Amnesty International has called on the Maldivian authorities to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into the “brutal stabbing in broad daylight” of lawyer Mahfooz Saeed in Malé yesterday.
The international human rights organisation said in a statement on Friday night that the “police must undertake a full, impartial and independent investigation, using all available information including any footage from nearby CCTV cameras.”
Mahfooz, a member of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team as well as the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) legal committee, was stabbed in the head by two men on motorbikes around 5:00pm. He was rushed to hospital with the knife still buried in the left side of his head.
The 26-year-old underwent surgery at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital to remove the knife lodged three and a half inches deep above his left ear. The three-hour procedure was successful and Mahfooz is expected to recover in a week as his eyesight and brain functions were not affected.
A graphic image of Mahfooz at the hospital with the knife in his head has been circulating on social media.
“This vicious attack must not go unpunished – Maldives authorities must ensure that human rights defenders can work free from fear of reprisals and that those responsible are held to account. There are strong suspicions that this was a targeted attack against Mahfooz Saeed and it is crucial that the true motive is uncovered,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives researcher.
“Political tensions in Maldives are running high, and there is a climate of fear spreading among opposition supporters and human rights defenders, as the human rights situation has deteriorated over the past two years. Maldivian authorities must send a clear message that these attacks are not tolerated – impunity will only foster intimidation and violence.”
The police have said that an investigation is underway, but no arrests have been made yet.
The stabbing comes days before Nasheed’s high-profile international lawyers, Jared Genser and Amal Clooney, are due to arrive in the Maldives to visit the opposition leader in jail.
Shortly after the stabbing, several opposition MPs received death threats via text message, saying they will be killed “like Mahfooz” if they do not vote against new government-sponsored anti-terrorism legislation currently before parliament.
— Imthiyaz Fahmy (@Imthiyazfahmy) September 4, 2015
The MDP meanwhile condemned the “murder attempt” in a statement last night and called on the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The party believes the life-threatening attack was “planned in advance,” the MDP said, noting that Mahfooz had spoken at a rally last week. The attack also came hours after Mahfooz accompanied an MDP national council member who was summoned for questioning at the police headquarters on Friday afternoon, the party noted.
— Hassan Latheef (@HassanLatheef) September 4, 2015
“The [party] believes the reason such dangerous attacks are made in broad daylight without any hesitation is because the perpetrators of these atrocities are certain that they will not be found and brought to trial,” the MDP said.
Former President Nasheed’s office also condemned the near-fatal attack, noting in a statement that it comes “at a time of renewed political tension following President Nasheed’s illegal transfer to jail on 23 August.”
The statement also noted that the High Court has scheduled hearings for next week on the prosecutor general’s appeal of Nasheed’s conviction on terrorism charges.
The MDP is also planning to stage a nationwide protest on September 11, the first anti-government demonstration since June when Nasheed was transferred to house arrest amid negotiations with the government. The MDP withdrew from the talks shortly after Nasheed was taken back to the high-security Maafushi prison.