Police release two suspects in Afrasheem murder case

Police have released one man and a minor arrested in connection with the murder of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP and religious scholar Dr Afrasheem Ali.

Local newspapers have identified the man released as Ali Hashim ‘Smith’. Minivan News understands that a 17 year old boy was also  released last week, on condition that he not talk about the police investigation or face rearrest.

The Criminal Court extended the pretrial detention period of the suspects arrested in the Dr Afrasheem’s murder case.

Afrasheem was killed on October 1. His wife discovered the body lying on the staircase of their home.

Immediately prior to his murder Afrasheem had made his last public appearance on a live talkshow on TVM titled “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Living).

In his last 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 was quoted in local media as saying that the Islamic Ministry had not forced Afrasheem to offer a public apology for anything during his last television appearance and disputed that there was any religious motivation in the death of the moderate scholar.

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has sought assistance from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Singaporean police to analyse 200 items collected as evidence during the ongoing investigation.

Evidence gathered so far includes recordings of phone conversations, forensic samples and over 300 hours of CCTV footage, which were being analysed at the police forensic laboratory with the help of foreign experts.

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed has publicly alleged that the people behind the MP’s murder have fled the country.

He made the remarks during a rally held in Haa Dhaal Atoll Vaikaradhoo Island in Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s ongoing campaign trip ‘Vaudhuge Dhathuru’ (Journey of Pledges).

Nasheed said that two foreign intelligence agencies had informed him that the murder of Afrasheem was related to an incident that took place in a neighboring country and that the culprits had fled to a Middle Eastern nation after murdering the Maldivian MP.

“According to information I received, the person who murdered Dr Afrasheem fled the country on the same night the murder took place. This murder is related to an incident that took place in a neighboring country. This is an international issue. I was informed of this by the intelligence agencies of two friendly states,” he said.

Nasheed expressed his disappointment over the senior officials of the current government, including cabinet ministers, who had politicised the case, accusing the MDP of murdering the MP for political gain.

Despite the allegations, Nasheed contended that his party would neither commit such a gruesome act nor use it for political gain. He also said that despite all the false allegations, the party had won twice the number of votes it did in 2009, during the recently held by-election to elect a parliamentarian to the vacant seat.

After rigorous campaigning, PPM candidate Ibrahim Ameen won the by-election 1159 votes in polling held on the islands of Ungoofaaru, Hulhuduffaaru, and Maakurathu, all in Raa Atoll, as well as a special polling station in Male’. He defeated MDP candidate Dr Ahmed Ashraf who had 1078 votes.

The former president meanwhile also alleged that the police were trying to force out a confession from those currently under arrested in connection with the murder. This confession, he said, would be used to hold trials against the suspects to cover up the real case. Nasheed said the suspects should not be tried on confessions extracted in such a manner.

“Trial should not be held based on confessions. I urge the police to properly investigate the case. But even as I say this, I know that [Commissioner of Police] Abdulla Riyaz does not have the capacity to do this. That is because he is busy defending this government that was brought in through a coup, instead of being concerned for the general well being of the public,” he said.

“Highly concerning” – Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed

Meanwhile, Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed expressed concern over Nasheed’s remarks and said his statements “needed to be included in the investigation”.

Speaking to local newspaper Haveeru, Jameel claimed that Nasheed had been speaking about the murder differently in every island he had been visiting.  The Home Minister said that he felt that public remarks made on a case that is being investigated should be considered a criminal offence that needed to be addressed.

“From the day Afrasheem was murdered, the remarks made by Nasheed have been highly concerning. It is not a good thing for politicians to use the case for political influence. One should always consider the fact that it may involve a hidden motive,” he said.

“This not a practice that would be accepted anywhere in the world,” he added.

Jameel affirmed that Nasheed’s remarks which he claimed to have been following information from foreign intelligence agencies would be included in the murder investigations.  Jameel also called on him not to make  emarks that would hinder the ongoing murder investigations.