Adhaalath leader transferred to high security prison

The president of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdulla was transferred from a police remand center to a high security prison on Thursday. He is charged with terrorism and is awaiting trial.

A Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) media official told Minivan News the transfer is legal because “according to the law suspects at remand stage awaiting sentencing are the MCS’s responsibility.”

Suspects awaiting trial are usually kept at the Dhoonidhoo Island Detention Center, and only convicts are housed at the high security prison on Maafushi Island.

Expressing concern over the move, Imran’s lawyer Ali Zahir, said: “This is not what they usually do. Imran has been in remand stage for some time now. He is not a convict and his trial is still ongoing.”

The transfer signals a reversal of the government’s conciliatory stance on making concessions for jailed politicians.

Instead of freeing former president Mohamed Nasheed as rumored on Thursday, the state decided to appeal his 13-year jail term on terrorism charges. Meanwhile, former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, who is serving a jail term on weapons smuggling charges, was brought to Malé for treatment on Thursday amidst rumors he may be transferred to house arrest, but he was taken back to prison on the same day.

Imran is charged with terrorism along with Jumhooree Party (JP) deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and council member Sobah Rasheed. Ameen and Sobah have fled the Maldives.

The three are charged with threatening to harm police officers and inciting violence at the May Day protest. Charges were pressed under the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act.

So far only one hearing has taken place in Imran’s trial. He has denied charges. The trial has been stalled since early June after two of the three judges on the criminal court were appointed to the High Court.

The High Court in late May rejected an appeal challenging the criminal court’s decision to hold Imran in police custody until the conclusion of his trial, claiming it could not review decisions of judges to hold defendants in custody for the duration of a trial.

The Adhaalath Party has meanwhile said that Imran’s health is worsening under police custody.  He has been brought to Malé several times to consult specialist doctors.

On June 21, the party said that Imran has diabetes and high blood pressure. Tests conducted after his arrest show high blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as high urine acidity.

He is also suffering back pains as a result of having to sleep on a hard surface, the statement added.

Imran’s continuing incarceration is a “planned and shameful atrocity carried out to psychologically and physically weaken him,” the Adhaalath Party said.

The party also said Imran’s wife has written to the home minister and the Human Rights Commission of Maldives to express concern over his health.

Imran was first arrested on the night of May 1 and held in remand detention for 26 days. Hours before the criminal court ordered his release on May 27, the High Court overturned the criminal court’s May 17 ruling to keep Imran in police custody for 10 days.

The appellate court ordered his transfer to house arrest, noting that Imran has diabetes and that tests conducted following his arrest showed high levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, and urine acidity.

A doctor had also recommended that Imran should not sleep on hard surfaces due to a spinal injury.

Imran was arrested again on the night of June 1, a day before the terrorism trial began.

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Only one head of state to attend Maldives independence celebrations

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena is the only head of state to confirm attendance at the July 26 celebrations to mark the Maldives’ golden jubilee of independence from the British.

Speaking to the press today, foreign minister Dunya Maumoon said while President Sirisena had accepted President Abdulla Yameen’s invitation, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was unable to attend “because of certain events in his country.”

An invitation for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still open, she said.

“President Yameen’s invitation to Prime Minister Modi is still open. He can come at his convenience and will be welcomed by the Maldivian government,” she said.

In March, Modi dropped the Maldives from a tour of his Indian Ocean neighbors. The cancellation came amidst daily anti-government protests and heightened political tension sparked by the arrest and prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Opposition supporters expected President Yameen to pardon Nasheed by July 26, but instead the Prosecutor General has announced he will appeal the criminal court’s verdict.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail on terrorism charges relating to the arrest of a judge during his tenure. He is under house arrest at present.

Dunya dismissed today rumours that Nasheed had been invited to the official function.

Sirisena will be the second head of state to visit the Maldives since the current administration assumed office in November 2013. Chinese president Xi Jingping visited the Maldives last year.

Other foreign dignitaries who have confirmed their attendance include, the vice chairman of the China’s lawmaking Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, foreign ministers of Nepal and Palestine, deputy foreign ministers from Japan and Bangladesh, and other ministers from India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Many diplomats are also expected to attend.

The government is planning grand celebrations to mark Independence Day, including a parade by the army and school brass bands, reopening of public parks with water fountains, an official function at the Usfasgandu area with more than 100 foreign dignitaries, official games at the national stadium, and a football tournament in the atolls.

The home ministry plans to light up all of Malé in LED lights and is rushing to complete preparations. Government offices, the Supreme Court building, the parliament building and main streets have been decked in red, green and white lights. However, power shortages in Malé may spoil plans.

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Jailed ex-defense minister brought to Malé for medical treatment

Imprisoned former defence minister Mohamed Nazim was brought to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Malé for a doctor’s appointment this morning.

Rumors swirled in Malé that the retired colonel’s 11 year jail-term may be commuted to house arrest, as part of ongoing negotiations between the opposition and the government.

However, Nazim’s brother Adam Azim told Minivan News that Nazim was taken back to the low-security ‘Asseyri’ jail in Himmafaushi after his consultation at 10:30 with an eye doctor.

Azim said his brother had numerous rashes and damaged skins as his cell was infested with mosquitos.

The family had submitted complaint forms to the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS), Azim said, and the jail has since been fogged.

Nazim was found guilty of weapons smuggling and sentenced to 11 years in prison in March. The former defence minister maintains he was framed by rogue police officers who planted a pistol and three bullets in his apartment during a midnight raid.

MCS media official Moosa Rameez told Minivan News that complaints submitted on behalf of inmates will only be sent to the head office if it was “a concerning issue.”

Earlier this month, Nazim’s family requested his transfer from jail to house arrest. Nazim had also appealed the 11-year sentence at the High Court, but the appeal was was stalled after the Supreme Court suddenly transferred two judges on the five-judge-panel to a newly created appellate branch in the south.

Nazim’s trial at the criminal court was widely criticised over apparent lack of due process and coincided with the terrorism trial of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed. The opposition leader was sentenced to 13 years in jail over the military detention of a judge during his tenure.

The pair’s imprisonment sparked a six-month long political crisis with daily protests.

With mounting diplomatic pressure, Nasheed was transferred to house arrest in late June. The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has since been engaged in talks with the government and has expressed hope that jailed politicians could be released ahead of July 26 when the Maldives marks 50 years of independence.

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Council ‘defied’ court order to change un-Islamic Eid banner

The island council of Gaaf Alif Villigili has been accused of refusing to comply with an order by a magistrate court to change the wording on an Eid celebration banners.

The banners put up on behalf of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Saud Hussain read, “MP Saud’s Eid Happiness.” The Maldives marked the religious holiday on Friday, July 17.

The president of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Villigili branch, Ameez Hassan, filed a case against the island at the island’s magistrate court on Thursday, which ordered the pro-government majority council to change the wordings on the banner.

Ameez told Minivan News today that he objected to the phrase “Saud’s Eid,” contending that the banner was un-Islamic.

“Children see these banners, read them and tell their parent’s that this Saud’s Eid. So I realized these banners are confusing children and contradicts our religion,” he said.

Ameez said he sued the council as the municipal authority’s permission was required to put up banners on the island.

MP Saud meanwhile told Minivan News that he has complied with the court’s ruling.

“The wordings have been changed according to the court’s ruling. This issue did not disrupt any of our festive Eid celebration activities,” he said.

However, PPM councillor Fathuhy Moosa that the banners now read, “MP Saud Eid happiness 2015, Gaaf Alif Vilingili.” The Villigili island council consists of one MDP councillor and six PPM councillors.

Ameez meanwhile said more banners have been put up since the court’s ruling, including one in front of the court. The wordings on the same banner near the island’s performance stage have also been enlarged, he said.

Ameez accused the council of disrespecting the judiciary by “clearly disobeying” an order from the court.

“I plan to take this matter to court as soon as offices open,” he said.

Photo from MP Saud.

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Victim’s family welcomes Interpol red notice for murder suspect

The family of murder victim Ahmed Jailam Shakir has welcomed an Interpol red notice issued to locate a suspect and a High Court order for the criminal court to accept the case.

The red notice was issued for 19-year-old Mohamed Humaid, who had fled to Sri Lanka in late February. The Interpol site states that Humaid is wanted for prosecution on charges of “gang murder, gang assault with sharp weapons.”

Jailam’s mother, Moomina Ahmed, told Minivan News today that she is happy about the development as the suspect was dangerous.

“I think if the suspects remain free they are a danger to the society too. So he should be found soon,” Moomina said.

Jailam was stabbed numerous times by two men armed with machetes while he was sitting outside his house, eyewitnesses told Minivan News.

Three other suspects have been charged with murder in connection with the 23-year-old Jailam’s fatal stabbing on February 21.

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) office had charged the suspects under the Intimidation and Possession of Dangerous Weapons and Sharp Instruments Act, but the criminal court’s registrar refused to accept the case, contending that the PG office’s interpretation of 2010 law was incorrect. The exact charges have not been disclosed to the media yet.

PG office media official Mohamed Hisham Wajeeh said the office did not understand the criminal court’s objection as the registrar had not offered much detail.

“It is an issue regarding substance of the law so it is for the judge to make a decision on it, not the court’s registrar,” Hisham said.

The case was complicated due to the involvement of multiple suspects, he said, and criticised the criminal court for revealing details of charges to local media. “I think it is very unethical for them to do so, I do not think this occurs anywhere else in the world either,” he said.

Upon appeal by the PG office, the High Court ordered the lower court to accept the case if it is filed within seven days. Hisham said the court has since decided to hear the case, but hearings have not commenced yet.

Moomina meanwhile expressed appreciation for the PG office’s efforts, but said she remained unsatisfied.

“I’m glad the High Court overturned the criminal court refusal to accept the case. But my hope is that the process of prosecuting the suspects will go more quickly. It has been three months since my son was killed but so far the trial has not yet begun,” Moomina said.

She added that the authorities should punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law. “There is no punishment I can give that can bring my son back,” she said.

A 20-year-old suspect was reportedly arrested on March 10 whilst two other suspects, aged 19 and 24, were taken into police custody with arrest warrants on March 3.

The criminal court extended the remand detention of the latter to 15 days.

Since 2001, Maldives has seen 42 murders including Jailam’s. Prosecution was completed in just a fraction of the cases.

Jailam’s murder occurred two months after Ahmed Mafaz, 28, was killed last December. In late March, the police launched a joint security operation with the army following the the murder of a 29-year-old man in Malé.

On June 16, a 19-year-old victim of an assault in Addu City died while undergoing treatment for injuries. Hussain Shiar’s fatal stabbing was the sixth murder in 2015. The police revealed today that four suspects have been arrested this week in connection with Shiar’s murder, including two 20-year-old men, a 22-year-old man, and 24-year-old man.

All four suspects have criminal records and are being held in remand detention.

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UN rights team calls on ex president

A team from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) met on Tuesday with former president Mohamed Nasheed at his residence, where he remains under house arrest over a terrorism conviction.

Nasheed’s wife Laila Ali met with UN human rights commissioner on human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in Geneva on July 8. The commissioner has previously said the rushed trial appeared to contravene the Maldives’ constitution and international treaties it was signatory to.

Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail over the arrest of a judge during his tenure. He was transferred to house arrest in a move widely perceived as a deal made with the government for opposition backing on a constitutional amendment that will allow President Abdulla Yameen to replace his deputy.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is now in talks with the government. An MDP representative has suggested Nasheed may be freed by July 26.

Nasheed has filed a petition with the UN working group on arbitrary detention asking for a judgment ruling his imprisonment as illegal and arbitrary. A decision is expected in September or October.

The OHCHR team has also met with the Maldivian foreign secretary Ali Naseer on July 13.

Diplomatic pressure has been mounting on President Yameen’s administration to release Nasheed and other political prisoners.

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Indian arrested on child abuse charges, MP seeks publication of sex offenders registry

An Indian teacher has been arrested on charges of child sexual abuse from the island of Gemanafushi in Gaaf Alif atoll.

The 40-year-old expatriate was arrested with a court warrant around 4:20pm yesterday, a police media official said. The suspect is accused of sexually abusing under-aged girls for a long period, the official added.

The police declined to reveal further information as the investigation is ongoing, but local media has identified the suspect as an English teacher at the Gemafanushi school.

He is accused of repeatedly abusing secondary grade students.

Almost one in seven children of secondary school age in the Maldives have been sexually abused at some time in their lives, according to an unpublished 2009 study on violence against minors.

The rate of sexual abuse for boys was at 11 percent while the figure for girls were almost twice as high at 20 percent.

The arrest follows police uncovering a child prostitution ring in Fuvahmulah last week. Some 15 suspects have been arrested so far on suspicion of drugging, blackmailing, and forcing a 14-year-old girl and 16-year-old girl into prostitution.

The police said two men aged 20 and 24 were taken into custody today. The 20-year-old has a criminal record for assault and theft.

The 15 suspects in custody include people from Fuvahmulah as well as other islands, the police said.

Meanwhile, opposition Jumhooree Party MP Abdulla Riyaz has asked the parliament’s government oversight committee to investigate the failure to publicise a mandatory national registry of child sex offenders.

The former police commissioner noted that article 57 of the 2009 Child Sexual Abuse (Special Provisions) Act requires information about offenders to be made publicly available by the state agency responsible for the protection of children.

“In this regard, for the safety and protection of other citizens from offenders, and to eliminate possibilities for repetition of such offences, complete information about the offenders should be published in an internet website providing easy access to the information, and a mechanism should be established to identify offenders by their national identification numbers via short message service,” the provision states.

The former police commissioner also asked the oversight committee to determine if the relevant authorities have been negligent in protecting the victims of the Fuvahmulah child prostitution ring.

In February 2014, seven men were arrested from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaalu atoll on suspicion of forcing a 16-year-old girl into child prostitution.

In the first official acknowledgement of child prostitution in the Maldives, then-Gender Minister Azima Shukoor revealed in May 2013 that children were “being used as sex workers, where the children are sent to places as a means to pleasure people and to gain an income from such a trade.”

In June 2013, multiple sources told Minivan News that child prostitution was prevalent in the country, ranging from male benefactors grooming children with ‘gifts’ to parents actively exploiting their children.

A study focusing on Laamu atoll conducted by Consultant Clinical Psychologist Maldives Institute for Psychological Services, Training & Research (MIPSTAR), Dr Aishath Ali Naaz, showed that child prostitution was so “common” among minors that it was considered a normal activity.

She identified a “gradual process” of minors being “groomed” by adults via the internet and/or social media, with children taken to known “spots” and introduced to those involved in the sex trade.

In other instances, the minors are pushed to provide nude photos, and then emotionally blackmailed with threats that the pictures will be posted on the web, and ultimately recruited into prostitution.

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Elderly man found in Malé lagoon “died of natural causes”

A 71-year-old man was found dead floating in the lagoon in Malé’s northern waterfront last night. The body was found around 12:30am near the official jetty in front of the Republic Square.

The police have identified the deceased as Mohamed Jaleel, from the Hemlock house in the Galolhu ward of the capital.

He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital and is believed to have died of natural causes, the police said in a statement. There were no visible signs of injuries of the body, the police noted. The serious and organised crime department is investigating the case.

In April 2007, the discovery of a dead body in Malé’s southwest lagoon sparked protests amid allegations of continuing custodial abuse.

Hussain Solah, 27, was found dead five days after his arrest from Hithadhoo in the southernmost Addu atoll.

The police claimed he was released on April 13, but he did not contact family or friends, and was found dead in the harbour outside the detention centre on the morning of April 15.

But a seven-month investigation by the human rights watchdog found that there was “not enough evidence to say for certain that Solah was [ever] released from custody.”

A police corporal was charged with assaulting Solah based on the Human Rights Commission of Maldives’ investigation.

However, in November 2009, the criminal court found corporal Ahmed Shah not guilty on the grounds that the witness statements were not sufficient evidence for a conviction.

As Corporal Shah was in charge of the jail at the time, the court said witnesses were likely to be prejudiced against the senior officer.

In August 2012, the High Court upheld the lower court’s verdict.

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Police deny rumoured pregnancy of Fuvahmulah child prostitution victim

Underaged female victims of a child prostitution ring uncovered in Fuvahmulah last week are not pregnant despite media reports to the contrary, the police have said.

Chief Superintendent Hamdhoon Rasheed told the press today that the 16-year-old and 14-year-old girls have undergone pregnancy tests.

The police began investigating the case on July 5 based on intelligence information, Rasheed said, and 11 men have been arrested so far on suspicion of drugging, blackmailing, and forcing children into prostitution.

Ten suspects were taken into custody on Friday. The Fuvahmulah magistrate court granted 15-day extensions of remand detention the following day.

The eleventh suspect was arrested today and police are searching for more suspects.

Rasheed revealed that five of the suspects have criminal records for assault, theft, drug abuse, and sexual offences.

The suspects are all Maldivian men aged between 20 and 55, he said, and include those who forced the children into prostitution and others involved in the prostitution ring.

Rasheed did not reveal any further details.

CNM reported yesterday that the police began investigating the case upon learning that the 16-year-old victim of the prostitution ring was pregnant. Sources from Fuvahmulah meanwhile told newspaper Haveeru that the girls gave police a list of 50 suspects.

According to CNM, the Fuvahmulah hospital had alerted the police and the gender department last week, prompting an immediate investigation on the island.

The girls were tricked into using drugs and filmed naked, CNM reported. The men threatened to leak the videos and blackmailed the minor.

In February 2014, seven men were arrested from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaalu atoll on suspicion of forcing a 16-year-old girl into child prostitution.

In the first official acknowledgement of child prostitution in the Maldives, then-Gender Minister Azima Shukoor revealed in May 2013 that children were “being used as sex workers, where the children are sent to places as a means to pleasure people and to gain an income from such a trade.”

In June 2013, multiple sources told Minivan News that child prostitution was prevalent in the country, ranging from male benefactors grooming children with ‘gifts’ to parents actively exploiting their children.

A study focusing on Laamu atoll conducted by Consultant Clinical Psychologist Maldives Institute for Psychological Services, Training & Research (MIPSTAR), Dr Aishath Ali Naaz, showed that child prostitution was so “common” among minors that it was considered a normal activity.

She identified a “gradual process” of minors being “groomed” by adults via the internet and/or social media, with children taken to known “spots” and introduced to those involved in the sex trade.

In other instances, the minors are pushed to provide nude photos, and then emotionally blackmailed with threats that the pictures will be posted on the web, and ultimately recruited into prostitution.

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