Just one of 18 individuals arrested in the torching of opposition-aligned Raajje TV has been charged, according to the Prosecutor General’s Office.
A media official told The Maldives Independent that the evidence gathered was too weak to charge the rest of the suspects.
CCTV footage of the attack on October 7 2013, shows six masked men armed with machetes and iron rods breaking through a reinforced steel grill and a second wooden door before dousing the station’s control room and lobby with petrol.
The ensuing fire destroyed the station’s offices, control room, computer system, and broadcasting and transmission equipment. The torching of the station occurred in the middle of presidential polls.
Defectors from the ruling coalition have accused Vice President Ahmed Adeeb of ordering the attack. Adeeb, who was tourism minister at the time, denies this.
Local media have identified the man who was charged as Mohamed Meead. He was jailed in late 2013 for drug trafficking. Sun Online says police found burn marks on his right arm.
“We are currently checking if there is a way to charge other suspects in the case. Discussions are underway to avoid prosecuting suspects with minor involvement and use them as witnesses to testify against others” the PG office’s media official said.
Meead was sentenced in 2013 along with alleged drug kingpin Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzak on drug trafficking charges. The high court acquitted Shafaz last year, citing insufficient evidence.
Shafaz is a close associate of ruling party MP Ibrahim Sujau. The pair were recently pictured at the Maafushi Jail receiving a third man, sentenced over the same drug bust, but pardoned by President Abdulla Yameen.
Hussein Fiyaz Moosa, Raajje TV’s Chief Operating Officer, told The Maldives Independent that he has no hope of obtaining justice as “it is quite common for the courts to free suspects citing a lack of sufficent evidence.”
He added: “The incredibly slow progress in a case that has cost this station MVR 11.6 million in damages, proves either that it is influenced by key political figures or that the police did not even attempt to collect enough evidence against the suspects. Justice should not be reserved for people who support the government.”
An inquiry by a police watchdog found Raajje TV staff had asked for police protection when they learned of the imminent attack, but police officers had failed to respond. The now-defunct Police Integrity Commission had recommended pressing criminal charges against two policemen.
Further footage of the attack shows an additional six masked men breaking and entering the building located next to the BKT Builing where Raajje TV’s offices were located. Raajje TV has said it believes the six men were attempting to find the station’s second studio.
The Maldives has plummeted on the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index during the past four years. In 2014, The Maldives Independent’s Ahmed Rilwan disappeared, but there has been very little progress in the investigation.
A trial over a near-fatal attack on journalist Asward Ibrahim Waheed remains stalled at the criminal court.
Meanwhile, charges were never filed against a man who vandalized The Maldives Independent’s security cameras last year.
Wednesday roundup: Chief justice challenges watchdog inquiry
News in brief: Single-parent allowance and tenants rights
Tuesday roundup: anti-corruption watchdog probes compensation payouts
News in brief: EPA rescues tied-up turtle
Monday roundup: economic growth and sacking of broadcasting commissioner
Warehouse fire in Maldives capital claims one life
Maldives coral reefs show signs of resilience and recovery
Minivan Brief: Weaponised Islam and #MvTreeGrab
Audit exposes corruption at National Center for Information Technology
More than 400 people displaced in Malé warehouse fire
Crime1 month ago
Immigration stopped 11 ‘imposters’ with fake passports
Crime3 months ago
Charges raised over street harassment for first time in Maldives
Crime3 months ago
Ex-vice president detained in India after fleeing Maldives
Politics2 months ago
‘Terrorist group’ behind Rilwan’s abduction
Society & Culture2 months ago
Five dead in tragic accident at sea
Politics2 months ago
Maldives backs India’s ‘right to amend laws as required’
Business & Tourism3 months ago
India becomes second largest market for Maldives tourism
Crime2 months ago
Rilwan killed by Maldives group linked to al-Qaeda, presidential commission reveals