Yameen Rasheed would have turned 30 this month if he had not been stabbed to death in his home on 23 April 2017. Six suspects were arrested for his murder. According to the police, they are Islamist fundamentalists who could not stand Rasheed’s criticism of religious extremism.
An outspoken observer of his country’s politics, Rasheed also criticized alleged government corruption in his blog. He had repeatedly reported to the police that he was receiving death threats but they did not provide him with any protection.
It is still not clear who may have instigated Rasheed’s murder, but the trial is unusually being held behind closed doors at the prosecutor general’s behest. His spokesperson said this was decided under a new provision that allows prosecutors to request a secret trial “if they believe a circumstance that obstructs justice could arise in an open hearing.”
He has not specified what kind of circumstance the prosecution has in mind in this case.
“It is essential that the Yameen Rasheed murder trial hearings should be open to the public and journalists or otherwise there will inevitably be doubts about the verdict,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“We ask the prosecutor general to act accordingly, and we urge the supreme court and the country’s human rights commission to use all their influence to ensure that the trial is conducted in a fully transparent manner. The credibility of the justice system is a stake. The impunity that characterizes crimes of violence against journalists in Maldives is a curse and holding this trial behind closed doors is like an encouraging message to those who want to silence journalists for good.”
On 19 April, members of the Rasheed family together with representatives of two NGOs, Maldives Democracy Network and Transparency Maldives, unsuccessfully requested a meeting with the prosecutor general and the police officer in charge of the investigation.
The hashtag #OpenTheTrial is being used on social networks to press the authorities to open the trial to the public. This and the #WeAreYaamyn campaign that RSF joined in June 2017 are signs of growing public opposition to holding a secret trial.
Maldives is ranked 117th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.