Miscommunication between the Sri Lankan and Maldivian authorities is delaying the release of a Sri Lankan “sniper” hired to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen, according to a lawyer representing the accused.
“Local investigators in Malé have repeatedly informed me that they were waiting for the all-clear from the authorities in Colombo on the detained Sri Lankan before moves could be made to release him but there appear to be certain shortcomings,” the defence lawyer Shabdika Vellampil told Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times.
The lawyer added that he had been unable to visit his client as he had travelled to the Maldives on a tourist visa. “The Foreign Office in Colombo has assured me that it was working towards obtaining the appropriate visa for my next visit,” he said.
The 24-year-old Sri Lankan, identified as Lahiru Madushanka, was arrested on October 24, the same day former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb was detained on suspicion of masterminding the September 28 blast on the president’s speedboat. The government says a bomb targeting the president caused the explosion.
The criminal court extended the remand detention of the Sri Lankan on December 28 for a further 15-day period. Three Maldivians are also in police custody in connection to the sniper plot.
The arrest of the alleged sniper along with the expulsion of a Maldivian social media activist from Sri Lanka had strained relations between the Maldives and its close neighbour.
Sri Lanka’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dr Harsha de Silva told the Sunday Times that the Sri Lankan government is “treating the matter as one of utmost importance,” adding that discussions are taking place with the Maldivian authorities.
“The Maldivian authorities have informed us that further investigations were needed because the charges are of a serious nature before a decision could be taken to release him,” he was quoted as saying.
In early November, the Maldivian police had said that the Sri Lankan was hired by Maldivians to assassinate the president. But the Sri Lankan defence ministry at the time said the suspect was not attached to the Sri Lankan military.
The suspect’s parents meanwhile told the Sunday Times that he had travelled to the Maldives in search of work offered to him by a Maldivian, who had also sent him US$900 but did not show up when the Sri Lankan arrived in the Maldives.
“What we cannot understand is the inaction of the Maldivian who failed to show up and meet our son even after paying a tidy sum of money,” the suspect’s mother was quoted as saying.
Reliable sources previously told The Maldives Independent that the Sri Lankan was arrested on a charge of “distributing money to groups and attempting to create unrest.” One source said the man is an accountant linked to one of Adeeb’s associates.
The police had revealed the Sri Lankan’s arrest after President Yameen declared an unprecedented 30-day state of emergency in early November, citing fears of imminent attacks after the security forces discovered a large weapons cache.
In an unprecedented move, Sri Lanka had criticised the state of emergency declaration and warned against “regional instability.”
Home Minister Umar Naseer meanwhile told Reuters at the time that the sniper plot was the third assassination attempt after the explosion on the speedboat and the discovery of an improvised explosive device near the official presidential residence on November 2.
“There’s a clear connection between the three. There could be further attacks planned. We’re verifying the sniper’s background,” Naseer said.
“Though a sniper rifle hasn’t yet been found, police have recovered a telescope and bullet used in such rifles. It’s now established that the suspect knew that his target was the president. Investigations have confirmed that there was a planned sniper attack on the president.”