Speaker: Additional testimony unnecessary for charges in Dr. Afrasheem murder

Parliament Speaker, former President Mohamed Nasheed during a press conference on June 15, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Parliament Speaker, former President Mohamed Nasheed argues that based on the findings released by Disappearances and Deaths Commission (DDCom) following its investigation into the 2012 murder of prominent politician and Islamic scholar Dr. Afrasheem Ali, prosecutors have sufficient evidence and testimony and do not need any additional testimony to press charges against the suspects.

He made the argument in a letter he sent to the Parliament’s Security Services Committee (241 Committee), voicing concerns over the letter sent by DDCom in response to a query regarding the progress of its investigations.

In his letter addressed to 241 Committee’s chair North Hithadhoo MP Mohamed Aslam, Nasheed wrote that DDCom stated in its letter that the commission found evidence Dr. Afrasheem’s murder, as well as the abduction and murder of journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla in 2014, and the murder of blogger and rights activist Yameen Rasheed in 2017 had been masterminded by individuals involved in carrying out terrorist activities in the name of Islam, and that the murders had been carried out through individuals affiliated with criminal gangs.

Naasheed said that according to DDCom’s findings, Dr. Afrasheem had been murdered based on the allegation that he had committed the sin of shirk, and that Rilwan and Yameen had been targeted based on the allegation of blasphemy.

“And if the commission has noted this, what they have taken note of is, is the suspects in the engaged in a criminal act, or committed a crime. With this being the case, it is unclear why criminal charges cannot be pressed against the people who carried out the act or committed the crime,” he said.

He said the DDCom subsequently stated that the legal powers of the commission is limited to taking action in response to the cases under its investigation, and that the commission is therefore powerless to arrest the suspects unless the commission has sufficient evidence and testimony of them having committed acts tying them to the cases.

“I find that report on Dr. Afrashem Ali’s murder shared by the commission with the Parliament, and the preliminary report shared with the Parliament on Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla highlights the aspects of both these cases,” said Nasheed.

He said that the DDCom stated in its letter that the Prosecutor General’s Office accused the commission of impeding the Yameen Rasheed murder trial by bringing in the suspects and witnesses for questioning, which led to witnesses refusing to give testimony in the trial.

Nasheed said that based on DDCom’s report on Dr. Afrasheem’s murder, he found that the report mentioned enough evidence and testimony to press charges. He said he does not believe any additional confessional testimonies are required, and that charges may be pressed based on the evidence and testimony at hand without requiring testimonies from those who have refused to provide their testimony.

DDCom, in its letter, said that some of the witnesses in Rilwan’s case had refused to provide their testimony after the commission’s preliminary report on the case was publicized.

Nasheed responded that he found it hard to believe the basis of charges against a person suspected to carrying out a crime against another person should depend solely on testimonies.

He said he found it hard to believe there is a lack of other evidence to prove the charges, even if some of the witnesses may refuse to provide their testimony.

And he said he found it hard to believe that even if the evidence is insufficient to prove the suspects at least attempted to carry out the crimes or aided and abetted in the crimes.

Nasheed said that DDCom in its letter said that some of the suspects were seen in political events, implying they had close connections with politicians, which was leading to a shift in public perception regarding the suspects and impeding the commission’s investigations.

Nasheed said that the DDCom had not disclosed the identities of the suspects in question, and that he believed the suspects in question “will stop making appearances in political appearances and start appearing in places where they should be appearing in” once the commission provides clarity as to their identities.

He also noted that after the DDCom shared the preliminary report on Rilwan’s murder to the 241 Committee on September 1, 2019, the committee requested for the full report on September 9, 2019, and was told that the full report will be sent after consulting with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Nasheed said that nearly a year has passed since then, and that he finds it imperative that the 241 Committee launch an inquiry into the investigation and make a decision.

Nasheed said that the DDCom wrote in its letter that the commission was unable to proceed with their investigations. However, the DDCom denies it made any such statement in its letter, and said the commission hasn’t stopped its investigations.