President Abdulla Yameen last night condemned the brutal stabbing of lawyer Mahfooz Saeed “in the harshest terms” while home minister Umar Naseer vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of a symposium held to train “campaign leaders,” Yameen said he was saddened by the attack.
“It is not right for a person to suffer such physical harm because of what he said or did. Such crimes should be stopped in the Maldives,” Yameen said.
He added that the death penalty should be implemented in cases of premeditated murder “for the sake of the whole society’s interest, peace and security.”
The current administration ended a six-decade-long moratorium on the death penalty last year, but a convict has not been executed so far.
Mahfooz, a member of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) legal committee, was stabbed by two men on a busy street of Malé around 5:00pm on Friday. The 26-year-old narrowly survived the life-threatening attack after undergoing surgery to remove the knife lodged three and a half inches deep above his left ear.
Yameen’s condemnation of Mahfooz’s stabbing followed tweets by both the home minister and foreign minister assuring a thorough investigation. The statements came more than 24 hours after the near-fatal attack.
Govt strongly condemns the barbaric attack on Mahfooz, which has come after a prolonged period of calm. Perpetrators will face justice.
— Umar Naseer (@UmarNaseerPPM) September 5, 2015
FM condemns the vicious & cowardly attack on Lawyer Mahfooz. Govt Committed for thorough investigation to bring perpetrators to justice.
— MFA-Maldives (@MDVForeign) September 5, 2015
In a statement on Friday night, Amnesty International had called on the Maldivian authorities to conduct a “a full, impartial and independent investigation” and to ensure that human rights defenders can work free from fear of reprisals.
“Political tensions in Maldives are running high, and there is a climate of fear spreading among opposition supporters and human rights defenders, as the human rights situation has deteriorated over the past two years. Maldivian authorities must send a clear message that these attacks are not tolerated – impunity will only foster intimidation and violence,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives researcher.
The police have said that an investigation is underway, but no arrests have been made yet.
The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) also put a statement on Saturday condemning the stabbing and urged cooperation with the police investigation.
“As the commission believes that committing and planning to commit such dangerous attacks against those who work to uphold human rights pose a serious obstacle to the work of [protecting] human rights, we call on all relevant state institutions to undertake efforts to stop such attacks as a special priority,” the statement read.
President Yameen recently appointed new members to the human rights watchdog after the five-year term of the previous members expired last month. The new commissioners include a former ruling party MP and former government official implicated in a corruption scandal.
The MDP had meanwhile said in the wake of the attack that the party believes the “murder attempt” was planned in advance, noting that Mahfooz had spoken at the party’s rally on August 27, a week before the stabbing.
Mahfooz had severely criticised the government and called on opposition supporters to come out for a “war against the government.”
Hours before the attack, Mahfooz also accompanied an MDP national council member to the police station following a summons for questioning over weekly prayers for Nasheed outside the Islamic centre after Friday prayers.
“The [party] believes the reason such dangerous attacks are made in broad daylight without any hesitation is because the perpetrators of these atrocities are certain that they will not be found and brought to trial,” the MDP said.