The opposition Progressive Congress Coalition has defended former Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed after he was accused of lying to a presidential commission’s inquiry into the brutal murder of Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.
The opposition parties condemned the alleged slander of Dr Shaheem in connection with the commission’s report, which was made public on Sunday evening after key findings were revealed by Speaker Mohamed Nasheed earlier in the day.
According to the report, Shaheem received a text message before the murder that suggested the senders would “love Afrasheem if he repents and announces on the media.” Shaheem forwarded the message to Afrasheem on September 12, 2012 but claimed he did not remember who the sender was when he was questioned by the commission.
Appearing on state TV on the night of his murder, Afrasheem apologised for “misunderstandings” over some of his views and Shaheem later denied forcing Afrasheem to offer a public apology. Text messages exchanged between the pair undermined Shaheem’s written statement, the report stated.
But the opposition coalition alleged efforts to falsely tie Shaheem to the murder as a “planned atrocity” intended to defame the former vice presidential candidate. “Therefore, this coalition calls on the deaths commission to carry out additional research into the assassination of Dr Afrasheem Ali and conduct a fair investigation to reach the truth,” it said.
Responding to the allegations on Sunday, Shaheem denied lying to the commission about Afrasheem’s final TV appearance. “Innocent people” were being accused in a bid to hide the real killers, tweeted Shaheem, who works in Saudi Arabia as an advisor to the secretary-general of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation.
“Am I the sacrificial lamb unjustly slaughtered to mark one year of [President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s] government? By defaming my reputation it could be that you have laid the foundation for the end of the government,” he added.
In the wake of Afrasheem’s murder, suspicion was cast upon the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party and former president Abdulla Yameen. But the inquiry commission ruled out a political motivation and concluded that the moderate religious scholar was killed by a local extremist group with ties to al-Qaeda. The group believed Afrasheem was guilty of blasphemy, mocking Islam and declaring forbidden activities as permissible.
The jihadi group was led by Mohamed Mazeed and Somith Mohamed and the planning was overseen by Azlif Rauf, a former soldier charged in connection with the murder who was allowed to leave the country in January 2015. Afrasheem was stabbed to death at the stairwell of his home by Hussain Humam – the only person convicted of the murder – with his acquitted co-defendant Ali Shan and an unnamed minor.
Shan, an MDP activist, was suspended from his job at the state-owned Greater Malé Industrial Zone Ltd on Sunday.
The report also named NGO Salaf and a YouTube channel among groups that incited hatred against Dr Afrasheem, who was dubbed “Dr Ibilees” (Dr Satan) and vilified by local clerics for taking liberal positions on issues such as women’s attire, music and apostasy. In 2008, he was kicked and chased outside a mosque after Friday prayers and in May 2012 the Adhaalath Party condemned him for “mocking the Sunnah.”