The criminal court today extended the remand detention of an 18-year-old associate of former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb for a seventh time after police argued that “he may kill a person” if released.
Ahmed Ashraf, a social media activist known as ‘Shumba Gong,’ was arrested in Sri Lanka on November 1 in connection to a blast on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat. Adeeb appears to be the prime suspect in the alleged assassination plot.
Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed granted a five-day extension of pre-trial detention.
Ashraf’s lawyer Nazim Abdul Sattar told The Maldives Independent that he was worried about the claims made by police to justify their request for an extension of his client’s remand.
“The police have previously said he is influencing witnesses and my client is being investigated for allegedly sending threat messages, but it is absurd that they now claim he might kill someone,” he said.
Ashraf has no previous criminal record. The police have also concluded its investigation of the alleged crimes and forwarded cases for prosecution. The PG office has discretionary powers on pressing charges.
A reliable source told The Maldives Independent earlier this month that although Ashraf was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the boat blast, the 18-year-old was interrogated for allegedly threatening Ahmed Zahid, a council member of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives.
“He is being accused of violating section 122 of the penal code, which relates to threatening and spreading of false news, but this is a misdemeanor, not a felony. There is no reason why a young boy must be incarcerated for months on end for this,” the source said.
The offence carries a maximum jail sentence of one year. The court could alternately impose a fine for first time offenders.
However, according to the informed source, the authorities are now threatening to charge Ashraf under the 2010 Threats, Assault Weapons, and Sharp Objects Act. The law prescribes penalties of up to 18 months in prison.
Ashraf is among eight suspects the government has declared a hunt for over the blast. All eight are Adeeb’s close associates.
The Sri Lankan foreign ministry has criticised the Maldives for presenting inaccurate information for Ashraf’s arrest. Authorities here had claimed that Ashraf lacked the proper travel documents.
Meanwhile, the state has appealed the criminal court’s decision to transfer Hamid Ismail, an influential businessman related to Adeeb, to house arrest on January 17.
According to the police, acquisition fees paid to the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation for a resort lease were deposited into the accounts of a company linked to Hamid, instead of the state treasury.
The MMPRC has been at the centre of the boat blast probe. The government says bomb-making material may have been smuggled on a fireworks shipment imported by the MMPRC.
The PG office spokesperson previously explained that lagoons and uninhabited islands are under the authority of the tourism ministry, which leases them to the MMPRC. The 100 percent government-owned corporation then subleases the properties to developers and collects acquisition fees.