The father of murdered blogger Yameen Rasheed has sought help from diplomats and international organisations in Sri Lanka to pressure the Maldivian government to carry out an independent investigation with foreign involvement.
“I don’t trust the police investigation,” Hussain Rasheed, 54, told the foreign press in Colombo on Friday.
Yameen’s father said the police had acted suspiciously after the murder by washing the crime scene, repainting the blood-spattered wall, and preventing anyone from taking photographs.
The police also failed to seriously investigate several complaints Yameen had lodged about receiving death threats, he added.
Yameen was threatened from radicalised local gangs for speaking out against rising Islamic radicalism, Rasheed said, calling on the government to invite international experts to join the investigation.
Superintendent Ahmed Shifan told the Maldives Independent that “the investigation is being carried out with international assistance,” but refused to comment any further.
Asked about the delay in arresting suspects, the police spokesman said there have been new developments since the media was briefed last Tuesday.
“I assure you that we are very dedicated to this and that it is a very intensive investigation. It is our top priority and all our resources have been mobilised,” he said.
Yameen’s report about death threats was “very circumstantial,” Shifan said, but the police investigated the complaints.
“But Yameen Rasheed expressed on social media that he was not satisfied with the amount or extent of work that we did regarding the matter,” he added.
“Until very recently we have been working on a case he had filed from 2014. Two people were questioned. I cannot reveal if any arrests were made because all cases related to Yameen Rasheed have now been included in his murder investigation.”
The police will update the media “as soon as possible, at the time seen as best for the investigation,” he said.
Online paper VFP reported today that the police have told Yameen’s family that the suspects caught on security camera cannot be identified because they were in disguise.
Contrary to claims by Assistant Commissioner of Police Abdulla Nawaz at a press briefing last week where he released photos, the police reportedly told the family the identity of the two suspects remains unknown.
Nawaz’s press conference was called after the opposition-aligned Raajje TV obtained footage from a private security camera near Yameen’s residence in the Maafanu ward of Malé.
Three days after Yameen’s murder, newspaper Mihaaru meanwhile reported that Chief Superintendent Mohamed Riyaz, a top police detective who was leading the murder investigation, was transferred to the commissioner’s bureau.
According to the local daily, Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh, head of the serious and organised crime department, was also transferred to the police academy.
Satheeh told the Maldives Independent that he was on leave and declined to comment.
Yameen’s family previously said in a statement that “the police investigation will only be deemed credible if it includes investigators from reputable international organisations.”
The Maldivian Democratic Party also urged the government to seek foreign assistance for the murder probe.
“The MDP strongly believes that the Maldivian Police Service does not possess the capacity, credibility or political impartiality to conduct such a high profile investigation on its own,” the main opposition party said.
Speaking to reporters in Colombo, Yameen’s father meanwhile went on to describe seeing his son’s body at the hospital.
“His throat was slit, there were 14 stab injuries that I counted, but later we saw he had been stabbed in 35 places and part of his skull was missing,” he was quoted as saying.
Yameen was the third high-profile writer to be targeted in the past five years. In June 2012, three men assaulted Ismail Hilath Rasheed, a former editor of newspaper Haveeru, and slashed his throat. He narrowly survived the murder attempt outside his door.
Despite the police claiming to have access to CCTV footage near Hilath’s home in the capital, no arrests were made.
In February, the family of missing Maldives Independent (formerly Minivan News) journalist Ahmed Rilwan sued the police for refusing to disclose information about the abduction after more than 900 days.
The family previously accused the state of involvement in his disappearance, alleging police negligence in investigating the case.
Yameen, a close friend of Rilwan, had coordinated the campaign to pressure the authorities to find the missing journalist.
The police initially denied any link between Rilwan’s disappearance in August 2014 and a reported abduction outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé.
But in a stark reversal in April last year, Chief Inspector Satheeh said Rilwan was taken into a car that belonged to a notorious gangster.
The press briefing came weeks before a UN rights panel launched an inquiry.
Shoko Noda, the UN resident representative to the Maldives, meanwhile met the police on Saturday to “stress the need for a thorough, impartial investigation” and to “strengthen response mechanisms to threats.”
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had urged the government last week “to ensure that the investigation into the murder is prompt, thorough and that the perpetrators are brought to justice in line with international human rights laws and standards.”