“Not the right time” to reveal the details of MP Afrasheem’s murder, says Police Commissioner

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has stated that the Maldives Police Service (MPS) believes it is “not the right time” to reveal the details behind the brutal murder of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Afrasheem Ali.

In an interview given to local newspaper Haveeru this Sunday, the commissioner said that police would disclose the information only when it gained full “confidence” in the case and said investigations were still being carried out.

Riyaz claimed that the case was “high profile” and therefore a lot of things needed to be confirmed and validated before details were disclosed to the public.

“The investigation is going very well, and so far very successfully indeed. I will reveal the details of the case to the public. But I am not going to say it will happen on a specific date,” he said.

High profile murder

MP Afrasheem was brutally stabbed to death on the night of October 1 , outside his home.

The MP who was a renowned religious scholar in the country, known for moderate views towards Islam – was found murdered after returning from an appearance on the “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Life) programme broadcast on state television. He had appeared on the show alongside Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Qubad Aboobakuru.

The local media reports suggested that the MP was stabbed four times in the back of the head and a chunk of his skull was missing, and that he had also suffered stab wounds to the chest and neck. The MP was rushed to ADK hospital where he was pronounced dead.

He was was buried shortly before 5:00pm the following day at Asahara cemetery in Male’.

Thousands gathered for the funeral prayers which took place at the Islamic Center. The prayers were led by former President and leader of Afrasheem’s party, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Initially, four suspects were arrested by police in connection to the murder and the Criminal Court extended the detention period of the arrestees for an additional 15 days.

However, a female suspect arrested – Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activist Mariyam Naifa – was given a conditional release on October 21 while the detention of the remaining two suspects were extended for another 15 days.

Another suspect was also arrested later in November, after police claimed he was wearing the same colored shirt as someone caught on CCTV footage near the area where Afrasheem was murdered.

Police at the time stated that two US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials were providing “technical consultancy” in investigating the murder of the MP.

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 dismissed the claims stating that they were “not arresting people based on their political affiliations.”

“Anybody who has compassion and magnanimity will not compete for Afrasheem’s seat” – Home Minister

Following the murder, Elections Commission (EC) announced that the by-election for MP Afrasheem’s seat would be held on December 1. Following the announcement, three candidates announced their candidacy to contest the elections.

The candidates included Afrasheem’s brother Ibrahim Ameem from PPM, Dr Ahmed Ashraf from the MDP, who lost to Dr Afrasheem in the previous parliamentary election in 2008, and an independent candidate.

Both the PPM and MDP have been vigorously campaigning for the seat while President Mohamed Waheed Hassan and Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed were also seen frequently visiting the island and making speeches in favor of the government-aligned PPM candidate.

During an official visit to the island, President Waheed claimed that his administration had achieved a lot of development on the murder case of Afrasheem while in a more recent trip, Home Minister Jameel expressed concerns relating the death of the MP to MDP.

Speaking at a function held on Meedhoo in Raa Atoll island on Sunday, Jameel stated that he was “highly concerned” over the remarks made by the senior figures of MDP, including former President Mohamed Nasheed,which he claimed undermined the credibility of the forensic evidence that the police already had.

“I am deeply concerned over what we have found out from the investigation so far. [I believe] in this country, everybody should be responsible for their actions,” he said.

The minister further added that it was the MDP that criticised the statements made by the government-aligned parties in the defense of MP Afrasheem Ali while he was alive, and said it surprised him when the MDP all of a sudden became so concerned about the murder.

He called on the people of the Ungoofaaru Constituency that they should hand over the parliamentary seat of the constituency to the family of deceased MP Afrasheem Ali, as he was the PPM candidate for the seat.

“We’ve got to take back the seat where it was. There are a lot of reasons for us to act in that manner,” he said.

“Anybody who has compassion and magnanimity will not compete for that seat,” the Home Minister added.

“Politicising MP Afrasheem’s murder” – former President Mohamed Nasheed

The remarks made by President Waheed and Home Minister Jameel were met by severe criticism by the opposition MDP.

In a tweet, former President Mohamed Nasheed claimed that the senior officials of the current government including President Waheed were making political statements over the death and claiming that their remarks lack the backing of sufficient evidence.

Nasheed vowed that if elected, he would find the real murderers of MP Afrasheem Ali, and said he had repeatedly called on the police to reveal the truth about the case instead of utilising it for political gain.

In a statement released by his office, Nasheed expressed concern over the government’s actions to politicise the “tragic murder”. He claimed that politicisation of the case “may leave the real murderers free to re-commit such crimes”.

The statement also expressed concerns over the remarks made by the police commissioner over the case.

“The office is deeply concerned over the fact that just six days before the b-yelections are to take place for the seat vacated following Dr Afrasheems murder, the government and the Maldives Police Service claim they have found Dr Afrasheem’s murderer,” read the statement.

However the Police Commissioner denied the claims stating that under his watch, he would make sure all the details presented to the courts as well as the public were free from political influence.

So far, police have yet to reveal any substantial details of the case. Police have previously arranged a press conference but canceled it at the last minute.


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.