A Maldives blogger who was murdered in April was killed by men who believed he was “mocking” Islam, the police have said.
The suspects believed Yameen Rasheed, 29 years, was “a man who mocked religion”, Ahmed Shameem, a senior policeman, told reporters on Wednesday.
“They decided that it’s not something they will tolerate, and that Yameen needed to be killed for that.”
Shameem insisted the murder was not part of an organised effort and said there was no political motive behind it.
The eight suspects were driven to murder because they “watched certain sermons by some international scholars”, he said, adding that the police condemned such killings.
The 29-year-old dissident blogger’s murder on April 23 shocked the Maldives, and renewed concern over the rise of conservative religious thought, and growing calls for violence against people branded by hardline religious groups as secular.
Some opposition politicians and human rights activists allege Yameen’s murder was part of a well-funded effort to silence people who speak out against hardline views.
Yameen was stabbed to death inside the doorway to his apartment building on April 23, almost three years after the abduction and disappearance of his close friend, Ahmed Rilwan, a journalist with the Maldives Independent journalist.
It came amid years of concern over young Maldivians joining the Islamic State and Al Qaeda linked groups in Syria and Iraq.
The government has dismissed reports of recruitment rings and downplayed the prevalence of violent religious ideas in the Maldives.
Shameem said police have found no evidence to suggest the attack was funded and organised by an outside group. However, he said the police “have information about people who fed them these ideas, or supported them in some form”.
That was being investigated separately, he said.
He condemned both violence in the name of Islam and mockery of Islam.
“If there are people who are indeed mocking Islam, whether those are Maldivians or people in Maldives, we condemn these actions … It is our duty to protect our religion in this country,” he said.
The police have not found any link between Yameen’s murder and Rilwan’s abduction, he added.
The police are seeking murder charges against three of the suspects, an offence that carries the death penalty.
The three suspects were identified as Ismail Haisham Rasheed, Ahmed Zihan Ismail and Ismail Rasheed. They were lying in wait in the stairwell to his apartment in the early hours of the morning, the police said.
Earlier in the night, they had turned off the light in the stairwell and turned the security cameras so that they faced away from the crime scene.
Haisham and Zihan attacked Yameen as he entered the door and pressed the button for the elevator. Ismail Rasheed kept watch outside.
The attack was caught on a camera inside the elevator, the police said.
Two others were waiting for Yameen outside his office building and followed him, the police said.
Seven of the eight remain in police custody. The other was being held under house arrest.
They were identified as Mohamed Dhifraan, Hassan Shifaz, Ahmed Nasooh Abdulla, Mohamed Yashfau Rasheed and Hussain Ziyad.