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of secondary school age in the Maldives have been sexually abused at some time in their lives, according to an unpublished 2009 study on violence against minors.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


May Day protester pleads guilty to assaulting police officer

A suspect on trial for assaulting a police officer during a mass anti-government protest on May 1 has pleaded guilty to assault charges today.

At the first hearing of the trial today, Mohamed Shinan, from the Malaaz house in Shaviyani Goidhoo, reportedly admitted kicking the Specialist Operation (SO) police officer twice. Shinan noted that he had confessed to the crime during the police interrogation.

Shinan also asked for leniency in his detention when chief judge Abdulla Mohamed asked the defendant if he had anything to add.

Scores of protesters and some police officers were injured during violent clashes on the night of May 1. Video footage shows protesters tripping and kicking the SO officer and one man hitting the policeman over the head with his baton.

Sergeant Abdul Rahman Hussain was flown to Sri Lanka for medical treatment after the assault while the police publicised video footage of the incident and appealed for public assistance in locating suspects.

The prosecutor general’s office has charged 13 people over the incident. The other defendants have been given time to appoint lawyers.

The assault charge carries a jail sentence of between three to five years.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had meanwhile accused police of torturing and threatening to kill three suspects arrested for assaulting the police officer.


President’s office seeks new members for HRCM

The president’s office has invited interested candidates to apply for membership of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) ahead of a 2:00pm deadline next Tuesday.

In an announcement published in the government gazette today, the president’s office said application forms and a list of required documentation are available on the president’s office website.

The five-year terms of HRCM members Dr Ali Shameem and Ahmed Abdul Kareem are due to expire in September.

Last month, President Abdulla Yameen nominated former MP Shifaq Mufeed ‘Histo,’ Aishath Afreen Mohamed, and Aminath Eenas to replace three HRCM members whose terms are due to expire in August.

The nominees were sent for evaluation by the parliament’s independent institutions committee on June 15.

Some 33 interested candidates had submitted application forms to the president’s office.

The three members whose terms are up in August are HRCM president Mariyam Azra, vice president Ahmed Tholal, and Jeehan Mahmood.

Pro-government MPs have previously accused Tholal and Jeehan of bias towards the opposition MDP, an accusation the pair deny.

Meanwhile, in a controversial ruling last month, the Supreme Court found a human rights assessment submitted by the HRCM to the UN unlawful, and imposed an 11-point guideline prescribing how the independent commission should operate within the law.

The guideline barred the HRCM from communicating with foreign organisations without government oversight.

UN rights experts, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and civil society groups have denounced the guideline as one that restricts the HRCM’s work and its right to share information freely with the UN.

But the government said the guidelines “do no stipulate, in any specific terms, any restriction or limitation on the HRCM’s ability to submit reports to the UN or any other national or international organ in the future.”

The guideline was issued under suo moto regulations that allow the Supreme Court to prosecute and pass judgment.

In its 2014 annual report, described the suo moto proceedings as the biggest challenge the watchdog has faced in its 11-year history.


Former Islamic minister appointed Islamic university’s vice chancellor

President Abdulla Yameen has appointed former Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed as the vice chancellor of the newly formed Maldives Islamic University (MIU).

Shaheem, a senior member of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), resigned from the cabinet on May 5. Following his resignation, Shaheem said he was considering retiring from politics to focus on social work.

President Yameen also appointed former education minister Dr Mohamed Zahir Hussain as MIU chancellor yesterday. He was previously the chancellor of the Maldives National University (MNU).

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali revealed today that the president has also appointed five members to the MIU governing council.

The five members are deputy minister for Islamic affairs Mohamed Musthafa Ibrahim, the president’s representative on the Judicial Service Commission Mohamed Faisal, Dr Mohamed Haneef, Shuhad Rizwan, and Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim.

The president has also appointed five members to the Maldives National University’s (MNU) governing council, including information commissioner Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur.

The other members are Dr Fathmath Nazla Rafeeq, Dr Hussain Faiz, Mohamed Iuveiz, and Ismail Visham.

The appointments follow ratification of amendments to the Maldives National University Act last week, which authorised the president to appoint nine members to the 13-member governing council, including the chancellor and the vice chancellor.

The president could previously only appoint the chancellor.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had warned that the changes will compromise the MNU’s independence and politicise the institution.


Sri Lanka and Maldives stock exchanges sign deal for cooperation

The Sri Lanka and Maldives stock exchanges have signed a memorandum of understanding for co-operation in marketing, creating a framework for cross-listings and dual listing of securities, and cross-border regulation of companies.

Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) Chief Executive Rajeeva Bandaranaike said in a statement that the CSE has shared “cordial and close relations” with its Maldivian counterpart since its inception in 2002.

Maldives Stock Exchange (MSE) Chief Executive Hassan Manik said the MoU “will help both our exchanges to learn from each other’s experiences,”

“In comparison to the CSE the MSE is a very small Exchange, therefore there are many areas in which the CSE can help the MSE to grow and develop,” he was quoted as saying by the Sri Lanka-based EconomyNext financial news service.



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.


Former President Gayoom departs to Oman as president’s special envoy

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom departed for Oman today as a special envoy of President Abdulla Yameen.

“During his visit, former President Maumoon will meet officials from Oman, and discuss ways to further boost the existing bilateral ties between the Maldives and Oman,” the president’s office said.

Gayoom -leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and half-brother to the president – is reportedly unhappy with the imminent impeachment of the vice president and had opposed a constitutional amendment that set an age limit of 30 to 65 years for the presidency and vice presidency.

Last week, Gayoom denied rumours that he favoured a person other than tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb to replace Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

Despite the rumours of a rift between the Gayoom brothers, the former president said in a tweet last week that the appointment of a deputy is the sole prerogative of the president.


Schools to re-open on August 2

The education ministry has announced that public schools will re-open on August 2 after being closed this month following an outbreak of dengue fever.

Schools were temporarily closed on July 1 based on advice from a task force formed to control the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. But special classes continued for grade 10 students ahead of the O’ Level examinations in October.

Four people have died from dengue fever while more than 600 cases have been reported this year. A total of 775 cases were reported in 2014.

Two people died from dengue last year. A relatively severe outbreak of dengue in 2011 saw a record high 12 deaths.

Last month, the government launched nation-wide efforts to prevent mosquito breeding, including mosquito fogging in Malé and the atolls and clean-up programmes.


Head of financial intelligence unit resigns

The head of the financial intelligence unit at the central bank, Ibrahim Athif Shukoor, has resigned from the post.

Shukoor told local media yesterday that he had resigned on June 21 to work in the private sector.

He was appointed to the post in November last year by the governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA).

The financial intelligence unit was formed under the anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) law passed in April 2014.