Police yesterday arrested a third suspect in the murder of lawyer Ahmed Najeeb for allegedly assisting to hide the deceased man’s body.
Police, who have not revealed the name of the suspect, confirmed a 31 year old man had been arrested during their investigations, while claiming further arrests could yet be made concerning the case.
Maafannu Masroora House, the location where Najeeb is believed to have been murdered, is still under observation with a police media official telling local newspaper, Haveeru, that officers are “still trying to find more evidence to support the case.”
Speaking to Minivan News today, Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed the arrest, though declined to reveal any more information on the suspect’s identity.
“We are now in the investigation process. At the time we do not want to reveal the name of the arrested man as it is a policy of ours to not to reveal the name of a suspect at such an early stage of an investigation,” he said.
Haneef added that officers were presently investigating if any other suspects had involvement in the murder case.
Two suspects already charged over the case, Ahmed Murrath and Fathimath Hana, are currently facing trial.
Veteran lawyer Najeeb was found dead on July 1. His body was discovered in a dustbin bag in a second floor apartment of Maafanu Masroora house in Male’.
The 65 year-old man’s body was found supposedly gagged, badly beaten and stabbed in the throat.
Police at the time revealed that 29 year old ex-convict Ahmed Murrath had been charged with Najeeb ’s murder and had confessed to killing him, claiming the lawyer attempted to sexually assault his 18 year-old girlfriend Fathimath Hana.
Hana of Rihab house in Shaviyani Goidhoo island, was identified as a second suspect and also faces a charge of murder in relation to the case after she confessed to “helping” her boyfriend kill Najeeb.
During the first hearing of the trial, both suspects testified separately.
Hana noted that Najeeb had arrived to Maafanu Masroora on the night of June 30 at around 10:00pm over a request to discuss a family legal case.
She said that her boyfriend killed him after he became “sure” that Najeeb attempted to sexually assault her, and added that she helped tie Najeeb’s hand, legs and taped his mouth while Murrath threatened him with a knife.
“We thought he must have a lot of money as he is a lawyer,” she told the court, after declining representation from a lawyer. Najeeb’s cash card was taken from him and the pair had withdrawn money from it.
According to Hana, she did not know that the victim had been killed until her boyfriend woke her up and told her about it around 4:00am the following morning. At the time Hana said she was sleeping, intoxicated from drinking alcohol.
Her boyfriend corroborated the confession in his statement, saying that she was asleep when he killed the lawyer.
Murrath said he was present when Najeeb came over to the house to discuss the legal case and he became suspicious so asked Hana if something was wrong. Hana told him that Najeeb had grabbed her hands and hurt her, Murrath added.
Murrath said that he killed Najeeb out of anger and apologised to the family members present at the hearing for committing the crime.
The police had earlier noted that Murrath tested positive for drugs when he was brought under custody. He is a former inmate conditionally released under the Second Chance program for inmates with drug offences.
Police said he had an 18 year jail sentence of which he had completed only three years. His offences included theft, assault, drug use, and breaking out of prison.
Demand for public execution
During the trial, currently taking place in the Criminal Court, all eight heirs of Najeeb refused to accept blood money and have asked the Judge for qisas (equal retaliation) – the death penalty.
Initially the court summoned the six heirs following the confession of both the suspects implicated in the crime, while the two others were not present for the session.
The court stated that out of the two heirs not present at the hearing, one was living abroad and the court would be making arrangements through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to collect his statement. The other heir was said to work in a resort out of Male’.
In the two seperate hearings held on Thursday (July 5), statements of the two remaining heirs – Shashma Najeeb and Jinaan Ahmed – both refused to accept blood money and asked the Judge for ‘qisas’ similar to the other six family members.
Shashma Najeeb who gave her statement at the Sri Lankan High Commission through a telephone conference, said three times in the court that she wanted the death penalty imposed, asking the presiding judge to implement the death penalty and ensure the killing was carried out in public.
Jinaan Ahmed also followed Shashma Najeeb in demanding the death penalty, refusing to accept blood money.
The Criminal Court Judge has announced that if there are any other heirs remaining which the court has not come to know of, they should inform the court before July 10, and if there remain no further heirs, the trial would be concluded during the next hearing.
If none of deceased victim’s heirs agree to accept blood money, under Islamic Sharia Murrath and his girlfriend will be subjected to the death penalty.
Traditionally, death penalties in the Maldives are commuted to life imprisonment of 25 years under the Clemency Act 2010 (Act no 2/2010), where it states:
“Even if stated otherwise in this act, if the Supreme Court issues a death sentence, or a lower court or High Court issues a death sentence and if the Supreme Court upholds that sentence, the President has the authority to relieve the sentence into a life imprisonment, after consideration of either the state of the guilty, the legal principles behind the issue, consensus of the state or the values of humanity. But once such a sentence is being relieved to a life imprisonment, the guilty shall not be eligible for pardon, under any clause of this act.”
A perceived rise in criminal-related deaths has this week seen growing public debate and media coverage over the issue of implementing capital punishment in the Maldives.