Two attempted suicides reported on Saturday

Two cases of attempted suicide were reported in Malé and Meemu Atoll Muli today.

A woman in Malé stabbed herself in the stomach after her husband left to Syria, local media report. The 28-year-old woman was hospitalized at 1:30pm today and underwent a surgery, police said.

According to Haveeru, the woman’s husband left to Syria last week with a second wife. He was a suspect in the Sultan Park bombing of 2007.

Scores of Maldivians have left the country to fight with radical Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria. Some include women and children.

In Meemu Atoll Muli, a 26-year old man attempted to commit suicide at 12:40am after a quarrel with his family. When police officers broke down his door, he had already inflicted harm to some areas of his body, the police said.

Attempting to commit suicide is a class one misdemeanor in the new penal code and is punishable by up to a one year in prison.

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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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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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Maldivian charged with murder of undocumented Bangladeshi worker

The Prosecutor General (PG) office has filed murder charges against a Maldivian man of accused of killing a Bangladeshi expatriate on the island of Gan in Laamu atoll last month.

The PG office filed the case at the criminal court yesterday, but has not revealed the identity of the accused.

The undocumented worker, known locally as Bassan, was discovered dead with severe head injuries at an uninhabited house on June 11.

The caretaker of the house who discovered the body said Bassan had told him that the owner of the house had given him permission to sleep on the veranda. But the owner, Thoha Waheed, denied that Bassan had asked for permission.

The right side of Bassan’s face was smashed in and blood was splattered over the wall. Bassan’s murder is the third killing of a migrant worker this year.

The police had arrested a Maldivian man and a woman in connection to the murder. But the PG office has not pressed charges against the female suspect.

Speaking to Minivan News, Jasim Uddin from the welfare department of the Bangladeshi High Commission condemned the brutal killing and called on the Maldivian government to provide justice for the family of Bassan.

Jasim also raised concern over the burial of Bassam’s body in Laamu Gan even after repeated pleas to bring the body to the capital.

“The police said the body was decaying and they need to bury it. We told them to bring the body to Malé City as a decision has to be made whether the body was will be sent to Bangladesh or not. But they buried him anyway,” he said.

Some 124,000 expatriates reside in the Maldives, according to the immigration department, of which more than 30,000 are undocumented migrant workers.

The former Bangladeshi High Commissioner for Maldives Selina Mohsin has described the situation of Bangladeshi workers in the country as “bizarre and horrifying.”

In 2014, the police rescued a Bangladeshi held captive in an accommodation block for migrant workers.

In April this year, two migrant workers were kidnapped, robbed and beaten in a recruitment and employment agency in Malé.

A Bangladeshi worker was discovered in chains in 2009.

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Senior TVM staff found guilty of sexual harassment, let off with warning

The state broadcasting company, Public Service Media (PSM), has let off a senior technical officer found guilty of sexual harassment with a warning.

PSM spokesperson Abdulla Rameez refused to confirm the decision made by an internal committee following an inquiry, saying: “We do not give out information that would harm our staff’s dignity.”

But a copy of the committee’s decision obtained by Minivan News states the accused was warned in writing “after considering the seriousness of the case.”

The PSM said in a statement yesterday that “a just decision” was made in accordance with the law and that the offender has been punished.

According to 2014 sexual harassment law, government offices must set up internal committees to investigate complaints of workplace harassment within 60 days. The committee is authorised to warn, suspend or dismiss the perpetrator.

The PSM operates the Television Maldives (TVM) channel and a radio station.

A senior PSM staff who wished to remain anonymous told Minivan News that the technical officer had “groped a woman’s breasts.”

Other PSM employees who spoke to Minivan News alleged that “many girls were subjected to sexual harassment from the technical officer.”

“They never looked into the case when there have been numerous cases where he assaulted women. This time they had no other choice but to investigate the matter after it was exposed in the local media,” an employee said.

Another staff member criticised the company’s attitude towards sexual offences after “the technical officer’s matter was handled lightly. He was allowed to work while still the case being investigated. He is here as if nothing had happened.”

CNM reported yesterday that the accused senior official was “forgiven” by the committee.

The PSM, however, denied the media reports in its press statement, noting that the complainant has the right to appeal the committee’s decision but had not done so.

The state broadcaster said it regretted the misleading media reports that has brought PSM into disrepute and threatened to sue media outlets for damages.

According to CNM, the incident occurred three weeks ago at the PSM recording library. Sources told the online news outlet that the technical officer grabbed the woman from behind and groped her breasts.

The committee decided to pardon the offender because he has worked at the state broadcaster for 22 years, the sources claimed. The technical officer had reportedly confessed to the committee.

Last month, a manager at the state-owned Hulhumalé Development Corporation (HDC) was also let off with a warning after he was found guilty of sexually harassing a female employee.

The HDC’s human resources manager Mirshan Ahmed was accused of sending inappropriate text messages to an employee who had joined the company in March.

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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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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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Journalist’s family backs independent inquiry into disappearance

Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan’s family has supported the opposition’s call for an independent inquiry into his disappearance a year ago in a Malé suburb.

Speaking to the press outside the Hulhumalé ferry terminal in Malé, Rilwan’s sister Aishath Fazna also announced plans to hold a march on August 8 to mark one year after his disappearance.

Rilwan was last seen entering the ferry terminal in the early hours of August 8 last year. He is believed to have been abducted at knifepoint outside his apartment building in Hulhumalé.

The police prevented the family from speaking to the press today, stating that permission is required from the state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) to speak to the press on its premises.

An independent inquiry into Rilwan’s disappearance and the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali was proposed by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to pave the way for political reconciliation in ongoing talks with the government.

Rilwan’s family said the panel must be impartial and its composition must be decided on consultation with civil society groups. The inquiry must consider the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, including death threats to journalists and the rise of religious extremism in the Maldives, the family said.

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Announcing a march on August 8 amidst police obstruction, the family said: “Taking to the streets is the only recourse we have. The people who have abducted our bother remain on the streets. As long as the perpetrators are not brought to justice, we are not safe.”

The police in April said it had received a DNA analysis of samples taken from cars suspected to have been used in the abduction. Family members have criticised slow progress in the investigation.

In a press statement, Rilwan’s family provided an update of activities conducted in the past year. A 5,500 signature strong petition calling for a speedy investigation was submitted to Majlis last year, but is stalled at a parliamentary committee. The family said they met with commissioner of police Hussein Waheed on Tuesday and last met with home minister Umar Naseer and the police investigating team in May.

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) 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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