Crime Legal Murder

Openly killed, secretly charged: Yameen Rasheed’s murder one year on

The world stopped a year ago for Hussein Rasheed. His 29-year-old son Yameen had been brutally attacked in Malé after returning home from work.

Hussein waited as hospital staff frantically sutured wounds and tried to stop the bleeding. He later saw that his son’s throat had been slashed and that part of his skull was missing. Hussein counted more than 30 deep wounds on his son’s chest, face and head.

Yameen, an outspoken blogger and internet activist, was murdered in the stairwell of his apartment building.

The suspects were brazen enough to kill him on his doorstep, but a year later the state remains secretive about the judicial process.

Hearings are either called off without reason or closed to the media and public, including Yameen’s family.

The Maldives Independent contacted the Prosecutor General’s office on several occasions to ask why hearings were either happening behind closed doors or not at all. There was no response.

It has previously said there will be open hearings at some point and that the trial, which is in its seventh month, remains at the preliminary stage.

“We can only guess why the trial is closed,” says Yameen’s sister Aisha.

“It could be because the case is weak. It could be to protect the culprits. If there is nothing to hide, why close it to family? It is a shame that citizens have to put up with this. Nobody had the right to kill him but some people did – just as they told him they would – for years. And now they are getting away with it too.”

A sense of insecurity has loomed over Malé since Yameen was killed. Activists are targeted and threatened and there is a crack down on anyone seen as opposing Islam or encouraging pluralism.

The trial has attracted a lot of public interest because Yameen spoke out against religious extremism — and received death threats because of it. He reported the threats to the police, who took no action.

Aisha believes the family is being punished because of his position on extremism and free speech, with the punishment a drawn-out and exclusive trial where there is neither information nor access.

“The government, or anyone connected to it, is unwilling to ask or answer questions or even show any empathy when my brother was murdered in such a gruesome manner,” she says. “What is this unsaid rule that everyone understands? It has been one year now and all we are left with is questions.”

Police initially told media the investigation had not shown any connection between the murder and a political or religious group. However, in the same briefing police said he was killed for mocking Islam and that they had information of the people who have planted the idea, assisted and even encouraged the murder suspects.

Police spokesman Ahmed Shifan did not respond to the Maldives Independent’s requests for updates about the people who inspired the killing.

To the outsider it could look like the state is either unable or unwilling to pursue this murder case.

An expert in facial recognition claims police declined his offer to help analyse video material related to the crime, while calls to authorities are unanswered or stonewalled. Nobody seems to know anything, least of all Yameen’s family.

“A transparent trial, open to the public is important,” says Aisha. “As his family, we want to and we have a right to know the truth. What is it that people feared so much about him that he had to be killed?”

The family’s lawyer, and former attorney general, Husnu Suood said justice could only be delivered through an openly conducted trial.

“It is both in the interest of the victim’s family and the public that the court must not conduct the trial of this heinous crime behind closed doors,” he told the Maldives Independent. “If the state has nothing to hide, the prosecution wouldn’t have asked for the trial to be held in secret.

“By holding secret trials the state is made to look that they are on the side of the perpetrators rather than procuring justice,” he said.

Former solicitor general Ibrahim Riffath said that Yameen’s murder – and the trial – had many consequences.

“Transparent hearings are absolutely crucial in terms of upholding due process as well guaranteeing justice and impartiality in the eyes of the public,” he said. “The discretionary power to exclude the public from all or part of the trial in Article 42 c) of the constitution is to be exercised under exceptional circumstances.

“However, nowadays, too often we see judges declare closed-door hearings without a legal basis or explanation, but based only on their own whims.”

But Shahindha Ismail, who is executive director of local rights group the Maldivian Democracy Network, says it is important for the family to observe hearings even though it is understandable that some hearings might be closed to the media and wider public.

“Should the state succeed in a conviction, the death penalty will apply. This means that each of the heirs will be required to make a decision regarding qisas. It is unfair to exclude Yameen’s family in the only process which will allow for them to make a sound judgement regarding qisas.”

She also said Yameen’s murder, and the killers’ disregard for the rule of law, was a matter of public interest.

“The murder of Yameen and others before and after him proves one thing – that the state has failed to protect the right to life of its people. The people have every right to know what happened, how it happened and who was behind it. The state must open the trial.”

 

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Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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