Police seek charges against Yameen Rasheed murder suspects

Police seek charges against Yameen Rasheed murder suspects
July 23 12:55 2017

The police wrapped up a three-month-long investigation into the murder of liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed and forwarded cases for prosecution last Thursday.

Ahmed Thaufeeq, the Prosecutor General’s office spokesman, told the Maldives Independent that the police are seeking charges against eight suspects.

“We can only determine which suspects or how many suspects will be charged after reviewing the case. We will complete research of the case as per the period allowed in the criminal procedure code,” he said.

The new criminal procedures law, which came into force earlier this month, requires the PG office to make a decision to prosecute within 30 days of submission of cases by the police.

Yameen Rasheed, a 29-year-old human rights defender, satirist and IT professional, was found with 35 stab wounds in the stairwell of his apartment building in the early hours of April 23.

Suspects were arrested a week later. In mid-June, the police revealed that Ismail Rasheed, 25, Ismail Haisham Rasheed, 21, and Ahmed Zihan Ismail, 22, were identified as the prime suspects who committed the murder with “substantial evidence for prosecution.”

The identities of the other five suspects remain unclear.

In addition to seven suspects arrested in connection with the murder, a lawyer representing one of the suspects was briefly detained on charges of obstructing the investigation.

Yameen’s family meanwhile welcomed the progress in the investigation but urged the police to reveal their motive for committing the murder. The family previously questioned the ability of the police to conduct an impartial and credible investigation due to the failure to arrest suspects in the abduction of Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan and the near-fatal attack on blogger Hilath Rasheed.

Like Yameen, both Rilwan and Hilath were prominent liberal voices against radicalisation.

Shortly before the arrest of the first suspects in early May, Yameen’s family also sued the police over the failure to protect him despite numerous death threats reported since 2014.

On July 11, the civil court denied a request by the police to conduct the trial with closed hearings. “The court ruled to have an open trial. Meaning that the hearings, statements and documents will not be confidential,” the family’s lawyer Husnu Suood said.

However, the next hearing on July 17 was cancelled without prior notice. Suood said a court official informed him that the judge has asked the National Integrity Commission to look into alleged negligence by the police.

The judge will decide whether to proceed with the lawsuit based on the response from the police watchdog body, the official said.

“Any action from the civil court should not be subject to an administrative body,” Suood said.

“The question is whether the court will even look into the case if the NIC says that they found no negligence. We do not know if the commission will respond or how long it will take them to respond.”

The local branch of Transparency International meanwhile dedicated its human rights newsletter to Yameen Rasheed in late May. 

The third edition of its quarterly digest included poems, articles and other pieces of writing by Yameen’s family, friends and colleagues as well as a selection of posts from Yameen’s popular blog.

“We would like to further carry Yameen’s messages and not let his voice be erased. It was very challenging and emotionally hard to select content amongst Yameen’s writings, they were all so brilliant,” said TM’s Executive Director Mariyam Shiuna.

“If you ever get to meet a human rights hero you’re very lucky. In recent history and in the future generations Yameen Rasheed is one of such advocates,” she said.