Parliament’s security services committee has decided to launch an inquiry into a local extremist group accused of murdering a lawmaker and a journalist.
A presidential commission formed to investigate enforced disappearances and unresolved murders concluded that a hardline group affiliated with al-Qaeda killed MP Afrasheem Ali, a moderate religious scholar, in October 2012 and abducted and murdered Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan in August 2014.
In light of the commission’s findings, the oversight committee decided to,
- Find out further details about the jihadi organisation, their numbers and activities
- Find out the financial transactions carried out in contracting MP Afrasheem’s killers and how the money had been circulated.
- List extremist groups and ensure legal action.
- Find out who had prior knowledge about the murder of MP Afrasheem but did not take necessary action.
- Find out the extent of police negligence if any that could have led to the murder.
- Find out where the alleged accomplices to the murder are now.
- Insist that necessary action is taken following the report.
A three-member sub-committee comprised of ruling and opposition lawmakers was selected to gather information from police, immigration and other state institutions.
According to the report released on Sunday, the presidential commission ran four lines of inquiry: the opposition party orchestrated the murder; infighting within Afrasheem’s own party led to his murder; the lawmaker was murdered to frame the then opposition and damage their chances of winning the 2013 presidential election; and religious hardliners murdered Afrasheem for ideological reasons.
- Between MVR4 million to MVR6 million was paid to a local gang to kill MP Afrasheem. Contrary to claims by former police commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, there was no evidence to suggest political motives
- No evidence to support allegations against former president Abdulla Yameen, former vice president Ahmed Adeeb or the then-opposition Maldivian Democratic Party.
- Religious scholars told the commission that while a proper scholar would not condone Afrasheem’s murder, “semi-educated hardline people believe that such a person must be killed.”
- Disputes between other scholars and Afrasheem led to his complete isolation from his peers, especially after NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf issued a sermon declaring that no one should pray behind Afrasheem (as Imam) until he publicly repents.
- The then-Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed forwarded a message from an unknown person to Afrasheem, which said that the senders would “love Afrasheem for the sake of Allah” if he publicly repents.
- Shaheem offered Afrasheem either a TV appearance or a press conference at the Islamic ministry. Afrasheem, in text messages inquired about the TV appearance which was arranged by the Islamic ministry.
- Appearing on state TV on the night of his murder, Afrasheem apologised for “misunderstandings” over some of his views.
- The commission concluded that Shaheem, in his written testimony, lied when he claimed Afrasheem had asked for the TV appearance and that he had no idea as to why the lawmaker wanted to go on state media. Shaheem claimed he could not recall who sent the text message which he forwarded to Afrasheem.
- The murder was contracted out to Ali Shan, Azlif Rauf and Hussein Humam Ahmed by Mohamed Mazeed, alleged leader of the al-Qaeda branch in Maldives.
- The jihadi group headed by Mazeed and Somith Mohamed decided to kill Afrasheem based on UN-designated terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki’s ‘The Dust Will Never Settle’ sermon, in which the Yemeni-American claimed the ruling for any atheist or infidel who mocks the traditions of Prophet Mohamed, mocks the holy prophet, attempts to change the principles of Islam or commits shirk [idolatry or disbelief] was death. The group believed that Afrasheem had committed an act of shirk through some of his sermons.
- The biggest challenge to the investigation was the loss of phone call data, security camera footage and police intelligence information, which went missing after the initial investigation.
In the wake of the report’s release, former police Abdulla Riyaz – now Jumhooree Party MP for Thimarafushi – told the press that his insistence in December 2012 that the murder was politically motivated had been based on available information at the time.