President offers clemency to Himandhoo protesters

Senior members of the Maldivian government yesterday met with 16 people arrested and sentenced for a violent protest against police at Himandhoo in North Ari Atoll in 2007, to discuss a reduction in their sentences under new clemency laws.

The inmates, currently imprisoned at Maafushi on sentences ranging from nine to 11 years, donned red motorcycle helmets and armed themselves with batons and knives to defend the Dhar al Khuir mosque on 6 October 2007. Police and soldiers were searching for suspects in the Maldives’ first Islamic terror investigation following a bomb blast in Sultan Park that injured 12 tourists.

The president’s Political Advisor Hassan Afeef, together with Special Envoy Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, Legal Affairs Secretary Hisaan Hussain and State Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Saeed Ali Shaheem travelled to Maafushi jail to meet with the inmates to inform them that the president had made the decision to lessen their sentences.

Afeef said the government was unconvinced the group had received a fair trial under the former government, “and we don’t want anyone to undergo punishment for which they are not deserving.”

A still from the video found on an Al Qaeda forum that contained footage of inside the Dhar-al-khuir mosque of Himandhoo moments before it was raided by police.
A still from the video found on an Al Qaeda forum that contained footage of inside the Dhar-al-khuir mosque of Himandhoo moments before it was raided by police.

“The president wanted the inmates to know that people were going to criticise him over the decision, and for them to understand that their behaviour must be in line with the views of society when they are released,” Afeef said.

The conditions of their release had yet to be set, Afeef added. “That will come when the president gives the order,” he said, emphasising that “the government doesn’t take these decisions blindly. It studies the information and consults intelligence services, police and security forces.”

The president’s press secretary Mohamed Zuhair said the main reason leading to the stand off with police was not the terrorism investigation but the fact “they had started praying in their own mosque and their own homes”, an action not in line with the former government’s “single state Islam”.

“This government is against all froms of extremism religous or otherwise,” he said, claiming that the government’s “pluralist” approach and tolerance of other factions and preachers had led to better insight into the institutions operating in the Maldives.

“The president has always said that the way to avoid fundamentalism is more democracy,” Zuhair said, noting that “people join groups with good intentions.”

Pakistan dead

Earlier this week the government repatriated the remaining four of nine Maldivian nationals detained in Pakistan for alleged militant activities on the Pakistan border. The detainees were returned to their families as the Pakistan government placed no conditions on their release, although Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed announced yesterday the men would be kept under surveillance and their activities abroad investigated.

Zuhair also revealed that three other Maldivians, believed to have been part of the group, were killed while they were being transferred between facilities several weeks after their arrest following the Mumbai attacks in 2008.

“I believe they were being transferred from a facility when their convoy came under attack and the vehicle they were in hit a landmine,” Zuhair said.

“We had unconfirmed reports that they were the leaders of the Maldivian group, which may have been linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) currently waging war in Kashmir.”

Zuhair emphasised that the nine men who had returned had not been charged and were “innocent until proven guilty.”

“The political culture in the Maldives has changed,” he said. “Whereas before if the government was suspicious about someone they would be arrested and questioned, now people are innocent until proven guilty.

“I believe the government is keeping a close watch on these people,” he added.


20 thoughts on “President offers clemency to Himandhoo protesters”

  1. Interesting...the most secular state (unlike Gayoom's so called Islamic state which was his version of Islam..far from the real islamic state..Anni's government is a the most secular state) is acting quite wired..and strange! I wonder what Anni is upto!! Does he want to supress the true islamic thinkers..when one foolish Islamic fighter strikes.!!?? Lets wait and see!

  2. I agree this is a good move. Actions against people due to religion MUST be prescribed by religion. Does Islam say send your police and destroy their mosque if a group starts praying separately? If not then these people were wrongly treated (as are so many others) by old regime. I do not agree with the actions of Himandhu separatists but the confrontation was all unnecessarily provoked and therefore they are unfairly imprisoned.

  3. At the K'aba you have all Muslims praying together. Why cant it be done in every Island in Maldives. Islam is a philosophy that supports inclusiveness.

  4. good move. every one should have the authority to pray anywhere they want. That's not the business of Gayoom and monster Bari.

  5. These are extremists. These are people who went to 'war' with our own police. These are people who are brainwashed that anything against their will is unislamic. So I'd say these people are extremely dangerous and they could harm our country and its tourists any time.

  6. Maumoon's official line when he sent the armed forces to Himandhoo was that they were praying in a separate mosque and their own homes. I agree with meekaaku. After all what is wrong with praying in a separate mosque? However the scenes that unfolded after the armed forces when to Himandhoo makes me think that perhaps Maumoon knew more about what really was going on that than he let on to. What the armed forces encountered in Himandhoo was well trained, organised militants the likes of dare my I say: Taliban.

    Yes, when you singularly take into account Maumoon's official line what he did might seem wrong. But doing so would be shortsighted. We have to take into account Himandhoo as a whole. The alleged links with Taliban, all the veiled woman, the preference not to send children to school when they are young but to Waziristan once they grow into young men , and last but not the least the militant men willing to kill in the name of religion.

    I hope that President Nasheed has the farsightedness to rid this country of the growing epidemic that is religious extremism. But so far it does not seem like him or the current Government of the Maldives is capable of tackling this problem. If anything the situation has worsened since Nasheed took to office. I still remember our formula to tackle the drug crisis: denial... denial.... more denial... oops, too late.

    Sadly democratic values and fundamental rights like freedom of expression seems applicable only to these extremists. They can talk about what not (the latest episode being pointy breasts and young lads with firm buttocks), preach their message of repression, hate and violence and still it is not a problem.

    Denial... denial... more denial... oops, too late!

  7. If they are 'innocent until proven guilty' why are they under surveillance?

    Should innocent civilians be under surveillance?

    If the authorities have good reason to suspect them of mischief why are their sentences being reduced?

    This government is nuts and the damage they are causing will be felt for generations to come.

  8. The paradise we call the Maldives, is a tickling time bomb with a lot of extremists!
    Political, Religious, Aimless (you name it) are prowling our streets in search of easy prey!

    No one wants us to live like the Maldivians we used to be!

    Our streets are full of the likes Bettina say, who will not get hooked?

    Alarmingly we are all hooked to something one way or the other!

    But I would think this move for good or bad is like activating the time device of a deadly time bomb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. President Nasheed seems to be letting lose all the terror mongers for political fan fare.

    A sorry state of affairs.

  10. agree with Bettina!
    indeed they should not be prisioned just for praying in a separate mosque, but there is more it than this.

  11. My vote goes to Bettina. Mr.Nasheed should get a new set of political advisors. Seriously, where is long-term strategic planning????

  12. What is wrong with Anni? Just becox he was jailed for political reasons that does not mean that all the ppl in jail r political prisoners.

  13. These people should be recruited to Military. they have the talent, we all saw that. "religion protecting squad" maybe. applaudable efforts by them to protect their belief.

  14. Good move. I think atleast this will allow some religious brothers out there to have a more understanding approach with the government. If the government wants to talk to those that they might not exactly see eye to eye, then it should be given a chance. Nothing is gained by putting someone to prison because they have a different belief.

  15. Just wanted to clarify that belief in my previous comment is "believe in opinion compared to another".

    Never know who might see the opportunity to twist the words of others, if not explained properly in the first place. 😉

  16. Has the religious situation in Maldives really gotten worse? The fact that we are engaging in constructive dialogue cannot be anything but good, in my view. If nothing else, it is bringing up previously hidden or taboo topics, and allowing them to be openly discussed and addressed.

    In reality, going back to 'the way things used to be in the good old days' in my view, is not necessarily going back to Islam - many of us were brought up with the Dheeniyyaath and Thauleem Dhiyana brand of Islam or haits ingrained by culture and not much much else, where we learned by rote and did things just because it was the way it had been done for years or because that was what our parents knew, or what the ruling regime endorsed. Where the wood was lost for the trees and many learned to nitpick rather than view Islam for the holistic way of life that it is prescribed to be. Hence the huge deal about conforming to a set standard, and about wearing or not wearing burugaas, beards and shorter pants, while society was falling apart around us.

    Today most of us are not too worried or afraid to discuss religious issues, today I see leading scholars advocating for burugaa but not making a huge deal of it, not imprisoning people for being different. Today I see the wife of the Religious Affairs minister attending functions in her full veil while the minister's female cabinet colleague does not wear a buruga, yet receives the same respect from him and others. Today I hear sermons and religious programmes that are direct, deal in reality, advocate personal responsibility and a direct relationship with Allah, and seem aimed at creating social change towards a less hedonistic, more ethical and holistic way of life. Today I hear concepts explained in a way that appeal to various segments of society, using different media.

    Yes, some of the more explicit content of sermons offend some, while some other content and actions probably offend others. Yes, there probably are those who still have misguided notions about the inherently peaceful and joyful nature of Islam. But with more awareness, more education and information dissemination by a range of learned scholars who have experience of various cultures and schools, won't that also recede in time? For instance, we recently heard Salaf make some cautionary statements on the Madhana programme according to their views, but they qualified this by saying they would consult with other NGOs before taking a firm stand. On another issue, we later heard them say that they had not been given a permit for the proposed scholars for 'The Call' because the regulation on religious preaching was in the process of being developed. However, they were not aggressive on this front either - on being asked by media about the way forward, they said they would not make a statement until they had discussed among themselves and arrived at an organisational decision. To me, that seemed to be a very democratic process, it seemed that was the result of rational thought, and also of engagement even on behalf of the authorities. In the past I think we would have had much more knee-jerk reactions and strong statements from all sides.

    Today the whole world is beginning to recognise that inclusion, not exclusion, is the key to peace and stamping out of terrorism and violent mindsets. With a collective effort at constructive discourse and dialogue, I believe that we in this relatively tiny society will be able to prove that this is indeed true.

  17. arrest dictator maumoon!! he publicly agreed on dhifm one to one that he prays in his house even the Friday prayers he never goes to mosque .. so according to his own rulings dictator should be arrested .. and in that way he inspired his party people come to alivaage for Friday prayers ..

  18. Going by some of the comments on this thread, one might think these people have been arrested for merely praying in a mosque.

    That is not the case. These are religious radicals, who were armed and violent and have separatist tendencies.

    Does anyone remember the case of the dead body of a man found on the beach prior to the incident?

    Suspected of being related to religious extremist violence?

    Whatever happened to that?

    One would expect a 'pluralist' government to act firmly, and decisively in the larger interests of us ordinary civilians, instead of appeasement.

    Appeasement is the equivalent of feeding your fellow mates to a crocodile hoping he'll eat you last.


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