BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 11, 2018– Shortly after midnight on December 28, Fareed Ahmad, 39, was shot dead inside his BMW SUV less than a mile away from his home in Hattieville. An off-duty woman police officer, still in her uniform and identified as Michelle Brown, 24, was found inside his vehicle with her police-issued firearm. She was later charged with his murder and remanded to prison.
Since then there has been much speculation surrounding the killing of the popular barber. Many suspect that his execution was state-sanctioned because just 12 hours before his death, he had filed an internal complaint against the Special Assignment Team (SAT), which is, coincidentally, the unit to which Brown belonged.
Today, the leadership of the Muslim community in Belize met with Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Wilfred Elrington; his CEO, George Lovell; Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie, as well as Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Chester Williams, who is leading the investigation into the murder of Ahmad.
The objective of the meeting was to familiarize the police with the history of indigenous Muslims in Belize, and the contributions they have made to our country.
Additionally, the meeting was for the community to get answers from the police, to ensure that recent events involving members of the community were not motivated by religious bias, and to ensure there is an open line of communication between the Belize Police Department and the Muslim community.
Following the meeting the press quizzed Minister Elrington and Nuri Muhammad, a former Imam and leading member of the Muslim community.
Nuri Muhammad explained, “There is a high level of anxiety; in fact, we’re still not over the tragic murder of Fareed, so that was really the background that drove the community to say, ’let us sit down and find out really what the facts are’, because there were many rumors out there and things that caused alarms to go off.”
“As the largest indigenous Muslim community here, it is our responsibility to sit down as civil individuals with the government of the day and find out from that what is going on,” Muhammad said.
Minister Elrington commented that it was very fortunate that ACP Williams was present in today’s meeting. According to him, Williams revealed that there was no evidence of state involvement in the murder of Ahmad, and that Brown acted alone.
He further revealed that Williams had indicated that it was Ahmad who picked up Brown. “There is a video of them being together for some time, he suggested to me a number of hours, and there was no indication during that course of time that any other person from any branch of the police force was anywhere nearby,” said Elrington. He said that the video will be made available to the Ahmad family.
Elrington also revealed that police have since requested telephone records from BTL for both the deceased and the accused, and that when those text messages are retrieved, they will be made available to the public.
Speaking of the investigation undertaken by ACP Williams, Elrington said, “He’s left the very clear impression that no stone is being left unturned.”
Elrington added that to further satisfy the Ahmad family, he is open to having the Muslim community import an expert investigator to assist with investigations.
Nuri Muhammad said that the statements today made by Minister Elrington, “brought a bit of cool water into the atmosphere that was very hot and hostile when the meeting started.”
Muhammad added that the Minister provided examples that there are units inside the security forces that really do not answer to even the Minister. He said that these individual units believe that they have the go-ahead from some higher authorities.
“If it’s not the Prime Minister or the Minister of National Security, I don’t know who are giving the orders,” said Muhammad.
“I did not get any impression from Minister Elrington that he is taking this lightly,” said Muhammad, who said that Elrington indicated that he would go above and beyond to ensure that the Ahmad family gets answers.
Elrington quickly interjected, “I said, first of all, that we know there are people in the police force who shouldn’t be in there, because they don’t comply with the law.”
He explained that police personnel get training from across the world, but it is the country’s leadership that determines the actions undertaken by the police. Elrington said, “Yes, there are rogue elements in our police force and all of us know that, but there is no police officer who has any authority and any responsibility to take any instructions from anybody other than the Belize police senior command.”
According to Elrington, every police officer should be answerable to the Commissioner of Police, and so he is asking the ComPol to ensure this is done.
“Nothing happens outside of his watch. He must be responsible because the buck stops with him, then with Minister Aragon,” said Elrington.
Muhammad went on to comment on an incident in June 2016, in which almost 15 members of the Ahmad family were rounded up and detained by police. Muhammad said that the family has not yet received any explanations for the cause of their detention.
“Today, all we got from the commissioner is that he is satisfied with what happened, that it happened under his knowledge,” said Muhammad.
Minister Elrington has explained that the detention of the Ahmad family was unlawful and he would pursue the matter, and by Wednesday, January 24, he will get back to the family.
According to Nuri Muhammad, following the meeting with Elrington, he has been assured that members of the Muslim community are not being targeted by the Government of Belize. However, he expressed concern that there is a general feeling on the part of many Muslims that police officers continue to look at them with suspicion.