Former Under-Secretary of the President’s Office and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activist, Ibrahim Rasheed ‘Hoara Ibbe’, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail after the Criminal Court found him guilty of the charge of sexually abusing a 17-year old girl.
The police arrested Rasheed a year ago in December after being discovered at a house in the Galolhu Ward of Male’ with the minor.
The local media at the time quoted police as saying that when officers entered the room containing Rasheed, he was naked with the girl. However, the police refused to officially confirm the claim.
Rasheed at the time claimed that the 17-year old was his girl friend and later, got married to her when she had attained the age of 18.
The Prosecutor General however pressed charges against Rasheed under section 3(c) of the Special Measure for Perpetrators of Child Sex Abuse Act 2009, which carries a sentence of imprisonment up to 14 years.
Criminal Court officials confirmed to local media at the time that Rasheed – during the closed-door trial – had refuted the charges.
However, issuing the guilty verdict this Sunday (December 1), the Criminal Court Judge stated that despite Rasheed’s objections to the charges, the statements given by witnesses produced to the court by the prosecution proved that he had been guilty of the charge.
Section 3 of the Measure for Perpetrators of Child Sex Abuse Act 2009 states:
(a) It is an offence if a person touches a minor with sexual intent.
(b) For the purpose of this section, touching a minor with sexual intent is meant if he acts in the following way
- Touching the minor’s genital region or his anal region or any other sexual organ or touching part of his body that could be used to achieve sexual desire,
- Touching with the hand or any other object,
(c) If a person is found guilty of the offense mention in Section 3(a), he shall be punished with imprisonment for a period of 10 to 14 years.
For the purpose of Maldivian laws regarding sexual offences, any person under 18 years of age is considered a minor.
Selective application of the law
Although the Criminal Court sentenced Rasheed under the Measure for Perpetrators of Child Sex Abuse Act 2009, the same court only sentenced renowned Quran reciter and teacher Hussain ‘Qaari’ Thaufeeq to a six months banishment and 15 lashes in a similar case last week.. Thaufeeq was arrested on August 2010 for multiple counts of child molestation while in a position of trust, although this was not considered by the court.
According to local media the Criminal Court sentenced Thaufeeq under ‘Regulation concerning punishment for fornication and adultery’, and had the enforcement of his sentence suspended under section 292(2) of the “Regulation concerning criminal trial” for a period of three years as it was his first offence.
Minivan News was unable to obtain a copy of the ‘Regulation concerning punishment for fornication and adultery’ as this was not found on the government’s legal website containing all published laws, www.mvlaw.gov.mv. The Criminal Court’s website was down for maintenance.
Section 292(2) of the “Regulation concerning criminal trial” states:
The judge has the discretionary power delay enforcement of a sentence for a period of three years if, the person found guilty is sentenced to imprisonment or banishment or house arrest for a period not exceeding six months, and if it is the first criminal conviction that person has faced [in his life].
It is unclear as to why the Criminal Court opted to sentence Thaufeeq under the “Regulation concerning punishment for fornication and adultery” while section 9 of Measure for Perpetrators of Child Sex Abuse Act 2009 explicitly states the offence of child abuse and molestation while being in a position of trust, and despite usual practice being that a specific legislation supersedes a by-law.
Section 9 of Measure for Perpetrators of Child Sex Abuse Act 2009 states:
(a) It is an offence if a person who commits a sexual act against a minor while being in a position of trust
(b) The punishment for the offence stated in section 9(a) is imprisonment for a period between 15 to 18 years
Thaufeeq is also being charged with possession of pornographic material. The trial is still pending at the Criminal Court.