Three former prison guards sentenced to death by the former administration for shooting at inmates during a prison riot in 2003 have been returned to jail after they were found to be living at large.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that police had received reports that those found guilty were at large and had been handed over to the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS). He referred Minivan News to the Home Ministry for further information.
Home Minister Hassan Afeef referred Minivan News to the DPRS, while the DPRS referred Minivan News to State Home Minister Mohamed Naeem.
Naeem told Minivan News that the relevant documents showed that 12 of the 13 found guilty were sentenced to death, but former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, using Presidential privileges, had commuted their sentence to a 25 year imprisonment.
‘’The 13th person was the head of the prison – he was found guilty but was granted clemency by the High Court, which was allowed according to the then blue constitution,’’ said Naeem. ‘’It was unfair, and violated the rights of many. How come the former President could grant clemency to the head of prisons who ordered the shooting, but imprisoned the officers who did the shooting?’’
Naeem said the documents at the Home Ministry showed that the 12 officers were at first kept in Maafushi Prison until the new prison head sent a letter to the-then Home Minister Ahmed Thasmeen Ali – now the leader of the opposition – that it was unsafe for the 12 to be among the other inmates.
‘’They were then transferred to Dhoonidhoo Prison, and after two months again a letter was sent to Thasmeen from the then Deputy Police Commission saying that there was no lawful grounds for keeping convicts in Dhoonidhoo to implement verdicts,’’ he said. ‘’And that was the end of the document trail. We do not know what Thasmeen said in reply, or how they managed to stay at large.’’
Thasmeen did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.
Naeem said he regretted that the Home Ministry was obliged to send the convicted officers back to prison after such a long time.
‘’They have wives, kids and families, but this had to happen because of the former administration. If they had not freed them from prison, by now they would have served most of their sentence and could have even possibly apply for clemency,’’ Naeem said. ‘’But there is no other choice – it is our legal responsibility to implement verdicts, whoever it is.’’
Naeem said the action of the former administration had not only violated the rights of those found guilty, but also those of the victims.
‘’When the victims who survived that time see these convicted people roaming around the streets, how do they feel? It is unfair for them,’’ he said.