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Maldivian ‘terrorist leaders’ face criminal charges

Charges sought against alleged leaders of al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates.



The police and presidential commission on deaths and disappearances have sought charges against the alleged leaders of local groups affiliated with terrorist organisations al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

Cases have been forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s office to press terrorism charges against Mohamed Ameen, police said on Tuesday. The first Maldivian to be designated a “terrorist leader” by the United States, the 35-year-old was arrested in October over the alleged recruitment of jihadi fighters.

According to police, Ameen was suspected of “aiding, abetting and being actively involved in large-scale efforts to recruit and send Maldivians to fight in wars for terrorist, militant organisations”; “providing financial and technological support to foreign terrorist organisations”; “maintaining close relationships with leaders of foreign terrorist organisations”; and “being an active leader in carrying forward the activities of foreign terrorist organisations.”

In September, the presidential commission named Ameen as the leader of a Maldivian group affiliated with IS. A secret witness told the commission that the IS affiliate was formed after in the wake of a split among local extremists after Abubakr al-Baghdadi declared the so-called Islamic State in 2014. One group pledged their allegiance to the rival al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, the inquiry commission found.

Earlier on Tuesday, the commission sought charges against Mohamed Mazeed and Somith Mohamed, the alleged leaders of the al-Qaeda affiliate. The pair is accused of masterminding the murders of lawmaker Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012, journalist Ahmed Rilwan in August 2014 and blogger Yameen Rasheed in April 2017.  

The announcement came after Home Minister Sheikh Imran Abdulla told parliament last week that the presidential commission has not sought the arrest or prosecution of any suspects in relation to its findings over Afrasheem and Rilwan’s murder.

But Husnu Suood, the commission’s chair, dismissed criticism that the report into Afrasheem’s murder was incomplete.

“The commission report has clearly identified that a religious extremist organisation planned the killing of Dr Afrasheem Ali, why they were motivated to do it and that they placed the task to a criminal gang associated with the group.” he tweeted last week.

“The leaders of the extremist [group] is also clear beyond any reasonable doubt based on statements from three witnesses and information gathered by police and [the National Counter Terrorism Centre]. So there is no room to say the commission’s report is incomplete.”

The commission previously revealed that the same jihadi group was behind the Sultan park bombing and violent confrontation with the security forces in late 2007 as well as the attempted murder of blogger Ismail Khilath Rasheed in June 2012.

On Wednesday, the commission asked the Prosecutor General’s office to press perjury and obstruction of justice charges against former Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed.

Shaheem, former president Abdulla Yameen’s running mate in last year’s election, was accused of lying about how Afrasheem came to appear on state TV on the night he was murdered. 

Hours before he was brutally stabbed to death in the stairwell of his apartment building, the ruling party lawmaker – who had been barred from appearing on religious talk shows for almost three years – appeared on the Islaamee Dhiriulhun programme coordinated by the Islamic ministry and apologised for “misunderstandings” over some of his views.

According to the commission’s report, text messages between Shaheem and Dr Afrasheem undermined the former’s written statement. 

Shaheem received a text message before the murder that suggested the unknown senders would “love Afrasheem if he repents and announces on the media.” He forwarded the text to Afrasheem three weeks before he was murdered.

But he claimed not to recall the identity of the person who sent the message.

“Dr Afrasheem Ali’s murder is not connected to me in any way. The purpose of these charges is to obstruct my work and destroy my political future. I ask Allah for mercy,” Shaheem tweeted after the commission’s announcement on Wednesday. “I am shocked that my reputation is being slaughtered, linked with something that has nothing to do with me and sent to press criminal charges against me. I ask the PG office to not allow political prosecutions,” he added.

Shaheem lives and works in Saudi Arabia as an advisor to the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Dr Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen. In October, he announced plans to return to the Maldives and work with the opposition coalition.