no doubt that the murder of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Dr Afrasheem Ali was a politically motivated attack, while calling for justice to be expedited against his alleged attackers.

No individual has yet been convicted of the killing of Afrasheem, who was found dead on the staircase of his home in Male’ on October 1, 2012.

A total of seven individuals are potentially facing charges in connection to the MP’s murder, with the trial of key suspect Hussein Humam currently ongoing at the Criminal Court.

Humam had initially denied charges against him in court.

He later confessed to the crime at a hearing held in May, according to a statement read out by prosecutors in the court. State prosecutors read out the statement, which was said to have been given by Humam at one of the initial hearings. The suspect retracted his confession a month later, claiming that he had been coerced by police at the time.

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

One year later

Speaking Wednesday (October 2) at a rally to mark a year since Dr Afrasheem’s death, Gayoom was quoted in local newspaper Haveeru as saying that society remained in a state of fear as a result of the MP’s “politically motivated” killing.

“This was a clear message to our nation. It means that anyone who dares to speak up will suffer the same fate,” said the country’s one-time autocratic ruler, who was in power for 30 years until the Maldives’ first multi-party democratic elections in 2008.

Police have meanwhile confirmed this week that cases had been filed with the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) against Azleef Rauf, Shaahin Mohamed, Adam Salaah and Abdulla ‘Jaa’ Javid – son-in-law of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chair ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik in connection to the murder.

Despite not a single trial related to the murder having yet been concluded, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan confirmed that former President Gayoom had claimed there was a political motive to Afrasheem’s attack.

However, Nihan said Gayoom had not identified any one party or culprit in particular for the crime.

“[Gayoom] said the murder of Afrasheem was connected to politics and that such attacks should be eliminated and solved or they will begin to be copied by the public,” he said.

Nihan said that like Gayoom, he believed that since police had begun their investigations into the attack, they had uncovered enough evidence to suggest the murder had been carried out for political reasons.

He claimed that the PPM had purposefully avoided “finger pointing” of any particular party, but criticised politicians within the opposition MDP for making statements in an attempt to undermine the credibility of the police investigation into the case.

Nihan said that the country’s MPs had a responsibility to minimise doubt among the public concerning the conduct of the Maldives Police Service (MPS) in investigating the murder, adding it was important society have faith in law enforcement officials to solve the case.

Police investigation

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

By December, Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz stated during a press conference 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.”

Soon after the murder police arrested two MDP activists – Mariyam Naifa and Ali Hashim ‘Smith’ – in connection with the attack. Both suspects were later released without charge.

The MDP later 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.


Police officers testify that Afrasheem murder suspect sent text asking for money

Two police officers have testified in court stating that they stopped and searched Hussein Humam’s person on the night Dr Afrasheem Ali was murdered.

One officer stated that he had seen a text message sent from Humam’s mobile phone talking about failing to receive promised money.

The police officer did not identify the recipient of the text message.

According to local media present in the Criminal Court for the hearing, the police officer said he was called and informed that a person had been stabbed in Male’ and that he joined officers patrolling the city before coming across Humam near the State Bank of India.

Both police officers told the court that they had arrested Humam many times previously, but said on that night he was behaving unusually, by failing to resist arrest, behaving scared, and sweating and shaking.

The police officers told the court that Humam was under the influence of an illegal substance and so arrested him and brought him to Atholhu Vehi police custodial.

Before concluding the hearing the judge announced that the court had decided not to accept any evidence or testimony from the respondent, stating that Humam had already submitted evidence for his defence.

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

Dr Afrasheem Ali was stabbed to death on the night of October 1, on the staircase of his home.

State prosecutors have accused Hussain Humam, along with Ali Shan – who is facing the same charges – and a minor identified as ‘Nangi’, of going to the residence of Dr Afrasheem and murdering him with a machete and a bayonet knife.