A group of young men threatened to kill several journalists camped outside President Abdulla Yameen’s residence hoping to film the secret visit of a top judge.
Two young men told opposition-aligned Raajje TV’s Wisam Mohamed they would kill him if he filmed Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s departure from the president’s official residence on Thursday night.
Three other journalists including a reporter and photographer from Sun Online witnessed the scene. The group of seven surrounded the four journalists, while a ruling party MP physically blocked their view of the residence’s door as the judge left the building and got into a waiting car.
The chief judge’s visit with Yameen comes at a time of heightened anxiety in Malé with an investigation underway into an alleged assassination attempt on the president’s speedboat on September 28.
Yameen escaped unhurt from the explosion on the boat, but the first lady remains hospitalized.
Despite the president reportedly expressing “500 percent confidence” in his deputy Ahmed Adeeb, and ruling party officials stressing they do not want to point fingers yet, it appears that the vice president is now a suspect.
Two of Adeeb’s bodyguards were suspended within days of the blast.
The police on Wednesday night raided the home of his close associate, and attempted to enter the apartment of a relative who is also an influential businessman. Police were thwarted from raiding the businessman’s home due to issues with the court warrant, credible sources have told The Maldives Independent.
According to Wisam, Abdulla arrived at Yameen’s residence Dhoovehi in the Galholhu ward at 8:30pm. Soldiers asked him to erase photos of Abdulla’s car, but he refused.
Yameen reportedly left the residence at 9:30pm. Raajje TV and Sun Online journalists were waiting outside, when at 11:30pm MP Ahmed Assad of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the group of seven young men arrived on the scene.
“Two of them came right up to me, and told me they will kill me, that if I filmed Judge Abdulla’s departure from President Yameen’s house, I would be killed. They were surrounding me when I saw Judge Abdulla leaving the house,” Wisam said.
Sun Online’s Adam Nazeer wrote: “The group threatened and warned the journalists. They said they would destroy our cameras if we filmed.”
Sun Online is owned by MP Ahmed Shiyam, the leader of Maldives Development Alliance, a ruling coalition partner.
Neither media outlet were able to get clear photographs of the judge leaving the president’s house as Assad was blocking the entrance, Nazeer said.
Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed has said the police “will not hesitate” in making the necessary arrests and raids. The boat blast probe is of top priority, he told commissioned officers.
Although the investigation is not yet complete, the government says the explosion was a deliberate attack on the president’s life. A sub committee of the parliament’s security services committee is also conducting an inquiry into the boat blast.
Adeeb is in Beijing to inaugurate an investment forum. He is due back on October 19.
Three soldiers have been arrested on charges of tampering with evidence.
The defence minister has been sacked while the head of the military unit tasked with providing security to state officials and the police’s intelligence chief have been replaced.
Armed soldiers have been deployed to the streets of Malé.
Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin is meanwhile out of the country on an unannounced personal trip. The PG is an independent official authorised to press criminal charges on behalf of the state.
Earlier this year, a watchdog inquiry found that a Raajje TV cameraman was forced to erase footage of a meeting between Muhsin and criminal court judge Abdul Bari Yousuf at a café. The meeting took place during the controversial terrorism trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Correction: October 17, 2015: This article previously said two soldiers and an immigration official were arrested in connection to the boat blast. This is incorrect. All three arrested over the explosion are MNDF officers. An immigration official was never arrested in this case.