Prison conditions “unchanged since Gayoom’s time”: detained blogger

Amnesty International has welcomed the release from prison of Maldivian blogger and journalist Ismail ‘Khilath’ Rasheed last Friday, whom the organisation had designated a ‘prisoner of conscience’, but expressed alarm at the government’s failure to prosecute his attackers.

Rasheed was jailed for 24 days in Male’ Custodial following his participation in a ‘silent protest’ on December 10, 2011, International Human Rights Day, calling for religious tolerance.

During the protest at the Artificial Beach he was attacked by several men armed with stones, and was hospitalised with head injuries. He was subsequently arrested on December 14.

“While the release of Ismail Khilath Rasheed is a welcome development, the fact that his attackers have not been investigated points to a serious failure of the government to end impunity for human rights abuses in the country,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives researcher.

“Instead of defending his right to advocate religious tolerance, the government locked Ismail Khilath Rasheed up and have done nothing to bring his attackers to justice – thereby sending a message to the public that crushing a peaceful demonstration is acceptable,” he said.

Amnesty observed that radical religious groups in the Maldives were advocating that “only Sunni Islam is allowed under the constitution”, noting that opposition politicians had sided with these groups “in a political campaign against the President”.

“It is time for the Maldives government to bring to justice all perpetrators of human rights abuses – past and present – including those who attack religious minorities. The first step in this process should be to carry out an independent, impartial and effective investigation of those who used violence against Ismail Khilath Rasheed and other demonstrators on 10 December,” Amnesty declared.

In November 2011 Rasheed’s blog,, was blocked by the Communications Authority of the Maldives (CAM) on the order of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, on the grounds that it contained “anti-Islamic” material.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has also issued a statement on Rasheed’s release, but expressed concern about the ongoing blocking of his blog on the order of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

“The journalist’s unlawful detention is a reminder that it is impossible to establish a totally free press so long as the government subjects itself to religious extremism, as displayed by the Islamic Affairs Ministry,” RSF said.

“Religion is becoming a taboo subject in the Maldives and media workers are under threat of imprisonment every time it is debated.”

“Just like Gayoom’s time”

Despite the Maldives’ international stand on human rights issues, the prisons “remain unchanged since Gayoom’s time”, Rasheed told Minivan News, following his release.

During the police investigation of his involvement with the protest, the blogger was locked for three weeks in a small, three-sided room with 11 other people. Despite the opening there was no airflow, the room was unventilated and the fan in the room was broken, Rasheed said.

The room was so small and crowded it was impossible for 12 people to fully stretch out and sleep properly, and despite provisions requiring inmates be allowed out for at least an hour’s exercise every day, no one was allowed outside during his detention, Rasheed said.

Inmates had to summon the duty officer to be taken to the toilet, which did not flush. There was no shower, and inmates washed themselves by filling a bucket at the water basin, which was also used to flush the toilet. Inmates in other cells with attached toilets were not allowed out at all.

The prisoners had no bedding apart from a small pillow, and slept on the tiles. Every three days they were given a small amount of detergent to wash the floor of the cell.

Rasheed said that the Prosecutor General (PG)’s office visited once during his detention and observed that prisoners were not being properly treated.

“There were no medical facilities, or means of treating heroin addicts going into withdrawal. One of my cellmates had a [withdrawal] fit and we had to put a slipper in his mouth [to stop him swallowing his tongue],” Rasheed said. “I held his hand.”

Most of the cell’s occupants were awaiting prosecution for drug offences, muggings, theft, and for carrying weapons.

“People had been in there for three months and were very frustrated, and were venting that frustration against the government. The Constitution sets limits to people’s detention, but people are in limbo. One guy accused of murder has been in there for 1.5 years, and still his case has not been sent to the PG’s office for prosecution,” Rasheed said.

The blogger was presented to the court following the expiration of the first 24 hour detention period.

“The investigating officer stated that I was the organiser of the protest and should be detained as I was disrupting the religious unity of the Maldives, and was a threat to society,” Rasheed said.

Police also presented Ali Ahsan to the court, developer of the December 23 protest website which had briefly published slogans calling for the murder of “those against Islam”.

Police argued that Ahsan’s release “could endanger Maldivian religious unity and even threaten life” and requested the court grant a 15-day extension of his detention.

Ahsan’s lawyers however argued that the slogans had been uploaded by hackers, and the website developer was released. Rasheed’s detention was extended by 10 days.

After 10 days in custody, Rasheed was again presented to the court.

“The investigating officer told the judge he had reason to believe I had no religion at all, and that I was promoting gay rights, and therefore my case could be concluded only after the Islamic Ministry provided me with counseling to bring me back to Islam,” said Rasheed, who self-identifies as a Sufi Muslim.

The magistrate extended Rasheed’s detention a further 15 days.

On Friday January 6, two days before he was due to be released, Rasheed was told that his case had been sent to the Prosecutor General’s office and that he was free to go.

“The day I was released a different investigating officer said I had been put in prison for my own protection – the same thing my family had been told. He said they had intelligence suggesting that a gang of brainwashed extremists were out to kill me and anybody identified as associated with the protest.”

Rasheed said he now fears for his safety and is unwilling to walk around Male’.

“The majority of Maldivians are not violent people. But I am concerned about a few psychotic elements who believe they will go to heaven if they kill me – people who don’t care if they go to jail for it. Those people I am afraid of, and I will not provoke the country in the future.”

Rasheed’s blog remains blocked, but he says he is unwilling to risk his own safety by resuming blogging anyway.

“The [silent protesters] made their point, which was in no way anti-Islamic,” he said. “Their point was: the majority of people want to eat apples, but a minority want to eat oranges. We said we have no problem with anyone eating apples, but let us eat oranges.

“We said nothing about trying to get people to leave Islam. Everyone should be able to think and practice and follow what they feel personally, and Islam teaches tolerance. Extremists twist this around, and equate it with apostasy – and call for those who leave Islam to be killed.”

Rasheed said he felt that the majority of Maldivians disagreed with extremism, and were generally “a very laid-back, moderate people who want a peaceful life. They are concerned about disruption to families and society, rather than other religions or beliefs.”


33 thoughts on “Prison conditions “unchanged since Gayoom’s time”: detained blogger”

  1. Very sad to hear of Hilath's plight, and to hear of the conditions of his detention.

    The Police / government have shown their absolute inability to confront the religious extremism and violence against peaceful protesters by failing to either keep people who have openly threatened to slaughter humans behind bars, and also for failing to prosecute the violent thugs who beat up the protesters in the first place.

    It's not as if the criminals are in hiding, I see them on the streets occasionally, secure in the knowledge that they have powerful protectors in the opposition party leaders.

    Amnesty is right. The government needs to combat religious extremism - especially the form that emanates from its own misguided Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

  2. This is a BLACK day for Maldives! You are becoming known throughout the world as religious bigots. How can this government talk about the past injustices when they continue to treat people like animals in prison? My heart bleeds for you, Maldives.

  3. appreciate Hilath for letting people know reality in the jail and the courage for risking his life to bring a major human right to all Maldivians.

    If the government dosn't take action, I(as a Maldivian) will be loosing trust on them and the party.(not that there's any better party around) but I hope it wont happen.

    keep up the good work Hilath and be safe

  4. Obviously the threat is from extremist who are poisoned with fantasy of infinite lust. All cult followers are dangerous. They can kill and can do mayhem to anyone who discredits their cult leaders. Hillath should not expose himself to such psychotic society; it is utterly madness to be known this kind of people. Hillath should have worked undercover, and could have fought with this cult society behind the scene. The best way to fight these ignorant people is to expose their madness, and ridicule their backward ideology for which they are very much proud, out of ignorance.

  5. Events of the past few months suggest a bitter fight to determine whether Maldives will grow to be a free democratic society or remain as a fiefdom for intolerance, bigotry and hatred. People like Hilath are the storm troopers in this fight; many more are needed if Maldives is to ever become a responsible member of the family of nations where human dignity is prized and equal rights are enshrined for all.

  6. Everybody writing nicely, speak nicely, but nobody take action against this psychotic islamistic extremistic people. Forcing people doing things what they not realy like to do!!
    And yes responding of this peaple is KILIING only they talk always like that. I know a person he going to 3/4 pents . reason? beart , reason. they don't have heart.

  7. The government of Maldives should protect it's citizens and lock-down on their attackers. Exactly the opposite has happened.

    How can this country be a part of Human Rights?

  8. I think Hilath stated out a point here, I never knew the prisons are that bad, I felt sorry for the Heroin addict who had the attack. I mean these people should be given basic human rights,

  9. Prisons the world over are nasty and intimidating places. It's not a place where you'd want to go back again.

    What do you want as a prison cell? A self contained apartment with a sea view? Forget it dude! Most Maldivians live in extremely cramped conditions and 90% don't have access to running water. That's the reality.

    Stop moaning about prison conditions. There are other higher priorities, such as actually locking up convicted criminals who remain at large.

    I don't sympathise with this guy's cause. He had much better ways of doing it anyway. I maintain that this was a publicity stunt by him, more than anything else.

  10. My god!

    I call for the immediate unseating of President Nasheed.

    After all Qayyoom was opposed for these same reasons. Nasheed allows his police officers to treat prisoners with impunity and lets them languish in jail while he makes trumped up claims about having been a victim of this same abuse.

    If he really had been a victim he could not have rested a single day knowing that this situation continued. I hear tell that Nasheed has exaggerated a lot of the stories about his incarceration. He and other political detainees were treated relatively better than real detainees and inmates in jails and correctional facilities in the Maldives.

  11. Look at the Jewish and Atheist comments! They are defending this Jew Hilath, who also happens to be a homosexual like most Jews. He tries to spread the disease, and a few proud Muslim Maldivian Mujahids try to stop him. I do not see what went wrong here. Jews and homosexuals (May Allah SWT give them STD's) deserve no rights in the Maldives, and deserve no place except prison under the current constitution. If we implemented full Islamic Shariah, then we could have ensured that these Jews were reduced to zero.

    Be warned my fellow Muslim Maldivian brothers and non-fornicating sisters, for Jew Hilath is no 'sufi-muslim'! It's just a disguise he uses, to spread homosexuality! Stay away from him!

  12. If the police does not investigate criminals who carry out violent attacks against the Maldivian people they have failed at their job. This proves their purpose is not to protect us, but cater to political aims ordered by the unIslamic ministry.

    Police chief has no brain, THAT'S why he doesn't need a NECK to hold his head up. He's so airheaded it stays up on its own.

  13. Why is this photo of Hillath being used? To shock people into believing that this country is fully packed with religious extremists and Hillath is the champion of religious freedom I guess... This is typical secular propaganda mindset at work.
    The fact is that Hillath is no saint. He is out there to promote himself. He gets good money from representing Maldives in gay/lesbian community abroad. Very soon US will issue him a passport and that will be the beginning of another Salman Rushdy, this time from Maldives...

  14. Hilath is just the beginning. this would go on for a long time and is unavoidable. at some time or the all the countries, including maldives,would become secular.
    i dont believe there's much that could be done. we try to ignore it for a while due to the pressure from the religious activists, but they would ultimately give way.
    so, in a way i think Hilath isn't so bad after all.

  15. Strange, drug addicts, criminals, protesters, freaks, extremists.... all do wierd things and when they are locked up, they complain for not getting a five star service in the prison. If you had all been normal and law abiding citizens, you could all have a nice comfortable life outside the prison cell. Why can't you all get this in your little brains.

  16. @tsk tsk on Wed, 11th Jan 2012 9:41 PM

    "Nasheed allows his police officers to treat prisoners with impunity and lets them languish in jail while he makes trumped up claims about having been a victim of this same abuse."

    Dude, I don't particular like a lot of Nasheed's policies either. But you're going too far here. Can you name a single political prisoner currently "languishing" in jail as you claim?

    Hilath said he saw a number of drug offenders and murderes languishing in jail. May they languish in there for the rest of their days!

  17. I was being sarcastic Addu.

    However look at the fine detail of Hillath's claims.

    Some of the people he saw 'languishing' so professionally in prisons are charged with crimes and not convicted of them.

    The Police Integrity Commission should investigate these claims. Hillath says one of the persons he saw had been waiting more than 18 months (1.5 years!!!!) for the State to initiate trial proceedings against him.

    This is against the Constitution. The police have an ancient practice of investigating every single crime with the suspect locked up for the duration. However this is only admissible in special circumstances according to our new laws. This part of the Constitution is misunderstood by the police while penal clauses such as "disobedience to order" which should be now obsolete according to our Oh-so-perfect Constitution are more popular than a Bieber-Gaga amalgam.

  18. where is the POlice Integrity Commission?
    Where is the National HUman Rights Commission who have the mandate to visit places of detention and publish its reports?

    Noone should be subjected to torture or other humiliating treatment no matter what their crime. The State owes a duty to all its people to protect them!

  19. Usually when one is charged with something, it is with good reason. The cost benefit calculation yields that it is worth risking their (unlikely) innocence for the sake of social stability and increased overall safety.

  20. Generally with drug users you can tell them from appearance.

    If they have long curly hair dyed to a faded red, have long fingernails, are extremely skinny and also, depending on the type of music they listen to, they may have encountered drugs at some point in their lives, and locking them up isn't altogether unreasonable if they can be reformed.

    Prison conditions should meet a balance whereby they are harsh enough to deter would be re-offenders but provide enough opportunities, with the concomitant facilities to reform the individual; or else the system will merely be vomiting back hardened criminals.

  21. It's worthwhile to think why the society should tolerate breach of Islamic sharia when it comes for consumption of liquor and pork and incitement to fornication by the business of spas while it doesn't a freeman’s decision to choose his religion or rather an order thereof. If Islam has more than one order anyone of them should be valid, and no Moslem can be forced to follow one order rather than the other.

    Sufism is an order of Islam and is based on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad according to literature on the subject published on the Wikipedia. If this is untrue it is a duty of the Islamic scholars to make it clear that Sufism is not founded in Islam.

  22. @Anees

    Sufism is merely bad poetry. It does not preclude anyone from being Sunni and does not stand on its own as a set of theological alternatives to Shia or Sunni schools of jurisprudence.

    Saying that Sufi Islam would dictate such and such on X issue - while Sunni schools, such as Maliki, Hanbali, Shafi etc would dictate another would be nonsensical as the latter set contain actual specific tenets that can be enforced, while the former does not.

  23. Sandhaaru Ahanmaidhee and Matheen has been arrested and sent to Dhoonidhoo jail. Nasheed government has broken it's promise not to take political prisoners. Shandhaanu Ahanmaidhee and Matheen are politicians. Where is Amnesty International? Where is there concern now???

  24. Amnesty notes: "opposition politicians had sided with these groups ”in a political campaign against the President”. This is factually INCORRECT!

    We are NOT against the President. We are AGAINST corruption, nepotism, and inhumane treatment of political prisoners!

  25. I think it could be interesting reading Amnesty document about Rasheed imprisonment:

  26. "I think it could be interesting reading Amnesty document about Rasheed imprisonment:"

    It will not be interesting at all. We do not want religious tolerance here, which would be for the benefit of infidels that want to build churches and worship Jesus/Buddha/Oogah Boogah, and practice their bizzare rituals. We cannot allow that on our soil.

  27. "tina coppola on Sun, 15th Jan 2012 5:13 PM

    I think it could be interesting reading Amnesty document about Rasheed imprisonment:"

    I think all of Amnesty international should be rounded up and garroted on the spot! I find their purpose most vile and detestable; in addition to which, they have little regard for a countries sovereignt, which they violate by commenting on what should properly be regarded as internal affairs.


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