Indian national Rubeena Buruhanudeen has been held in Dhoonidhoo detention centre for four and a half years on charges of murdering her ten-month-old child.
The 30-year-old is also facing charges related to attempted suicide – a criminal offence in the Maldives – but has been awaiting sentencing since late August 2010, explained a source close to the case.
Minivan News has been told that Rubeena confessed to the killing before having received any legal assistance, and has since said she was heavily medicated at the time of her child’s death, with only a vague recollection of events.
“She is very distressed and depressed,” explained the source. “When the prospect of receiving the death penalty was raised with her, she said she would prefer it to her current situation.”
“Four years waiting for a trial is unacceptable,” they continued, noting that the case had been passed to the Human Rights Commission of Maldives.
Rubeena’s legal team has requested a new hearing before sentencing in order to make the case for diminished responsibility.
Her case has been raised in the Indian media this week, with the New Indian Express reporting that the issue had been brought to the attention of Kerala’s Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
Last month Chandy pledged to offer assistance in the case of Indian teacher K.K. Jayachandran who was imprisoned for 8 months on child abuse charges before being released on December 25.
Minivan News’ source confirmed details published in the Indian media, explaining that Rubeena was married to Hassan Jabir, from Thaa Kinbidhoo – 16 years her senior – in 2008.
The case has also sparked debate in India over the practice of poor girls from Kerala being sold off to foreign nationals in return for money, with Rubeena’s mother telling the Express that Jabir had paid off the family’s debts.
After moving to the Maldives with her husband – who is a clerk in the local court, the marriage became troubled, with Rubeena reported to have been living in a disused tea-shop with her child by 2010.
Rubeena has alleged that she was having trouble obtaining money to feed her child when she attempted suicide by consuming a large volume of drugs, later being informed of her child’s death by staff at the island’s health centre.
After being held in Dhoonidhoo detention centre since June 2010, Rubeena was taken to Malé to appear in court in May, 2013, only to discover upon arrival that she was being taken to the Family Court for the conclusion of divorce proceedings.
Her case was brought to the attention of Maldivian NGO Voice of Women after a chance encounter between Rubeena and political activists detained in Dhoonidhoo following unrest surrounding the transfer of presidential power in February 2012.
Her case has since been taken up on a pro bono basis by local law firm Hisaan, Riffath & Co, with Fareesha Abdulla O’Shea now representing Rubeena.
Minivan News’ source has explained that the Criminal Court has heard from neither the husband nor the doctor who examined the child’s body, with a request to see the latter delaying a scheduled hearing last month.
The court is said to have been receptive to requests for an additional hearing in the case, though officials from the court and the Prosecutor General’s Office were unable to provide details at the time of publication.
Kerala minister Chandy is reported to have met with Rubeena’s parents, as well as making assurances that steps will be taken to ensure prospective job-seekers to the Maldives were aware of the legal complications they may face.
“The cases of people getting trapped in fake cases often do not reach the mainstream due to the restrictions on the media and the hindrance before other Indian associations in contacting the victims in prisons,” read the article in the Express.
The paper reported that it was the release of Jayachandran that brought Rubeena’s case to the public’s attention, with the 51-year-old teacher explaining the difficulties he had in accessing support while incarcerated in the Maldives.
“Even the Indian Club officials in the Maldives were not able to contact me, though they tried through different sources,” Jayachandran told the Express.
“The only agency that can contact them is the Indian Embassy. But they are often indifferent to the unfortunate inmates. Once I was even asked, why do you people choose to work in the Maldives,” he said.
Officials from the Indian High Commission have confirmed that they are aware of Rubeena’s case.
Minivan’s source explained that extradition to India would be considered once Rubeena is sentenced.
The Extradition Act was ratified by President Abdulla Yameen yesterday (December 5), with 15 Sri Lankan prisoners being sent home today (December 6)
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