It has been a year since I lost my son Yameen Rasheed. He was stabbed 34 times and murdered in cold blood outside our home. I can never forget seeing my son’s lifeless body in the hospital. He was only 29.
For me, Yameen will be my sweet and gentle child, always smiling, joking and reading. But for the people of Maldives, he was one of the best and wittiest writers the country has seen recently. He could make people laugh, and find sense in the madness of a society sliding deeper towards political repression, hatred and violence. On his blog “The Daily Panic”, Yameen routinely satirised religious hypocrisy, corruption, and the brutality of those in power, while also shedding light on the daily struggles of ordinary folk and exploited immigrant labour. Yameen also wrote for international media, and was a passionate supporter of democracy and human rights in the Maldives.
Seven men have been charged, and are facing trial for my son’s murder. Six hearings have been held so far, all of which have been closed to the family, media and the public. The judge has ruled to continue the hearings in secrecy, at the request of the prosecutor-general’s office.
The police accuse the suspects of being radicalised Islamists, who killed Yameen because they believed he was mocking Islam. The investigators went as far as to claim that these suspects were not groomed by any local sheikh, nor were they part of an organised extremist group in the country that is targeting writers who hold moderate or secular views. According to the official narrative, no one ordered my son’s murder. No one paid these suspects. They acted on their own.
But without access to the trial, there is no way of being sure that these seven suspects are the only — or even the actual — people responsible for my son’s murder. They have reportedly denied the charges in court, and accused the police of framing them.
Every effort from family and friends to open the trial has fallen on deaf ears. This is just one part of the painful denial of justice our family has had to endure. After a year of Yameen’s assasination, we are left with no answers and little hope.
Even during the investigation, the police refused to share any information with the family. The police refused to accept over 800 letters from the public calling for an independent investigation. This callousness, combined with the unusual time it took for the police to first inform us of Yameen’s murder, inconsistencies in their public statements, frequent changes of investigating officers involved in the case, and the hasty clean-up of the murder site has led to widespread suspicion that the police may have been involved in the murder — or its cover-up. Our request to bring in foreign investigators to remove these doubts and assure an independent investigation was rejected. The police accused us of “politicising” our son’s murder.
Yameen had received multiple death threats, and he reported these to the police on several occasions. But the police had ignored them all. In December 2016, he went to the police headquarters in person to file a complaint about the threats. The people who threatened my son on social media used their real names, and even tagged the police in the posts. No one was questioned or arrested.
Last year, we decided to bring a negligence suit against the police for their refusal to investigate these threats. During the fifth hearing at the civil court, the case was thrown out, citing jurisdictional reasons. There is an appeal against this decision of the civil court in a higher court.
The truth is that the Maldives is a dangerous place for anyone who dares to criticise the ruling regime, or who expresses opinions about the state of society. As the president himself warned following Yameen’s murder: “Anything can happen”. There is total impunity.
My son knew his life was in danger. But he was too idealistic to remain quiet, especially since his friend and journalist Ahmed Rilwan was abducted and believed to be murdered in 2014, after receiving several threats. After images of government officials meeting with known gang members/jihadi sympathisers went public in 2014, Yameen predicted he was “going to die. violently too”.
I cannot say with much certainty that I am going to find justice for my son. But I do know Yameen’s family and friends will not stop asking who killed him. We will continue to demand an open trial. We will continue to seek an independent international inquiry into the police investigation and the trial, regardless of the outcome.