Two men whose photos were released to the public are among seven suspects in custody in connection with the murder of liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed, the police have said.
The pair was caught on security camera footage “entering and exiting the scene of the crime after brutally stabbing Mr Yameen Rasheed,” the police said in a statement Monday.
Until now, the police have refused to say whether the two men whose grainy photos were shared with the public were among six suspects arrested on May 2nd, 3rd and 8th.
The police claimed to have identified the two prime suspects from security camera footage two days after the 29-year-old writer and IT professional was found with 35 stab wounds in the stairwell of his apartment building in Malé.
But police officers later told Yameen’s family that the identity of the suspects remains unknown because they wore disguises, drawing heavy criticism from the public and raising questions about the credibility of the police probe.
In its statement today, the police reiterated confidence of successfully concluding the investigation “following the significant advancements” and assured the public that the police’s “commitment to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice has never faltered”.
Superintendent Ahmed Shifan told the Maldives Independent that the police hope to be able to send cases for prosecution soon.
On Sunday night, Ali Shah, a criminal defence lawyer, was also arrested on charges of obstructing the murder investigation. An informed source said Shah was representing one of the six suspects in custody.
The first suspect, who was arrested on May 2, lived near Yameen’s home and was reportedly tailing him on the night of the murder. According to local media, the second suspect works at a government-owned company.
Details of the other suspects have not been disclosed to the media.
Despite the arrests, 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.
The family have also sued the police over the failure to protect Yameen despite numerous death threats reported since 2014. Last week, the family petitioned the UN human rights chief to press the Maldivian authorities to allow an independent investigation led by an international group.
The family has also launched a fundraising drive to help finance advocacy efforts.
Meanwhile on Sunday night, members of the Maldivian community in Melbourne, Australia met for a memorial event for Yameen and Rilwan.
“The meeting aimed to honour the memory of the two young activists and bloggers who bravely stood up against injustice and human rights violations in the Maldives, and in doing so, paid for it with their lives,” they said in a press release.
The group discussed how Maldivians living abroad could support the campaign calling for an independent investigation into Yameen’s murder and Rilwan’s abduction.
More than 17 signatures were also collected for petitions to be submitted to the parliament and the human rights watchdog.
“Poetry of mourning from Yameen and Rilwan’s family and friends were also featured at the event, while t-shirts were printed using designs from #WeareYameen and #FindMoyaMeehaa movements to stand in solidarity with them,” the press release stated.
“Videos were also shown to highlight the contributions made by Yameen and the deep loss felt by his family, friends and the youth of Maldives in his passing. The group made a commitment to further raise awareness and bring global attention to the current failures of the Maldivian Government, Police and other state institutions in protecting its citizens, upholding the rule of law and curbing the growth of radical Islamists in the Maldives.”
The meeting was “the first step in mobilising action in Australia to provide impetus to the campaign back in the Maldives.”
A similar meeting is also due to take place in New York, the United States.
Last Tuesday, shortly after three UN rights experts called for a public inquiry into Yameen’s murder, the foreign ministry put out a statement reiterating the government and President Abdulla Yameen’s strong condemnation.
“The government has mobilised all of its resources to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice,” it assured.
The police addressed two complaints filed by Yameen about receiving death threats, the foreign ministry claimed, adding that the human rights watchdog have launched an inquiry into the police response.
“The government of Maldives takes note of the interests that other governments and international agencies express on the case,” the statement continued, assuring that the police accords “utmost priority” to the case.