Hundreds of people have been signing a petition calling for a credible investigation into the murder of liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed and the abduction of journalist Ahmed Rilwan.
The police have yet to make any arrests a week after the 29-year-old writer and IT professional was found with multiple stab wounds in the stairway of his apartment building.
A young man was arrested Monday afternoon near Yameen’s home in Malé, but the police declined to say whether it was in connection with the murder. The police also cordoned off the area in the Maafanu ward of the capital and searched the man’s home.
After claiming to have identified two suspects from security camera footage, the police informed Yameen’s family on Saturday that their identity remains unknown because they were in disguise, sparking outrage on social media yesterday.
Yameen’s friends and family began gathering signatures for the petition last Thursday.
Sara Naseem, a communications and research officer at NGO Transparency Maldives helping with the initiative, told the Maldives Independent that about 800 people have signed the petition as of the weekend.
“We have not counted the petitions from Sunday yet,” she added.
The petition is to be sent to the parliament and the commissioner of police.
Since the brutal murder last week, Yameen’s friends and family have been gathering at the eastern artificial beach in Malé for vigils and open mic events.
A day after the murder, family members and a group of journalists released rose red helium balloons into the sky in remembrance of the murdered human rights defender.
A moment of silence was also observed at the first memorial event.
Yameen’s last tweet was a balloon emoticon, which has become a symbol of the fledgeling campaign seeking justice for his murder.
On Tuesday, an open book was laid out for members of the public to write messages of support to the family. Red balloons were also handed out to be taken home and put up in a visible place.
On Wednesday, students from the Maldives National University read out poems at the memorial event.
White question marks, a symbol of the campaign to pressure the authorities to find the missing Maldives Independent journalist, were meanwhile spray painted on the red balloons.
Yameen, one of Rilwan’s closest friends, was the coordinator of the #FindMoyameeha campaign.
During the weekend, friends and family created posters and placards at the artificial beach. People were asked to bring their own t-shirts to screen-print a photo of Yameen’s face with the hashtag #WeAreYaamyn and the campaign’s website www.weareyaamyn.com
A moment of silence was also observed on Friday evening.
Earlier in the day, Yameen’s father sought help from diplomats and international organisations in Sri Lanka to pressure the Maldivian government to carry out an independent investigation with foreign involvement.
Hussain Rasheed, 54, told reporters in Colombo that 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.
His son was threatened by radicalised local gangs for speaking out against rising Islamic extremism, Rasheed said.
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.”
Superintendent Ahmed Shifan told the Maldives Independent yesterday that “the investigation is being carried out with international assistance,” but refused to comment any further.
He said the death threat cases Yameen filed were “very circumstantial”.
The police will update the media “as soon as possible, at the time seen as best for the investigation,” he said.
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 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.
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.
A suspect who was arrested in November 2014 was seen trailing Rilwan on CCTV footage, Satheeh said, but he left the country after his release by the criminal court.
Three days after Yameen’s murder, newspaper Mihaaru 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, 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.
— Dhahau Naseem (@_dhahau) April 28, 2017
— Safa Sharyf 🎈❔ (@safasharyf) April 27, 2017
— kuhthaa (@kuhthaa) April 27, 2017