US challenges Maldives’ prosecution of terror suspects, among concerns over rising radicalisation

The US State Department has reported there were no successful prosecutions of suspected terror suspects during 2011 in the Maldives, and raised wider concerns about the potential radicalisation of young people from the country in foreign madrassas.

According to the US government’s recently published “Country Reports on Terrorism 2011”, the Maldives was viewed to have “severely limited” legislation to prosecute alleged cases of terrorism and extremism in the country’s courts.

While the Maldives government said it was presently looking to address several security and terrorist threats, such as piracy and organised crime, through existing legislation and proposed legal amendments, it moved to deny any truth in claims Maldivian citizens were being radicalised at Pakistan-based madrassas.

President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said that the government was presently collecting information in regards to the issue of radicalisation in the country.  He stressed active steps had been taken against permitting clearance for local students to study in any madrassas in the country.

“No Maldivians right now are being trained in Pakistani madrassas.  Steps are being taken to ensure this with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and authorities in Pakistan,” he said. “We will not issue visas to go there in this regard. So to say that such a threat exists is definitely not true.”

Key threats

In addressing other key threats to the nation, Abbas claimed that the incursion of pirates from Somalia into the Maldives’ territories on two reported occasions, as well as human trafficking resulting from organised crime were seen as “particular dangers”.

“The threat we currently face from pirates and traffickers is being dealt with via existing legislation, as well as some new amendments that have presently been proposed in parliament,” he said.

Abbas said the new government had not opted to make any drastic changes to existing counter-terror policy enacted under former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration.

“We will not be making a 180 degree reversal on the last government’s stance,” he said, adding that a focus on further legislation would be sought under President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

US State Department view

According to the US State Department, the American government was partnering with Maldivian counterparts in attempts to “strengthen” law enforcement in the Indian Ocean nation.  The US was also said to back establishing community outreach schemes based around countering terrorist ideologies, as the state department stressed alleged radicalism remained a concern in the Maldives.

“The government believes that hundreds of young Maldivians attended madrassas in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and was concerned that these students were bringing home radical ideology,” stated the report. Two Maldivians, in separate instances in March and October, were arrested in Sri Lanka on charges linked to terrorism. Their cases were pending at year’s end.”

One of the suspects, Mohamed Ameen, was released from police custody in May ths year by the criminal court after it did not issue an extension to his detention period.

Local media reported that the suspect was released by the court “on the condition that he not get involved in any further terrorist activities, and not leave the country.”

Beyond legislation, the report also pointed to the signing of an agreement signed with Malaysia-based IT group Nexbis to install a new border control system with an integrated database in an effort to try and combat human trafficking into the country.

“However, alleged corruption concerns and subsequent legal proceedings made it unclear when the system would be installed,” the report stated.

The Maldives was last month included on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for a third year in a row.

The US State Department added that the Maldives, during 2011, had become a partner in its Antiterrorism Assistance programme focused on training in areas such as “counterterrorism leadership”, as well as regional cooperation with other authorities.

The report also noted the Maldives inclusion in the regional Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, where it had been submitting annual updates on its work.

“Maldives underwent a mutual evaluation conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the final evaluation report was adopted by the members in July 2011.  Maldivian law does not criminalize money laundering apart from a small provision in the Drugs Act. The Maldives Financial Intelligence Unit took the lead in drafting an Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism act with assistance from the IMF,” the report stated.

“The draft bill was sent to the Attorney General’s Office in July 2010 and was sent back to the Maldives Police Services and the prosecutor general for review and comment. In July 2011, Maldives Financial Transactions Reporting came into effect, which aims to safeguard Maldives financial and payment systems from being used to promote acts of terrorism and money laundering, and to protect financial services and products from being used to conceal the proceeds of crime.”

According to the state department, the UN 1267/1989 and 1988 consolidated lists detailing individuals or entities with associations to the Taliban and al-Qa’ida had also been sent to the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The MMA was said to have instructed banks creditors to then take acton on the matter with a set time frame, according to the report.

As part of the US State Department’s findings during 2011, recognition was also given to efforts made by the Maldives government to pursue intiatives and mechanisms designed to counter “violent extremism”.

“The Ministry of Islamic Affairs implemented a programme designed to mobilise religious and social leaders to work against all forms of violence in society, including religious extremism that leads to violence,” stated the report. “The Ministry conducted over 15 seminars and workshops for religious leaders, educators, and local government officials. Several of these workshops included participants from across the country.

“Ideological problems”

Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said in June that he was seeking to counter the “ideological problems” of extremism in the country.

Shaheem claimed that the threat of home-grown terrorism was a key issue needing to be addressed in the Maldives – something he alleged the previous government under former President Nasheed had neglected to assist with through funding.

“The previous government did not give us the budget we needed to run programmes to address these issues,” he said at the time. “There are problems here with extremism and terrorism, these are idealogical problems that need to be targeted through religious awareness campaigns.”

Shaheem himself previously served under the Nasheed government as Islamic State Minister before resigning in December 2010 over differences of opinion with the administration over issues such as claims it was strengthening links with Israel.

However, the now opposition Maldvian Democratic Party (MDP) – to which Nasheed remains the current presidential candidate – was sceptical of the commitments of religious figures attached to the Waheed administration. It contends the government came to power on February 7 in a “coup d’etat”.

Party Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that with the MDP failing to recognise the legitimacy of the current government, the same was true for ministerial appointments like Sheikh Shaheem.

Ghafoor also alleged that issues such as Islamic fundamentalism were a well established tool used during the 30 year rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to pit different factions in the country against each other, something he believed was once again happening with the present government.

“I see Shaheem as a just a little cog inserted into the larger machine of Gayoom’s political control,” he said.


7 thoughts on “US challenges Maldives’ prosecution of terror suspects, among concerns over rising radicalisation”

  1. I suggest that Minivan news reporters do their full research when they allege Mohamed Ameen, who have been cleared from the charges by the Prosecutor General's Office, on grounds that they have no substantial evidence to even submit the case to the court.
    If you need evidence on my comment please feel free to contact me on my mail address and I will be more than happy to show the letter provided by the PG Office.

  2. Are Maldivian youth being radicalised in the madrassas of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?
    Is the pope a catholic?

  3. A large number of Maldivians are returning with a radically changed worldview after studying at various outposts of the International Islamic University as well.

    However this 'radicalization' does not pose the threat of militancy associated with the term in earlier days.

    The new strategy seems to focus more on promoting Islamic legal precepts through ideological warfare. This must be taken as part of the globalizing trend and active steps must be taken to ensure that the newly introduced concepts are not used by predatory individuals and frauds to cause harm to the common citizen.

    Take for example the case of a newly opened television channel - MVTV - in the Maldives which is the first of its kind in the country by focusing solely on the disseminating Wahhabi-Salafi views on theological issues. The problem is not so much with having a channel proselytize in the country. My issue is that the channel has been actively soliciting donations from their viewers for the past few weeks. Is it right for a private television channel owned by a private company to collect donations from a deeply religious community when these funds will no doubt be part of the television company's review and will end up in the pockets of its shareholders?

    Where are our regulators when such issues crop up? We need to adapt to the changing world in order to limit harm. We cannot sit around sensationalizing the symptoms while failing to address the illness.

    As for the obvious hints at a potential threat to India's security concerns from Pakistani-sponsored Salafists a solution to this issue lies in consulting the whole spectrum of political thought in this country. Contrary to what is claimed by its leadership, the urbane-seeming MDP itself has long been infiltrated by several aggressively anti-Indian Salafists. Steps must be taken to prevent such individuals from becoming too powerful within political parties if the party system is to reign supreme in this country.

  4. "Maldivian law does not criminalize money laundering apart from a small provision in the Drugs Act."

    Precisely! You don't have to look too far to see the beneficiaries of money laundering, since most of them are sitting in the law making chambers, i.e. Parliament. No wonder then that the Maldives takes a lax view on money laundering.

    In terms of radicalisation, Maldives will soon overtake countries like Pakistan in terms of the percentage of radical elements in the population. You only have to look back around two decades to see how much the country has been radicalised by Islamic extremists. This was a peaceful, laid back place where we welcomed people from all over the world with a smile. All that has changed within the last two decades.

    The reason is precisely as reported here: training received in places like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

  5. Just bury your head in the sand and pretend there is no problem !!!! Deny Deny and then deny you are denying.

  6. Anyone who speaks out against Islamic fundamentalism is against the fundamentals of Islam. He must be garrotted on the spot forthwith. And may the lord of mercy cast him into the flames of jahannam, where he shall abide for all eternity!

  7. ............and those morons who support islamic fundamentalism should first be hung, drawn and quartered and then cast into the flames of jahannam for all eternity.


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