The police have arrested former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s military bodyguard on suspicion of involvement in the September 28 blast on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat.
Ali Asif, who was only released from administrative detention at the military barracks last month, was taken into custody last night. A police spokesperson confirmed the arrest, but declined to say whether he was Adeeb’s bodyguard.
Despite contradictory findings from foreign forensic experts, the government insists a bomb targeting the president caused the explosion on the ‘Finifenma’ speedboat. Yameen escaped unhurt, but First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim was hospitalised with spine injuries.
Several suspects, including the impeached vice president and three other soldiers, were arrested in October in connection to the alleged assassination attempt.
However, the state has yet to press charges against any of the suspects, most of whom are now being held on other charges with the criminal court periodically extending their remand detention.
Adeeb and the former managing director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, Abdulla Ziyath, have been charged with corruption over missing funds from resort leases. Tens of millions of dollars paid to lease uninhabited islands for resort development are thought to be missing.
A second hearing in the corruption trial has been scheduled for 10:00am tomorrow. The former vice president has also been charged with terrorism over the alleged possession of a pistol.
Hamid Ismail, an influential businessman related to Adeeb who was extradited from Malaysia in October on suspicion of links to the boat blast, was meanwhile transferred to house arrest earlier this week.
He was charged with money laundering in December. The criminal court released Hamid to house arrest after extending his pre-trial detention six times.
The police have also forwarded charges against Ahmed Ashraf, a social media activist known as Shumba Gong and a close associate of Adeeb, for prosecution last week.
A reliable source told The Maldives Independent that although Ashraf was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the boat blast, the 18-year-old was interrogated on a charge of threatening Ahmed Zahid, a council member of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives.
He is among eight suspects the government has declared a hunt for over the blast. All eight are Adeeb’s close associates.
On January 4, the criminal court also extended the pre-trial detention of three soldiers from the military’s Explosives Ordinance Disposal unit, who were the first suspects in connection with the boat blast.
Ahmed Jawaz, Sergeant Moosa Zameer and Lieutenant Ahmed Thiham have been in police custody since October.
Colonel Ahmed Fayaz ‘Papa,’ the former head of the military’s special protection group as well as the EOD unit and the armoury, has meanwhile been held in administrative detention at military barracks since early October.
Local media has reported Fayaz’s family as saying that the military refused to allow him to attend his grandfather’s funeral yesterday.
The family was informed that Fayaz is under investigation by the military police.
Fayaz’s lawyer Mahfooz Saeed has petitioned the prosecutor general to ask the criminal court to rule on the legality of his detention. After repeated requests to meet his client were turned down. Mahfooz also alleged that Fayaz is being questioned regarding criminal allegations against him, without legal counsel.
Other suspects in custody include three unnamed Maldivian men accused of hiring a Sri Lankan sniper to assassinate the president.
Four other unidentified suspects are also in custody in connection to the discovery of an improvised explosive device near the presidential palace in early November. Their remand detention was extended for a fifth time earlier this month.
A couple were meanwhile arrested in November during raids for weapons and explosives in Malé.
Inthif Rauf’s – brother of Azlif Rauf, a suspect in the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in October 2012 – was transferred to house last week until the conclusion of the trial. His wife was released in December.
At the first hearing of his trial last Thursday, Inthif pleaded not guilty and requested access to the prosecution’s evidence and case documents to prepare his defence.