Court releases opposition MDP activist Naifa with conditions

The Criminal Court has released Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activist Mariyam Naifa, who was arrested in connection with the brutal murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

Naifa, who was presented to court along with two other suspects, was given a conditional release while the detention of the latter two was extended another 15 days.

Local media identified the pair as Ali ‘Smith’ Hashim and Hassan Humaam, however the authorities declined to officially confirm the identities.

Conditions imposed by the Criminal Court on Naifa’s release include a travel ban restricting her from leaving the capital Male’, an order not to talk about the questions posed to her during the police investigation, and a requirement that she cooperate with the ongoing police investigation.

All the detainees were brought to court with their faces covered to conceal their identity from the media.

When the detainees were brought to court, minor confrontations and verbal arguments took place between a group of MDP supporters gathered near the court building and the police cordoning the area, but the gathering was largely peaceful.

Speaking to Minivan News, a family member of Naifa, Aishath Jennifer, said that they were extremely surprised to hear about her arrest especially in relation with such a “heinous crime”.

“We did not at all know what was going on initially. A friend who was with her at the café where she was arrested called and told me that police had taken Naifa into custody. The whole family was very surprised to learn about the arrest, especially in connection with such a heinous crime,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer also claimed that she and Naifa had met the night she was arrested and said she did not have a clue about what happened with the murder, or why police had decided she was connected to it.

“We used to hang out together all the time. After the change of government on February 7, we regularly meet in Usfasgandu. Even the night she was taken into police custody, we met earlier. She did not even give a slight hint or impression about such a thing. Since we are so close, if she was up to something, we would have had at least had a clue or a hint. But we didn’t,” she said.

Speaking about the arrest, Jennifer claimed the police did not give Naifa the chance to read the court warrant before she was taken into the police jeep.

“She only got to know the reason for her arrest when they took her into the jeep,” she added.

Jennifer also said that Naifa was initially not allowed to contact her family and was barred from her right to an attorney.

She also said she doubted the grounds for her sister’s arrest and contended that police did not have any reason for taking her into custody, alleging her arrest was “politically motivated”.

“People know her because of her involvement in MDP rallies. Before that, she was not publicly as well known as she is today. During both court hearings she was presented, neither the police nor the judges were able to inform her of any evidence that police produced against her. They said that it was highly confidential,” Jennifer explained.

“How come they did not reveal the evidence or the details about the charges she was arrested? I think the court had to place conditions on her release because they did a really stupid thing – arrest her in the first place. She is now being barred from her right to freedom of expression because they know that without such a condition, she would definitely talk about it,” she continued.

“This arrest can’t have anything other than political motivation behind it. They know she is an MDP activist and vocal critic of the current government. They would not have noticed her if not for her political identity. This is definitely a politically-motivated arrest,” Jennifer concluded.

Naifa, who is an supporter of former President Mohamed Nasheed and a regular attendee at protests and rallies organised by the MDP, was arrested on October 2 while she was in a local café Dolphin Café’.

According to Naifa’s lawyers, the arrest was made following intelligence received by police in the murder case of MP Afrasheem.

She was later brought before court and her detention was extended to 15 days.

The MDP in a press statement condemned the arrest of Naifa claiming that the arrest was politically motivated and a deliberate attempt by the government of President Waheed Hassan to “instill fear among its supporters.”

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed said the arrest gave the opportunity for the real culprits to escape from the law, as the arrest implied that the government was more focused on destroying its political rivals.

Police denied claims the arrests were made based on political affiliation and declined to officially reveal the identities of the detained, claiming that it could hinder the investigation.

On October 3, just a day after Naifa’s arrest, police conducted a search of the MDP’s protest camp at Usfasgandu.

Police did not confirm if the search of the site with metal detectors was related to the murder of Dr Afrasheem.

However MDP MP Eva Abdulla, who was at the site when police arrived, claimed an officer had informed her that the area was being searched in connection with the Afrasheem homicide case.

Several MDP supporters celebrated Naifa’s release on social media, including Twitter and Facebook.

In one of the tweets, former MP and Chair of the Drafting Committee of the Constitutional Assembly Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail wrote: “Welcome back Nai. We must now seek compensation for your ordeal. Even courts do not have the power to detain [people] arbitrarily.”

“This is a victory. They just tried their best to frame our gal and failed miserably,” another supporter tweeted.