The police have refused to accept more than 800 letters submitted by the family of murdered blogger Yameen Rasheed calling for a credible and independent investigation with foreign experts.
Yameen’s father Hussain Rasheed, 54, told the press Tuesday afternoon that the police informed him that each letter must be submitted by the individual who signed it. He was also told that the police need to know a return address.
“I told them that these are about 811 letters from Yameen’s family, relatives, close people and people who are sympathetic to the cause,” he told reporters.
“I told them that they did not have to send responses to everyone, that they can respond to me and that’s it.”
But the police insisted that each letter must be submitted individually. “They told me that they cannot accept the letters, senior officers also met with us and they also shared the same response,” he said.
Rasheed said he also asked for updates on the investigation and requested a meeting with the police chief.
The letters were collected by Yameen’s family and friends as a petition to be submitted to Commissioner of Police Ahmed Areef and the People’s Majlis. The 29-year-old writer and IT professional was found with multiple stab wounds in the stairway of his apartment building in the early hours of April 23.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, Superintendent Ahmed Shifan insisted that the police did not reject the letters.
“We have guided them on the procedures and how to act when submitting a letter to us. You can ask them what we said,” said the police spokesman.
The police have been listening to and addressing the family’s concerns whenever possible, he said, adding that the investigating officers have been responding to the family’s queries.
The police have been under fire for failure to make any arrests after claiming to have identified two suspects from security camera footage. Police officers visited Yameen’s home on Saturday and informed the family that the identity of the suspects remains unknown because they wore disguises.
A suspect who was reportedly tailing Yameen was arrested Monday morning, but the police have yet to confirm that it was in connection with the murder.
Yameen’s family and friends, as well as members of civil society organisations, gathered in front of the police headquarters Tuesday morning when his father went inside to submit the letters.
Some held up placards demanding answers from the police.
About ten Specialist Operations riot police officers pushed the small crowd two blocks away from the police headquarters on the outer ring road of Malé.
Yameen’s father first left the stack of letters with a separate letter saying that the response should be addressed to him. But he was later asked to come back at 2:45 pm and the police handed all the letters back to him.
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During the weekend, 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.
Rasheed 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.”
Shifan told the Maldives Independent earlier this week that “the investigation is being carried out with international assistance,” but refused to comment any further.
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 liberal blogger or human rights defender 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.
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.
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