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children of secondary school age in the Maldives have been sexually abused at some time in their lives, according to an unpublished 2009 study on violence against minors.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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Minor arrested in the Fuvahmulah child prostitution case

Police have today arrested a 17 year old boy in Fuvahmulah child prostitution ring uncovered last week, police media has revealed.

All other suspects are aged 20-55 years, from Fuvahmulah and other islands. Currently 14 men and a woman have been arrested.

Two girls of ages 16 and 14 were tricked into using drugs and filmed naked, CNM reported. The men threatened to leak the videos and blackmailed the minors.

Sources from Fuvahmulah meanwhile told newspaper Haveeru that the girls gave police a list of 50 suspects.

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

The police began investigating the case on July 5 based on intelligence information, Superintendent Hamdhoon Rasheed told the media on Sunday.

A special  team from the Police family and child protection unit is currently  working at Fuvamulah, with the island’s police station.

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.

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.

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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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Three more suspects arrested in Fuvahmulah child prostitution case

Three more suspects have been arrested in connection with a child prostitution ring uncovered in Fuvahmulah last week.

The police said in a statement today that the suspects taken into custody last night included two men aged 24 and 25 as well as a 21-year-old woman.

The Fuvahmulah magistrate court has ordered the men to be held in remand detention for 15 days and the woman for 10 days.

The 24-year-old suspect has a criminal record for theft and damaging property, the police said. He had previously been arrested twice and questioned 18 times.

Two cases involving the 25-year-old have meanwhile been sent for prosecution. He has been arrested twice previously on charges of rape and theft.

On Friday, ten men were arrested in Fuvahmulah on suspicion of drugging, blackmailing, and forcing children into prostitution. An additional suspect was arrested yesterday.

The girls were reportedly tricked into using drugs and filmed naked by the suspects, who then threatened to leak the videos and blackmailed the minors.

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No evidence linking reported abduction to Rilwan disappearance, says police

The police have said that there is no evidence linking the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan in August last year to a reported abduction outside his apartment in Hulhumalé.

Rilwan’s neighbours had reported seeing a man forced into a red car at knifepoint outside the apartment building in the early hours of August 8, at the same time he would have reached home.

In a statement released today, the police said they have received DNA analysis of samples taken from three cars suspected to have been used in the abduction, but could not “conclusively state” that there was a connection between the incident and Rilwan’s disappearance.

“We also note that this analysis did not provide any evidence of a link to the suspects previously arrested in this case,” the police said.

Four suspects had been arrested in October and one suspect was held in police custody for five weeks, but the Criminal Court transferred him to house arrest in November.

One of the suspects was among a group of 12 Maldivian jihadis who traveled to Syria in January. The group also included Azlif Rauf, a suspect in the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali in October 2012, who reportedly died while fighting in Syria in mid-May.

An investigative report published by Maldivian Democratic Network had identified Azlif’s brother Arlif Rauf as the owner of the red car which may have been used in Rilwan’s suspected abduction.

The report implicated radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance and confirmed evidence of possible “hostile surveillance” at the terminal conducted by two known affiliates of Malé-based Kuda Henveiru gang led by the Rauf brothers.

Home minister Umar Naseer had also also acknowledged involvement of criminal gangs in the case.

Today’s police statement meanwhile follows Rilwan’s family backing an opposition proposal for an independent inquiry last week. The family also announced plans to hold a march on August 8 to mark one year after Rilwan’s disappearance.

The police vowed to continue efforts to find the missing journalist and the investigation into his disappearance “no matter how long it takes” and urged anyone with information to come forward.

Rilwan’s disappearance was “one of the cases that police investigation teams gave the highest priority to and spent the most time investigating in 2014,” the police said.

Police investigators have questioned 198 people, obtained statements from more than 80 individuals, and retrieved more than 293 hours of CCTV video footage, the statement noted.

The police also searched public spaces, closed areas, and industrial areas in Hulhumalè, the statement continued, and searched more than 50 places in the suburb with court warrants.

In a press release last week, Rilwan’s family provided an update of activities conducted in the past year.

A petition with 5,500 signatures calling for a speedy investigation was submitted to the parliament last year, but is stalled at a parliamentary committee. The family said they met with commissioner of police Hussein Waheed last week and last met with home minister Umar Naseer and the police investigating team in May.

The Police Integrity Commission was asked to investigate police negligence in October last year, but the oversight body has yet to produce a report.

The family has also submitted a petition with the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances in September last year.

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10 men arrested on charges of forcing children into prostitution

Ten men have been arrested in Fuvahmulah on suspicion of drugging, blackmailing, and forcing children into prostitution.

The ten suspects were taken into custody with arrest warrants between 4:00pm and 2:00am yesterday, the police said.

The Fuvahmulah magistrate court has since ordered the suspects to be held in remand detention for 15 days. The suspects included three men aged 22, two men aged 21 and a 55-year-old, 50-year-old, 41-year-old and 32-year-old.

A special investigation team from the family and child protection department together with the Fuvahmulah police station are investigating the case in the southern atoll.

The police did not reveal any further details.

According to CNM, the police began investigating the case upon learning that a 16-year-old victim of the prostitution ring was pregnant.

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

More underaged girls were among the victims of the prostitution ring, including a 14-year-old girl who is reportedly the daughter of the one of the 10 suspects.

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

The 10 suspects in custody include a guesthouse owner, businessmen, political party activists, and persons with criminal records.

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.

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.

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Police disrupt MDP feast

The police stopped and cleared out a gathering by supporters of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) outside its main office in Malé last night.

The MDP had set up tables with food for a communal tharavees feast, a traditional gathering during Ramadan.

A police media official told Minivan News that the police moved to clear the area around 10:30pm because the party did not seek permission from the housing ministry to close the road.

But the MDP said in a statement today that the police were notified ahead of the gathering and that traffic was not blocked as tables were set up near the pavement on Sosun Magu.

“But a disproportionately high number of police officers suddenly went into the tharavees function, threw away the food and drinks on the table to the street, took away the tables, and pepper sprayed the people there,” the party said.

The police media official said the use of force was prompted by “disobedience to order.”

The MDP meanwhile condemned the police’s “unlawful actions” and called on oversight bodies to investigate the incident.

The police had not stopped a gathering held at the same area by the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) during Ramdan, the party said, “which shows the extent of the police’s illegal discrimination.”

The ruling party had set up chairs and tables in the middle of the road, the MDP noted.

The party believes “police are discriminating and carrying out unlawful actions so openly because of the weakness and toothlessness of the Maldives’ independent institutions or because of the extent of the institutions’ participation in the illegal activities,” the statement added.

MDP spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News that the police’s justification for disrupting the festive feast is “complete nonsense”.

He noted that the road was closed for the PPM gathering in the same area earlier this month.

“As usual we had informed the police about the gathering. We keep seeing that rules only apply to us,” he said.

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Police searching for assault suspect

The police have appealed for assistance from the public in locating a man suspected of assaulting a shopkeeper around 11:30am on Tuesday.

An eyewitness at the shop in the Maafanu ward of Malé told newspaper Haveeru that a foreigner assaulted the elderly shopkeeper after the latter refused to give out MVR80 worth of purchases on credit.

The foreigner grabbed a knife on the counter and stabbed the shopkeeper. The victim was stabbed eight times and taken to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) for treatment. He reportedly did not sustain serious injuries.

The police have meanwhile posted CCTV footage of the suspect and urged anyone with information about the suspect to call the police hotline number 3322111 or the organised crime department at 9911099.

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Young man dies in attempt to flee from police

A 22-year-old young man died in an accident on Sunday night while attempting to flee from the police.

The young man was driving the motorbike when the police attempted to stop him in a drug operation near Flat 133 in Malé’s suburb Hulhumalé at 9:10pm. The young man sped away at high speed and crashed into a car.

He was thrown from the bike and sustained severe injuries. He died while undergoing treatment at the Hulhumalé hospital.

A 24-year-old man was sitting on the back. He broke an arm and a leg and is receiving further treatment at Malé’s Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

The driver of the car did not sustain any injuries.

The police declined to comment on whether any drugs were found on the suspects.

 

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