Brigadier General Ahmed Shahid appointed new Vice Chief of Defence Force

President Abdulla Yameen has removed Brigadier General Ahmed Mohamed from the post of vice chief of the defence force and replaced him with Brigadier General Ahmed Shahid.

Late last month Brigadier General Zakariyya Mansoor, who also serves as the director general of counter terrorism at the Ministry of Defence, was appointed as the commander of the Aviation Security Command.

The defence ministry had earlier denied media reports that Zakariyya had also replaced the Chief of Defence Force Brigadier General Ahmed Shiyam, who was said to have retired from active duty.

A reshuffling of senior positions within the military has followed the dismissal of defence minister Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim last month in relation to dangerous weapons charges.

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MDP suggests extremist ideologies prevalent within the security services

Concerning levels of extremist ideology are present within the Maldives military and police forces, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said.

In a statement issued today, the party said it has been noted that most militants travelling from the Maldives to foreign countries “in the name of jihad” are members of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and Maldives Police Services (MPS).

The Ministry of Defence and National Security has responded to the MDP’s remarks, describing the accusations as “baseless and untrue” comment intended to “discredit and disparage” military.

“Therefore we condemn in the strictest terms this irresponsible act of the Maldivian Democratic Party. And call on the Maldivian Democratic Party to stop spreading misinformation in ways which could confuse the public and become a responsible political party,” the ministry’s statement read. The Maldives Police Service (MPS) have not commented on the issue.

Citing foreign intelligence agencies, the MDP said funds of an unknown nature are being transferred to foreign parties through Maldivian banks.

Earlier this month, the US State Department releases a report claiming Maldivian authorities had knowledge of funds for terrorism being raised in the country – a claim subsequently denied by the Maldives Monetary Authority.

The MDP today said that the Maldives was now becoming a transit port for illegal drug trafficking, with a large amount of strong drugs already being delivered internationally through the country.

Local media have today reported over 3kgs of illegal drugs being seized in the capital Malé as the Home Ministry continues to crack down on the trade.

A record haul of 24kg of heroin was seized by police in March before of Pakistani nationals arrested in the operation were set free – an incident cited by the acting prosecutor general for his recent resignation.

“This is taking place at a time when definite proof of Defence Minister [Mohamed Nazim] and Tourism Minister’s [Ahmed Adeeb] close relations with world famous drug cartels or gangs are being revealed through photos and others mediums,” read the MDP statement.

Suggesting that extremist elements within the security force were behind the “overthrow of the first democratic government of Maldives in a coup d’etat on 7 February 2012”, the party called on state authorities to launch criminal investigations and to take action against guilty members of security forces as per the recommendations of the CoNI (Commission of National Inquiry) report.

This party calls upon the responsible authorities of the state to to investigate and look in to the points noted in the CoNI report, and remove the extremist elements within the security forces.

“The party calls on the relevant committee of the People’s Majlis to immediately investigate and take necessary action against those in the security forces who are following extremist ideologies , and earn the goodwill of the Maldivian citizens and foreign parties, and make this country peaceful,” the statement continued.

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Woman gives birth on a boat while waiting for emergency assistance

With additional reporting by Daniel Bosley

A woman has given birth on a boat traveling from Naifaru to Malé early this morning, after the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were unable to provide immediate emergency assistance.

The MNDF have confirmed that they were contacted by the boat at around 3am while it was located near Gaafaru, on the northern side on Malé atoll.

“Our vessel was engaged in another operation – we have five or six to handle every day,” explained Deputy Spokesman Captain Ali Ihusaan. “We attempted to guide the boat into Gaafaru but the captain said the channel was too narrow.”

The MNDF Coast Guard was unable to send assistance because it had only one vessel in Malé at the time – a fire launch normally reserved for fire-related incidents.

“The real delay was getting a doctor ready to go,” said Ihusaan. “If we go without professional medical care and the condition worsens, that’s a whole different situation.”

According to Vnews, both the mother and baby were weak when they reached Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and, while the mother is now in good health, the baby is said to be having breathing difficulties.

The woman was reportedly travelling to Malé after being advised to do so by doctors in Naifaru, Lhaviyani atoll, due to possible complications which may occur at birth.

The Ministry of Health’s 2014 health profile had noted that the recent strengthening of emergency obstetric care at the atoll level has included the upgrading of atoll level health centres to hospitals.

Maternal mortality rates in the Maldives were recorded at a record low of 13 per 100,000 live births in 2012 – ahead of both the Millenium Development Goals target of 125, and the Health Ministry’s own Health Master Plan which aimed to reduce the number to less than 50 by 2015.

Vnews reported that the husband contacted Minister of Defense and National Security Mohamed Nazim as well, to which he responded saying he was trying find a way to provide assistance.

“I told MNDF officials that if anything happens to the baby or mother they should take responsibility for that. But they spoke in a very rude manner saying ‘what taking of responsibility [are you talking about]’ and that there wouldn’t have been any problems if you left earlier,” Vnews quoted the husband as saying.

The MNDF spokesman told Minivan News that the service’s night staff are well trained and used to handling “emotional” callers, suggesting that the husband’s recollection of the conversation would have been affected by his “agitated” state.

After the mother’s condition started worsening, her husband called the Marine Police for assistance. They were on their way when she gave birth on the boat – reportedly assisted by her husband and two family members.

Marine police reached the boat near Kuda Bandos island, following which the mother and baby were transferred to the police speed boat.

After coming across the Coast Guard vessel – which had completed its previous operation – on their way to Malé, the physician and nurse with them came aboard the police boat and provided medical assistance until they reached the capital.

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Defence Ministry audit reveals MVR6.78 million worth unlawful purchases

The Ministry of Defence and National Security audit report for the year 2011 has revealed that the ministry unlawfully purchased goods worth MVR6.78 million through Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) cooperative society SIFCO.

The report states that MVR4.7 million worth goods were purchased through SIFCO, contrary to article 8.14 of state finance regulation which states that goods and services below MVR25,000 should be purchased only after reviewing proposals from at least three interested parties, and with an official written justification for the choice made.

It also said MVR2 million worth goods were purchased against article 8.15 of the regulation, which states goods and services above MVR25,000 should be purchased through a publicly announced competitive bidding process.

The auditor general (AG) recommended action against responsible persons as per the Public Finance Act

The report also highlighted that MVR1,200,324 was paid to military personnel on leave, particularly to those studying overseas, against relevant rules and regulations.

Salary and allowances worth MVR344,299  was said to have been paid to a defense adviser posted at the Maldivian High Commission in India for days without any record of attending work.

The AG’s opinion given in the report said the ministry’s 2011 budget was not spent within the set limits set, nor was it spent to fulfill the given activities and objectives.

The AG also questioned the validity of financial statements declared by the ministry, stating that the “statement of liabilities” and “statement of assets” declared “does not truthfully reflect” the actual assets and liabilities of the ministry.

The ministry’s figures were MVR39.8 million as assets and MVR29.8 million as liabilities for the year 2011.

The document highlighted that resources donated for the SAARC summit, which can be considered as tangible assets, were were not valued and included in the financial statements, and that special military equipment which could be considered the same were also not included in the statements.

In addition to that MVR122.7 million which should be included in capital expenditure were included as recurrent expenditure (as spent on seminars and meetings).

The final budget for the ministry in 2011 was MVR834 million, of which MVR789.47 million was spent within the year.

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Week in review: December 8 – 14

This week saw the repeatedly delayed budget introduced to the People’s Majlis. Coming in at MVR17.5billion rufiya, the budget – purportedly revised to incorporate President Yameen’s austerity measures – eclipses all previous spending programmes.

A report from the World Bank made clear the tough task the new government faces in nursing the economy towards good health. The report stated that the Maldives continues to spend “beyond its means”.

Noted areas of excess include a high civil service wage bill, with the World Bank suggesting that the government’s short term financing measures risked further damaging the economy.

The exploitation of the country’s persistent shortage of dollars by criminal elements was exposed this week as police reported the activity of thieves masquerading as legitimate exchangers of currency.

When accused of illegally obtaining a budget support loan, recently reappointed Finance Minister pleaded desperation. Abdulla Jihad argued that he had sidestepped the onerous approval procedure to avoid a financial catastrophe in May 2012.

Yameen took fitful steps towards fulfilling his campaign’s austerity pledges this week, ordering the reduction of salary for two grades of state minister – though the cut was only around 12.5 percent instead of the 30-50 mooted before the election.

Similarly, the new government appeared to have reneged on its pledge to provide cash-handouts to old-age pensioners – opting for an insurance scheme instead.

Government performance

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, however, appeared pleased with his half-brother’s performance thus far, praising his handling of Indo-Maldivian relations while the Defence Minister discussed enhanced military cooperation with Indian counterparts.

The indistinct ‘National Movement’ this week suggested ulterior motives in the bureaucratic thwarting of its plan to celebrate the eviction of Indian infrastructure giant GMR, whose deal to develop the international airport was prematurely terminated twelve months ago.

Elsewhere, the coalition member Adhaalath Party, quashed rumours that it had parted ways with Yameen’s government this week, despite previous reports that it intended to campaign independently in the upcoming local and parliamentary elections.

The ‘roadmaps’ for the first one hundred days of the government continued to be drawn this week, with comprehensive lists now produced in the areas of  transport, health, and immigration.

Whilst the Transport Ministry has promised finished plans for the redevelopment of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, the health minister talked of significant changes to the IGMH public hospital.

The police service also joined in the policy pledging, with its own promises to improve its service and to build public trust in the institution. The Police Integrity Commission this week suggested that the prosecutor general assist in this task by prosecuting two officers it had found to have been negligent during the arson attack which destroyed Raajje TV in October.

The vacancy at the head of the PG’s Office did not stop the filing of charges in the 8 year old ‘Namoona Dhoni’ case. Pro-democracy activists – prevented from reaching Malé for a national demonstration – now face fresh charges of disobeying lawful orders.

Trust between the Supreme Court and the judicial watchdog appeared scant this week as the Chief Justice baulked at the JSC’s re-shuffling of a number of senior judges. Members of the JSC were later reported to have rejected Chief Justice Faiz’s legal objections.

Corruption and human rights

Confidence in the transparency of the public in public institutions also appeared to be on the wane this week, as Transparency Maldives’ Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) survey revealed that 83 percent of its sample felt corruption to have increased or stayed the same over the past two years.

Despite only appearing mid-table in the list of organisations perceived as being corrupt, the MNDF reacted disproportionately to the local media’s reporting of the survey, labelling CNM’s article on the survey “highly irresponsible journalism”.

The Anti Corruption Commission announced the discovery of graft in the capital’s largest housing programme. The highest number of bribes reported in the GCB was in the area of land services.

International human rights day was observed by the government and civil society in the same week the president ratified the country’s first anti-human trafficking bill. Whilst welcoming the new law, both the Human Rights Commission and the immigration department suggested that institutional strengthening would need to accompany a successful anti-trafficking policy.

Finally, this week saw the release of a United Nations Population Fund report, calling on the state to review existing practices related to sexual behaviour within the judicial process, law enforcement, education and health sectors.

The report stated reproductive health services ought to be expanded to non-married couples as evidence makes clear that the assumption sex does not, or should not, occur outside of marriage is increasingly out of step with social realities.

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MNDF deny reports of injured suspect in Raajje TV arson attack being treated at military hospital

The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) has issued a statement denying reports spreading across social media that a suspect injured in the arson attack on opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) aligned TV station Raajje TV was being treated at the MNDF military hospital.

On October 7, a group of masked men armed with machetes, iron rods and petrol stabbed a security guard, forced open a reinforced door and set fire to the station, destroying its offices and control room as well as cameras, computer systems, broadcasting and transmission equipment.

CCTV footage of the attack showed the masked individual lighting the blaze briefly engulfed in flame, shortly before a fireball blew the door off its hinges.

The MNDF statement said the military hospital treated three firemen who were injured while trying to control the blaze.

”Two of the firemen were treated for burn injuries they received to the skin area near their ear, due to strong heat from the fire,” the MNDF statement said. ”The third fireman was treated for the injuries he received from the strong heat and smoke.”

The MNDF said the third fireman was admitted to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) after he had breathing problems.

The MNDF also said it was very uncivilised to spread such news without clarification. The statement did not state to whom it was referring to.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the arson attack and criticised the Maldives Police Services’ failure to defend the station despite repeated requests for police protection.

“This criminal act is a direct blow to freedom of information and we deplore the attitude of the police, who failed to do what was necessary to prevent the attack although the head of TV station requested protection a few hours before it took place,” RSF said in a statement on Monday.

Meanwhile, Raajje TV quoted former president Mohamed Nasheed as alleging that Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb “had a hand” in the arson attack on the station, and called on investigation authorities to obtain a court warrant to gain access to the former’s text messages and phone calls.

Adheeb dismissed the allegations as false.

”I won’t be surprised even if he made bigger allegations,” he said. ”Nasheed is always lying like that.”

Adheeb accused Nasheed of working against him due to his condemnation of the MDP’s calls for a tourism boycott.

Eyewitness to Monday’s attack told Minivan News that the attackers arrived on motorbikes.

”First one motorbike with two persons came, they were covering their faces with masks and one of them were holding an iron bar. We first thought they were getting ready to attack a person but the guy holding the iron bar smashed the glass of the building and the other bikes arrived just as the guy smashed the glass,” said a witness.

”There were three wave motorbikes and one PCX motorbike. The other guys were wearing masks when they arrived, they looked very calm when they entered the place and we did not see what happened inside but we noticed that they were in a rush when they came out of the building,” he said. ”They all left the area on the bikes really fast.”

According to the eyewitness, he saw the bikes coming out to Boduthakurufaanu Magu from Kurangi Goalhi and when they left they went straight towards Henveiru from Boduthakurufaanu Magu.

Speaking at the parliament’s government oversight committee, Raajje TV CEO Akram Kamaluddeen alleged to MPs that the arson attack on Raajje TV was a state organised crime.

Akram Kamaluddeen and Deputy CEO of Raajje TV Abdulla Yameen did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.

The security guard who was taken hostage and stabbed told local press that the assailants arrived 10 minutes after the staff of Raajje TV had left the station.

The Bangladeshi national guard told the papers that he was inside the building when the assailants came and they asked him to lead them to the floor Raajje TV was on, but when he refused they tied his hand and took him upstairs with them.

He told the papers that he was stabbed and attacked inside the control room of the Raajje TV station, and that after attacking him they left him inside the burning building with his hands tied.

According to the security guard he was able to escape because the group left the door open. He said he came outside and called his supervisor, before fainting and being admitted to IGMH.

CCTV footage of the attack:

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Translation: MNDF officers’ ‘letter of concern’

The following is a translation of a leaked “letter of concern” circulating on social media, submitted by senior officers of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) to Chief of Defence Force Major-General Ali Shiyam on September 28. Following the release of the letter the MNDF amended its regulations to punish officers who promoted “upheaval and chaos”. Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal was subsequently removed from his position as the Commandant of Training and Doctrine,while First Lieutenant Abdulla Shareef (Marine Corp), Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed and Lance Corporal Sharhaab Rashid were dismissed from service. First Lieutenant Mohamed Haleem resigned, stating “For the last 23 years [of my military service]; I have served this country under a solemn oath taken in the name of Allah, I do not see any way that I can carry out my duties as prescribed in the constitution and the military act, while in this position, therefore I request you to relieve me from my duties.”

To Chief of Defence Force Major General Ali Shiyam:

Whereas Article 236 in Chapter 9 of the Republic of Maldives’ Constitution states the Maldivian security services, consisting of the Military Service and the Police Service, is established to enable all persons in the Maldives to live in peace, security and freedom,

Whereas Article 237 states the security services shall protect the nation’s sovereignty, maintain its territorial integrity defend the constitution and democratic institutions, maintain and enforce law and order, and render assistance in emergencies,

And whereas Article 238 states that the actions of the security services must be exercised in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and operate on the basis of accountability,

And whereas Article 111 states that if no candidate wins by over fifty percent of the votes in a presidential election, a run-off election must be held within twenty one days of the first election,

And whereas Article 142 states judges must comply with the constitution and the law,

On 7 September 2013, a presidential election was held as per Article 110 of the Constitution. The Elections Commission announced a second round of election on 28 September 2013 as per Article 111 of the constitution.

According to Article 111 of the constitution, a second round of election must be held within 21 days after the first election, and that date is 28 September 2013. We believe, given Article 8 of the Constitution states that the powers of the state shall be exercised in accordance with the constitution, and as 28 September 2013 is the last date on which the second round of the presidential elections can be held, the Supreme Court order to delay the election is one that creates dangers for the nation and its citizens and creates challenges from a national security point of view, and may impede the military from carrying out is constitutionally mandated duties.

As per Article 237 the security forces are mandated with defending democratic institutions, and maintaining and enforcing law and order.

Given the shifting national security atmosphere in the country, and as the Maldivian state’s independent institutions and the international community are repeatedly calling for all parties to respect the constitution, we believe any military act that violates constitutional rules and democratic norms, will destroy the sovereign state established in the Maldives, destroy law and order in the country, and allow for a military state to be established in the Maldives.

This is due to influential actors who may abuse the turmoil and constitutional void following the delay in presidential elections. We are concerned that the chain of command established in the military as per the laws will be lost, and will allow for the military to be used as a tool to hand over administration of the state to a certain group of people.

Article 245 states that no one is allowed to issue an illegal order to a member of the security services and that members of the security services should not obey such an order. Hence, due to orders issued in the above mentioned situation, this institution [military] may fall into a deep pit, and we fear that subordinate commanders and lower ranks may be legally locked into a dark cell and may be criminally charged at a later date.

Hence, we express grave concern, and appeal for this institution not to be propelled into a deep pit, and state that we will steadfastly remain with good military behavior and good order against any illegal order.

28 September 2013

Signed:

Brigadier General Shamal
Colonel Abdul Raheem
Brigadier General Ahmed Jihad
Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam
Colonel Hamid Shareef
Lt. Colonel Nasrulla Majdhee
Captain Abdul Muizz
Lt. Colonel Ibrahim Hilmee
Sergeant Major Hassan Fawaz
Sergeant Major Naushad Ali
First Lieutenant Abdulla Shareef
First Lieutenant Mutholib [unclear]
Sergeant Major [first name unclear] Vaseem
[name unclear]
[name unclear]
Captain Hassan Amir

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Protesters adopt new tactics during fifth night of calls for elections

Additional reporting by Leah Malone

Multiple arrests and pepper spraying marked the fifth consecutive night of protests on Tuesday evening, as supporters of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) demonstrated near the Supreme Court in Male’.

Both regular police officers and Special Operations branches of the Maldives Police Service (MPS) were present at yesterday’s demonstrations, as well as Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers who were manning barricades.

The Supreme Court has been the focus of protests after its order to indefinitely delay the second round of the presidential elections forced the Elections Commission (EC) to concede that the September 28 run-off could not go ahead.

Thirty female protesters gathered near the Supreme Court in the early evening and were met by Special Operations police in riot gear and MNDF officers. MDP MP Eva Abdulla and former Education Minister Shifa Mohamed were among those detained by police during the demonstration.

By 11:00pm approximately a thousand protesters had gathered near the FDI Station on Fareedhee Magu – the closest protesters can go to the Supreme Court building, as the area remains cordoned off by police and military forces.

Following a series of speeches by MDP MPs – including Eva Abdulla who was released from police custody in time to address the crowd – the demonstrators altered their strategy. Instead of remaining in a single location, the protesters divided their numbers between multiple locations on the north side of the capital.

Hundreds peacefully walked the back roads behind the Supreme Court calling for elections, and were met by MNDF officers in riot gear guarding the alleys leading to government buildings. A group of protesters were met by approximately 30 Special Operations police in riot gear near Republic Square, which prompted the crowd to continue their march.

After regrouping near the FDI building the protesters staged another march down Chandanee Magu, to Majeedhee Magu, and back up Orchid Magu – all main thoroughfares in the capital city. Groups of onlookers were seen gathered in front of private businesses and homes, some of whom joined the protest.

The seemingly spontaneous marches were to intended to disorient the smaller numbers of Special Operations police, an MDP activist and former government official told Minivan News during the demonstration.

Minivan News observed MNDF in riot gear blocking protesters from approaching government buildings, however they deferred to police once fresh squads arrived at the various intersections.

Standard police officer’s – ‘blues’ – were observers using pepper spray on protesters, while Special Operations officers sent in snatch teams to pluck people from the crowd once numbers had dwindled to around 400.

Although the police website reported 10 people arrested, Minivan News witnessed up to 20 people taken into police custody before the protest ended around 2:30am.

Picture by Ranreendhoo Maldives

Following criticism of police arrest procedures at the Parliamentary Privileges Subcommittee yesterday, the police today released a series of statements stating that strip-searching, testing for drugs and handcuffing were legal, and “not inhumane.”

The MDP has alleged arbitrary and frequent use of pepper spray, beating, strip-searching, frisking, handcuffing and drug tests of their supporters arrested at protests.

Arrests “not inhumane”

In a statement today, the police said they were authorised to frisk and strip-searches under Articles 32-36 of the the Police Powers Act. The articles state that police are authorised to frisk and carry out strip searches if the police have reasonable grounds to believe the detainee may hold an object to harm themselves or another, or an object for intoxication, or an object to commit an illegal object.

In a separate statement today, the police said that handcuffing is not an “inhumane act” saying the police are authorised under Article 57 of the police powers act to handcuff detainees while they are being transported.

The police said they are also authorised to ask for urine samples to do drug tests if there were reasonable grounds to suspect the detainee was intoxicated, even if the individual was not detained on suspicion of drug use.

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz meanwhile told the Parliamentary Privileges Committee that police could only carry out drug tests if the detainee was arrested for suspected drug abuse, or if police had reasonable grounds to suspect detainees arrested on different charges have used drugs.

Police carried out a drug test on Haveeru journalist during one of this week’s earlier protests, and requested a urine sample from MP Ali Azim.

Police also expressed concern about media taking photographs of the operations.

“Who is taking these photos? She’s snapping pictures of everything we do,” one SO officer objected to a colleague.

“Let her take photos, what can she do with them, right?” the second officer remarked.

“We should just take her in,” said a third.

The Supreme Court has yet to make a decision on Gasim Ibrahim’s bid to annul the first round of results after he placed third, despite the court concluding the hearings last week.

Earlier this week, court media officials offered assurances that the case was being worked on “around the clock”.

Speaking at a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) event on the island of Maafushi yesterday, presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen suggested that street protests would not influence the outcome.

“The Maldives will obey the rulings of the judicial courts. Street rulings will not work in the Maldives,” local media reported Yameen as saying.

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Police arrest MNDF officer accused of planning Dr Afrasheem’s murder

Additional reporting by Ahmed Nazeer, Neil Merrett and Mariyath Mohamed.

Police have arrested Azleef Rauf, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officer accused of planning the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali by suspect Hussein Humam, who yesterday (May 22) confessed to the crime after earlier denials.

Azleef was arrested as part of an ongoing investigation, however a police spokesperson who requested anonymity would not confirm if his detention was related to the murder of Dr Afrasheem.

Police confirmed a request had also been made for authorities to confiscate the passports of “some” individuals as part of its investigations, but would not reveal the identities or number of suspects facing travel bans.

Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali told Minivan News that Abdulla ‘Jaa’ Javid, Adam ‘Spy’ Solah and Shahin Mohamed were now facing travel bans, but added that their passports had not be confiscated.

The three individuals were on Wednesday accused by Humam of involvement in Afrasheem’s death.

Javid, son-in-law of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, was arrested by police in December 2012 in connection with the case, and was released 45 days later.

According to local media reports of the hearing in the Criminal Court yesterday, Humam alleged that the idea of killing Dr Afrasheem was given to him by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officer Azleef Rauf, whom he met at a baibalaa tournament in 2012.

Humam, the statement and the court hearing

Minivan News spoke to Criminal Court Media Official Ahmed Mohamed Manik regarding the sequence of the court hearing, which was widely reported by local media after the chief suspect confessed.

According to Manik, after the state presented evidence – which included bloodstained jeans forensically linked to Dr Afrasheem – Humam declared that he “did not have anything more to say.”

“The judge then inquired of him whether he was accepting the charges or denying them, to which Humam said that he confessed to having partaken in the planning and the execution of the murder,” stated Manik.

In an earlier hearing, Humam denied specifically murdering Dr Afrasheem, however he did confess in court to several other murders, stabbings and robberies.

During yesterday’s hearing, after the judge asked Humam to provide details, “he responded that he had already given a detailed statement previously,” said Manik.

“The judge again asked if Humam was referring to the statement he had given to the police, or the one he had given at a court hearing to which he was brought to extend his detention,” he said.

“Humam said it was the one given in the detention extension hearing. I am not sure which one of the detention extension hearings it was that he gave that statement in, whether it was the first one or some later one. Either way, the judge then asked the state prosecutors to read out the statement, as they had already submitted this among the evidence,” said Manik.

“Humam was not asked to read it as it was such a long statement and it would take too much time. Once the statement was read out, he confirmed that it was the one that he had given before,” Manik stated.

“Humam repeatedly insisted that he did not want a lawyer. He confessed to having participated in planning and carrying out the killing. He did not add details after the statement. He just confessed, confirmed the statement that was read out was the one he had given before, and repeatedly stated he did not want a lawyer.”

According to the statement read out in court, Humam was invited to coffee with Azleef, Javid and his brother ‘Jana’, during which Azleef allegedly said “I promise you will get MVR4 million if you murder Dr Afrasheem,” to which Javid’s brother ‘Jana’ replied “yes you will.”

According to the statement, he later met with Azleef and a person called ‘Spy’, and asked them why he had to attack Afrasheem. Their reply was that one of the reasons they had to attack Dr Afrasheem concerned remarks he had made the day former President Mohamed Nasheed controversially resigned.

Rauf and Javid were also previously detained by police over their alleged involvement in the case. Both were later released by the court.

Javid spent 45 days in detention in connection to the Afrasheem murder, after which time his lawyer argued his continued detention was unconstitutional given there was no evidence to support keeping him in custody.

On the day of Javid’s release (January 17), his brother Shahin Mohamed was arrested by police while he was waiting with the rest of Javid’s family outside the court. Mohamed was released from police custody three hours after he was detained.

An MDP activist Mariyam Naifa was also arrested several days following the murder, and was subsequently released. Her lawyer at the time said she was arrested in connection to intelligence received by police in the Afrasheem case.

Motive

The government and police have maintained that Dr Afrasheem’s death was politically motivated.

However, others have sought to ascribe religious motives to the killing,  as noted in the  US State Department’s 2012 report on religious freedom.

“One of the more prominent theories about his murder was that violent extremists viewed Afrasheem’s very public moderate approach to Islam as apostasy and killed him to send a message to moderate Muslims that a strict interpretation of Islam was the only acceptable approach. The case remained under investigation at year’s end, with one person charged in the murder,” the report noted.

Afrasheem was murdered outside his house shortly after appearing on a religious television program in which he insisted that he had never ever spoken of anything regarding religion which was not stated in the Quran or sayings of the Prophet (PBUH), 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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1IGDhGmKnVU

The scholar and MP was attacked several times in 2008, including being hit in the head with a stone on May 27 on his way home from work, and was assaulted after he finished Friday prayers as an Imam in the Ibrahim Mosque in January. His car window was smashed while he was driving through Male’ on March 18, 2012.

The murdered MP was also formerly Parliament’s member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), until he was replaced in mid-2011 by Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader, resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.

Immediately following Dr Afrasheem’s murder, President’s Office Press Secretary Masood Imad sent an SMS to foreign media outlets declaring that “Nasheed’s strongest critic Dr Afrasheem has been brutally murdered.”

Following Humam’s court appearance yesterday, Masood tweeted that the government was “concerned about the close  relationship of Mr Javid to former President [Mohamed Nasheed].

Government is concerned about the close relationship ofMr. Javid to former President @mohamednasheedwe are watching the case closely.

— Masood Imad (@MasoodImv) May 22, 2013

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb meanwhile tweeted following the hearing that he was “Shocked and Saddened by the news of the confession of Dr. Afrasheem murderer, confirming that he was brutally killed for a political reason”.

Shocked and Saddened by the news of the confession of Dr. Afrasheem murderer, confirming that he was brutally killed for a political reason

— Ahmed Adeeb (@Ahmed_Adeeb) May 22, 2013

Former Justice Minister, Home Minister at the time of Dr Afrasheem’s death and now the PPM’s vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel, tweeted: “Dr Afrasheem was assassinated for political purpose , says the suspect”.

Dr Afrasheem’s murderer reveals those behind this crime.The nation is shocked with this revelation , wonder will they say now! — Mohamed Jameel Ahmed (@MJameelAhmed) May 22, 2013

Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz has publicly 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.”

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed also disputed a religious motive in Afrasheem’s murder, telling local media that the Islamic Ministry had not forced the scholar 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 made by the murdered scholar. He said Afrasheem had asked for the opportunity on Monday’s (October 1. 2012) program, and so the previously arranged guests had been replaced with him.

Shaheem also said that Afrasheem had visited the Ministry of Islamic Affairs the same 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.

In May 2012, Shaheem’s Adhaalath Party put out a press release “condemning in the harshest terms” remarks made by two unnamed scholars in a lecture to police officers that the party contended “mocked” the Sunnah (way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the basis of the teachings and practices of Prophet Mohammed).

A police media official confirmed that the session was conducted by Dr Ibrahim Zakariyya Moosa and the late Dr Afrasheem.

“In his speech, Dr Afrasheem Ali mainly explained the importance of knowing how the Prophet’s Sunnah is ranked,” read the police news item.

MP Afrasheem argued that issues on which scholars have not been able to reach a consensus could not be declared either compulsory or heretical as “there cannot be a definite conclusion regarding such problems.”

However, according to Adhaalath Party, one of the scholars told police officers that there was no benefit to society from an individual wearing a beard “even if, for example, it was established from the Prophet’s Sunnah.”

“As some officers of the Maldives police institution wanted to wear beards, he attempted in his talk to convince them that there was no need to do something that was of no benefit to society,” the party said.

“Desperate attempt”: MDP

While unable to confirm if Javid or any other members of the party were among those whose passports had been confiscated, the former President’s MDP alleged the handling of the case by police was a “desperate attempt” by the government to frame the party and discredit it ahead of the presidential elections in September.

MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that the party was “totally shocked” at what he alleged were attempts to implicate its supporters in the murder of a “liberal religious scholar”.

“We believe this is very much related to trying to absolve religious fundamentalists of the crime,” he said.

Ghafoor claimed that the public were skeptical of the direction of the police investigation into Dr Afrasheem’s death, given that President Dr Mohamed Waheed had come to power in a “coup d’etat”.

“This coup administration has lost all credibility in the eyes of the public. No one believes their scaremongering,” he said.

“We are concerned at these attempts of election-time intimidation.”

Ghafoor claimed that the entire investigation into Dr Afrasheem’s murder was tainted by wide-scale public distrust in the police.

“They are trying to cover up the case desperately, and yet it is during their watch that we are seeing so many murders occurring,” he said.

Ghafoor added the MDP were awaiting developments in the police investigation, while preparing to host protests across the country on Saturday (May 25) raising concern about judicial bias and a lack of law and order.

Masood Imad rejected allegations the government was involved in the direction of investigations into the murder, claiming that the police and judiciary were dealing with the matter.

“We have continued to say that we will not interfere with the country’s judiciary,” he said. ” We are just sitting and watching how the case develops.”

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