A criminal defence lawyer arrested on charges of obstructing the investigation into the brutal murder of liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed has been released.
Ali Shah was arrested on the night of May 14 with a court warrant. Two days later, he was transferred by the criminal court to five days under house arrest.
He was reportedly granted a conditional release by the criminal court Saturday when he was brought to a remand hearing. Details of the conditions remain unclear.
An informed source previously told the Maldives Independent that Shah was representing one of the six suspects arrested in connection with the murder.
“In cases where lawyers are acting in a way that threatens the investigation, the usual procedure is for the police to file a complaint with the supreme court,” the source said.
“The court will then initiate a disciplinary case and take action against the lawyer, such as suspension.”
Shah, who has represented clients accused of murder and other serious criminal offences, was suspended by the supreme court in 2015. But the suspension was later lifted.
Despite the arrest of six suspects – including two men believed to have committed the murder – Yameen’s family have questioned the ability of the police to conduct an impartial and credible investigation, citing the failure to investigate death threats or arrest suspects in the abduction of Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan and the near-fatal attack on blogger Hilath Rasheed.
Despite claiming to have identified the two prime suspects from security camera footage, the police have yet to forward cases for prosecution nearly a month after the 29-year-old was found with 35 stab wounds in the stairwell of his apartment building in Malé.
The family have also sued the police over the failure to protect Yameen despite numerous death threats reported since 2014. The family have petitioned the UN human rights chief to press the Maldivian authorities to allow an independent investigation led by an international group.
During the weekend, Yameen’s father, Hussain Rasheed, 54, travelled to New Delhi, India to brief the press and reiterate the family’s call for foreign involvement in the murder probe.
Rasheed appealed for help from the Indian government. “It is in your vicinity that radicalisation is happening. We need your help. Help us ensure an impartial investigation into my son’s case,” he was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.
“The gangsters did not have any enmity with my son. They probably got a contract to kill Yameen from those who had been threatening him for years,” he told The Hindu.
Last week, Husnu Suood, a prominent lawyer representing the family in the civil lawsuit, was questioned by the police over statements made at a press conference earlier this month.
After his summons, Suood told the press outside the police headquarters that he was accused of obstructing police duty and questioned about an allegation made against a police officer.
“I told officers that I said so according to Yameen’s father upon his request. They asked me to sign a statement to that effect,” he said.
After Yameen’s father was handed back more than 800 letters calling for a credible investigation on May 2, Suood told reporters that “an officer named Hassan Hameed said that they do not see that this is something that the Maldivian people need to be so concerned about.”
The police refused to accept the petitions and informed Yameen’s father Hussain Rasheed that each letter must be submitted by the individual who signed it. He was also told that the police need to know a return address.
Suood, a former attorney general, told reporters after last Tuesday’s police summons that his remarks did not constitute obstruction.
“I do not believe that saying something referring to someone else is obstructing police duty,” he said.