President Yameen denies knowledge of Nazim weapons set-up

President Abdulla Yameen today hit back at Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla’s claims the president was aware of the alleged framing of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim in an illegal weapons charge.

Sheikh Imran, speaking at the opposition Alliance Against Brutality last night, said he had met with President Yameen on March 3 and told the president he would have knowledge of the senior government officials involved in the set-up against Nazim.

“Even though it cannot be proven at the court, we told [President] Yameen that we have enough evidence to prove that Nazim was being framed, and told him to our knowledge the president was well aware of what had happened. But the president said he did not know,” Sheikh Imran told hundreds of opposition supporters.

The President’s Office issued a statement today denying Imran’s claim, stating President Yameen had responded to Imran’s allegations of framing, saying he was not aware “whether Nazim had been framed or not.”

Sheikh Imran had asked the president to withdraw charges against Nazim at the 1.5 hour meeting, but President Yameen told the six member Adhaalath Party delegation that he had no constitutional authority to withdraw charges pressed by an independent Prosecutor General following an independent police investigation, the statement said.

President Yameen then instructed Sheikh Imran to join Nazim’s defence team and mount a defence through the court if he had reason to believe Nazim was framed. The President also told Sheikh Imran the matter must be resolved through the courts, the statement continued.

Nazim maintains the pistol and three bullets found in a bedside drawer during a midnight raid were planted by rogue officers. However, the Criminal Court yesterday only called two out of 38 defence witnesses, claiming the witnesses presented by the defence did not appear to negate the prosecution’s claims.

The former Defence Minister alleges Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb had planned the set-up following a fallout over Adeeb’s alleged use of police officers to commit crimes, including the chopping down of all of Malé City’s Areca Palms. Both Adeeb and Maldives Police Services have denied the allegations.

Sheikh Imran last night also declared that the opposition would no longer tolerate President Yameen’s “brutality,” Adeeb’s alleged rampant corruption, unfair prosecution of political rivals, and “destruction of public property”.

In response, President’s Office said Imran should file any complaints of corruption with the Anti Corruption Commission.

The Adhaalath Party, Nazim’s family, high ranking Jumhooree Party (JP) officials and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) united against President Yameen’s alleged brutality last week.

The Alliance Against Brutality last night warned the government to initiate dialogue with the opposition or face the consequences.

“If [President Yameen] does not come to the [negotation] table, I would say he won’t have any other choice but to go home,” said JP Deputy Leader Ameen Ibrahim.


Over 10,000 voters re-register as EC continues runoff preparations

The Elections Commission (EC) has received over 10,000 voter re-registration forms as its preparations for the second round of the presidential election continue amid controversy catalyzed by the Jumhooree coalition’s refusal to accept the first round results.

The coalition’s allegations of vote rigging have resulted in ongoing cases in the Supreme Court and High Court. Earlier this week, police barricaded the EC secretariat in response to these claims, searching its trash unsuccessfully for evidence of voter registry fraud.

The media has continued to disseminate unsubstantiated information about the commission, and threats have been directed at the EC’s chair, his family, and the vice chair, as well as EC official Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed in the week-and-a-half since the presidential election’s first round.

The Jumhooree Party’s allegations that the EC rigged the first round vote include claims that an inaccurate voter registry and fake identity cards allowed individuals to vote more than once, or to cast ballots in the names of deceased people. The party has also alleged that the ballot counting process lacked transparency.

The EC has subsequently raised concerns that there may not be a suitable environment for the presidential election’s second round should Villa TV (VTV) – owned by JP leader Gasim Ibrahim – continue to deliberately spread false information and incite people to rise up against the commission.

Parliament’s National Security Committee and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) are currently conducting separate investigations into the matter.

Despite these challenges, the EC is continuing to prepare for the second round runoff – scheduled for September 28 – and has emphatically dismissed allegations of vote rigging as “baseless and unfounded”. The EC has highlighted its transparency, its ongoing complaints investigations, and the praise from a broad spectrum of election observers who noted peaceful voting and the preparedness of the EC.

“With [election] officials from different sources [working] in front of [election] observers, there was no way the type of fraud [the JP is alleging] could be made,” EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek recently told Minivan News.

“We have been strictly following the rules, regulations, laws, and constitution, so I don’t think there is room for anything to stop the second round voting,” he said.

“We are printing the ballot papers, conducting refresher training sessions for officials, prepping all the logistics, including travel plans, etc.,” he noted.

Over 10,000 re-register

Individuals registered to vote in one location had a four day re-registration opportunity – ending on Sunday (September 15) – to change that location according to their needs for the September 28 run-off.

The EC yesterday revealed that its secretariat in Male’ had received 10,000 re-registration forms and has sent replies to each individual. The commission is also currently processing re-registration forms forwarded from island councils in the atolls.

“The exact number of people who re-registered will only be known after the registration process is completed. About 10,000 forms were submitted for Male’ alone,” said EC Registration Department Head Aminath Majdha. “The exact number will be known when we know the number of forms submitted to the councils from the atolls.”

The re-registration forms that the commission has received thus far include new voters who did not participate in the first round polling, such as individuals who recently turned 18, as well as Maldivians who will be in Saudi Arabia performing the Hajj pilgrimage, Majdha explained.

The number of Maldivians now registered to vote in Saudi Arabia requires a ballot box to be stationed in the country, she added.

For the presidential election’s first round the EC stationed 470 ballot boxes on local islands, resorts, and diplomatic missions in Singapore, London, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka, as well as Trivandrum and New Delhi in order to accommodate 239,593 eligible voters.

Voting with forged ID’s not possible: DNR

Meanwhile, the Department of National Registration (DNR) has dismissed the possibility of individuals voting with forged national identity cards.

DNR Director General Fareeda Yoosuf has insisted there was no chance forged ID’s could be used to vote.

Each individual identity card is unique and does not change even when renewed and, even in cases where lost IDs are replaced, the same identity number is used, Yoosuf noted.

“The card number will remain the same for each individual no matter how many times the card is renewed,” she explained. “We haven’t issued identity cards with two different numbers to the same person, so I’m certain that can’t be done.”

“When each person has a unique number and is allowed to vote based on that number, there is no chance a person can vote more than once by using different ID numbers,” she continued.

No complaints of forged identity cards have been received by the DNR so far, she noted.

Earlier this week, the EC also announced that eight deceased individuals the JP had claimed to be on the electoral register had been found to be living.

The commission has determined that the eight people did cast ballots and has met five of them, EC Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz told local media. The commission has received information that the other three individuals are also alive, though the EC has not yet been able to meet them.

Recount impossible

During last week’s National Advisory Committee meeting – where the JP, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), and incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s representatives called for a recount of ballot boxes from the first round – the EC noted that the alleged voter discrepancy was not enough to call for a recount of all 470 ballot boxes.

The law states there are two instances where ballot boxes may be recounted: 1) If the EC decides the voting process was compromised and decides to conduct a recount to address a complaint(s); 2) If there is a court order issued for a recount, EC Vice Chair Fayaz explained recently.

However, the EC also emphasised that all the commission’s members were willing to conduct a recount of any ballot box where credible evidence of fraud is presented.

It would be impossible to conduct a recount prior to the second round, given that the time consuming task would require about two months to complete, EC Chair Thowfeek explained to Haveeru yesterday (September 16).

“That is something that simply cannot be done, it will take a long time to recount the votes,” said Thowfeek. “It takes around 12 hours to count four or five ballot boxes.”

Requesting a recount without any legal basis – only to remove personal doubts – is not sanctioned by the constitution or the elections law, he continued.

“The ballots had been counted in the presence of monitors, observers and representatives, so even if there is a recount, the results won’t change,” he noted. “Moreover, a vote recount is not something the people will welcome either.”

However, the PPM has alleged Thowfeek “changed his tune” about the time necessary to conduct a recount, claiming he told the National Advisory Committee the process would take about four days.


Jumhoree Party rejects accusations of campaign bribery

The Jumhoree Party (JP) has rejected accusations of directly giving money or any other incentive to the public during campaigning for the upcoming presidential election, after several rivals raised concerns.

Both the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have slammed the JP this week, accusing senior campaigners in the party of directly providing money and goods to the public to try and buy votes.

JP Deputy Leader Dr Ibrahim Didi today told Minivan News that “no donations” had been made through the campaign offices of its presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim or his coalition partners ahead of polling, scheduled for September 7.

He insisted that although donations such as scholarships and school equipment had continued to be given through the Villa Foundation – a charity established by Gasim – these were not political gestures.

Didi claimed that, as well as sending some 200 Villa scholars abroad, the foundation – which is run separately from the JP – had for decades been providing vital equipment to schools and health centres across the country independently of the JP.

Gasim will stand in the election as the candidate for a coalition of parties including the JP, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, and the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP).

“Dumping money”

The PPM, whose presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen will be standing against Gasim next month, has alleged that the JP has been providing donations directly from its campaign office in the build up to September’s vote, effectively “dumping money” in certain parts of the country.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan claimed that while he respected the work of Gasim’s Villa Foundation in the Maldives, there had been “very clear” attempts by the coalition of parties backing his election to offer voters financial incentives, particularly over the last one and a half months.

“I do not think it is the Villa Foundation that has been providing televisions and refrigerators to households,” Nihan said.

Nihan, who reiterated his respect for Gasim as a fellow parliamentarian and one of the country’s highest profile business figures, said that the level of donations being made by the presidential candidate and his supporters was “questionable” for a democratic system.

“One of Gasim’s main plus points is that he has lots of money. He is definitely using it,” he said.

Nihan accused Gasim of trying to financially influence voting, both for the upcoming election and during the country’s first multi-party democratic vote in 2008, arguing that a growing number of young voters between the ages of 19 and 35 years would be aware of attempts to influence them.

He argued that the PPM’s island council by-election victory against the JP in Nolhivaram in Haa Dhaalu Atoll on Saturday (August 24) had indicated that Gasim’s alleged spending and donations would not translate to polling success.

“We are running a democratic campaign. We don’t have the money to provide televisions and refrigerators like the JP,” he added.

Nihan alleged that the majority of Gasim’s political supporters were only interested in profiting from the tycoon by getting what he claimed was a “quick buck” ahead of voting, and cited his previous unsuccessful campaign to stand for the presidency in 2008.

“[These supporters] will abandon Gasim after the election just like what happened in 2008,” he said.

Gasim unsuccessfully contested in the 2008 presidential elections finishing the race in fourth place, with 15.2 percent of the total vote.

He finished behind candidates including then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, eventual winner Mohamed Nasheed, and the current JP running mate, Dr Hassan Saeed.

Official complaint

The opposition MDP, represented in the upcoming election by former President Nasheed, has filed a case with the country’s Elections Commission (EC) concerning campaigning by Gasim’s coalition.

MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor accused the JP of “unashamedly” trying to buy votes for the election.

“They believe this is how it has to be done. You give people things and they will vote for you,” he said. “They are oblivious to the fact that the world has changed. We are hearing that some people might accept money [they are offered by a candidate] and still vote for the candidate they want.”

The MDP also today criticised First Lady Ilham Hussain over reports in local media that she had donated MVR 100,000 (US$6500) to Mulaku School in Meemu Atoll, accusing her of trying to buy votes for President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s campaign.

Abbas Adil Riza, a spokesperson for President Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) was not responding to calls at time of press.

Addressing complaints filed over campaign spending, Elections Commissioner  Fuwad Thowfeek today told newspaper Haveeru that any kind of donations by candidates contesting in next month’s presidential vote could potentially undermine the electoral process.

Thowfeek said that in light of allegations of bribery being raised with the commission, he believed it would be best to halt “social assistance” until voting next month had concluded.


Maldives Bar Association calls for suspension of Supreme Court Justice pending sex video investigation

Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahee

The Maldives Bar Association (MBA) has called for the suspension of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed pending an investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct.

In a statement, the MBA challenged the independence and transparency of any Judicial Service Commission (JSC) investigation without the suspension of the judge in question.

Hameed is under investigation by both the police and JSC over the circulation of at least three sex videos apparently depicting him fornicating with unidentified foreign women.

Four members of the JSC voted in support of a motion last Wednesday (July 17) against suspending Justice Hameed due to “lack of evidence”, despite recommendations that he be taken off the bench until investigations were concluded.

Following the decision, JSC Deputy Chairman Abdulla Mohamed Didi and Latheefa Gasim resigned from the five-member committee investigating the matter.

The Bar Association, presided over by former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood, said in a statement (Dhivehi) released today that it was “against principles adopted in modern democratic societies” to allow Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed to remain on the bench while he faced allegations of adultery and other concerning conduct.

The JSC last week disregarded a recommendation by its own investigating committee to suspend Hameed, leading the MBA to questioned whether the JSC was capable of reviewing the matter impartially.

The Bar Association said prompt action was needed to verify whether the allegations against the judge were legitimate, in order to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the Maldives judicial system.

Priority, the association argued, had to be given to uphold credibility, integrity and public trust within the country’s legal system rather than “defending the interests” of a single judge.

The statement also called on the JSC to appoint two members to the subcommittee investigated the judge’s conduct that had been left vacant by the resignations of Abdulla Mohamed Didi and Latheefa Gasim.

Transparency calls for investigation

NGO Transparency Maldives also expressed concern that leaked video footage purportedly of a supreme court judge acting in a “culpable manner” could jeopardise the integrity of the country’s apex court, and public confidence in the wider democratic system.

“There is a duty vested upon all relevant authorities to uphold and protect the integrity of such a important state institution,” the NGO said in a statement (Dhivehi).

“Therefore, Transparency Maldives believes that, in order to ascertain Supreme Court’s credibility and public trust, it is very important for all authorities to reveal the truth behind the accusations as soon as possible.”

The NGO called on authorities and the JSC to refrain from any conduct that could be deemed as “dubious” in their handling of investigations into the judge.

Chief Judge of the Supreme Court Ahmed Faiz has meanwhile urged the public and media to refrain from making statements that would give a negative image of the judiciary, and called for constitutional amendments.

Leaked footage

The video of the Supreme Court Justice allegedly indulging in adultery came into media limelight following the arrest of Ahmed Faiz – a senior Council Member of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Ihthihaad Party (GIP) and former Project Advisor at the Housing Ministry.

Snapshots taken from the video began circulating on social media networks Twitter and Facebook, prompting a police investigation. The police formally notified all relevant authorities including the JSC, the Prosecutor General and President Waheed regarding their investigation into the case.

The JSC is also investigating a further two videos involving the Supreme Court Judge, including spy camera videos of Hameed discussing political corruption of the judiciary with a local businessman, and a meeting with former Immigration Controller Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim.

‘Fake’ claims

The footage has been branded a politically motivated attempt to discredit the judge and dismissed as “fake” by local business tycoon, JSC member and presidential candidate MP Gasim Ibrahim,

Gasim has meanwhile said he personally saw no conflict of interest between his bid for the presidency and current role on the judicial watchdog. The presidential candidate  voted against suspending Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed during the JSC vote.

The public’s representative on the JSC, Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman, was sharply critical earlier this year of the commission’s conduct and motivations, particularly its “open discussion” of its intent to eliminate Gasim’s rival presidential candidate, former President Mohamed Nasheed, from contesting the upcoming elections.

“It is common now to hear a lot of MDP and Nasheed bashing in commission meetings. This was not how things usually were before. I believe politically biased comments like this have increased since Gasim joined the JSC as a representative of the parliament,” Sheikh Rahman stated in March.

“Gasim even went to the point of asking the UN Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul when she held a meeting with us to state in her report that it was Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) who torched the courts. I heard him say exactly that,” Sheikh Rahman said.

Knaul’s final report to the UN Human Rights Council following her mission to the Maldives in February, was a damning indictment of the country’s judicial crisis.

JP Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


No complaints received of officers withholding identification in Addu City: PIC

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has said no complaints have been received of officers in Addu City refusing to provide a warrant or identification while conducting searches on members of the public or their private property.

Addu City’s Mayor yesterday (June 16) alleged he had received multiple complaints that plain clothes officers who refused to provide either identification or a warrant were searching members of the public in the streets and in their homes.

The allegations were raised following the Maldives Police Service (MPS) warning issued Saturday (June 15) claiming criminals had been posing as officers in the Addu City area for the last two weeks in order to commit robberies.

PIC Director General Fathimath Sareera Ali Shareef told Minivan News today that as the commission had received no reports of officers failing to provide their identification or a warrant during searches,  it would not be investigating allegations against officers in Addu City.

“We would only look into the issue if there were complaints made of police doing wrong,” she said.

Shareef added that while the PIC had been made aware of the reports of criminals posing as officers in Addu, the matter was a criminal investigation and therefore the responsibility of the police.

“We understand that these robberies involve members of the public posing as police. I would hope no officers were involved in this,” she said.

A police media official meanwhile confirmed yesterday that investigations were under way in Addu City into several separate incidents where individuals falsely claiming to be officers searched members of the public in the street or at their homes before robbing them of valuables.

Police were presently working to identify the individuals accused of posing as police in order to commit robberies, though no arrests have been made at the time, the official added.

A statement released by authorities on the weekend said that all genuine officers – even those on duty in plain clothes – are required to carry their police identification. The public was therefore encouraged to ask officers to see such documentation when they were being searched or questioned.

However,  Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig said that after having recently received numerous complaints about Special Operations (SO) officers allegedly forcing their way into homes to conduct searches without uniforms, warrants or identification, it was increasingly difficult for the public to verify real police in the city.

“We never get complaints about thieves breaking into properties disguised in police uniform,” he alleged. “We have received complaints that the SO perform searches of people and property without their ID or uniform. Also, people have been beaten, threatened, abused, abducted and locked up without relatives being informed.”

Sodig argued that on the back of allegations certain officers were conducting their duties without wearing uniforms or providing their ID, local thieves had found themselves able to exploit public uncertainty to perform robberies.

“Some people have issued complaints with us and the PIC. These are not fake police officers, they are genuine officers who are refusing to show their ID and stopping anyone on the street they like,” he claimed yesterday.


Police summon JSC member over gang link allegations

Police have summoned the president’s appointed member to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), Mohamed ‘Reynis’ Saleem, for questioning regarding allegations he commissioned gang activities.

Saleem reported to police headquarters in Male’ yesterday (May 25) to answer questions related to an ongoing police investigation.

He has been accused of “exploiting a gang to commit crimes, including mugging,” according to local media. Saleem allegedly enlisted a gang to recover money owed to him.

The case under investigation is not related to the Dr Afrasheem Ali murder, a police media official told Minivan News today (May 26).

“As the investigation is ongoing, I am not able to provide any further details. We are facing difficulties now,” the official said.

The police do not have any plans to arrest Saleem or forward charges to the Prosecutor General’s Office at this time.

Meanwhile, Saleem has refuted the allegations, claiming he has no links to gang members, or anyone affiliated with gangs, and he did not enlist gangs to conduct criminal activities.

“The first thing I want to make clear is that I don’t have any links with gangs, or links with any person connected with gangs,” Saleem told local media.

“The question the police asked was whether I had sent a group to collect some money owed to me by someone. I said that I never sent any group to collect any money for me. So if someone owed me money, I would go to court. I shouldn’t have to involve a group,” explained Saleem.

Saleem also denied allegations he had links to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officer Azleef Rauf, who was accused of planning the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali by suspect Hussein Humam, and was subsequently arrested on May 23.

“A serious question is being raised, about a person named Azleef. When I read the papers today, there were reports about a person named Azleef. Right now is a very critical moment, and they have associated my name with his name. I don’t want any newspaper writing in this manner,” said Saleem.

Saleem claimed that his police summons was politically motivated and related to his current JSC responsibilities, but that he would “disclose details [about the allegation] when the right time comes.”

“It’s a personal issue”: JSC

“We believe the issue is unrelated to the JSC or JSC work,” JSC Secretary General Aboobakuru Mohamed told Minivan News today.

“It is a personal issue [of Saleem’s] and the commission is not going to do anything or comment,” said Mohamed.

“We don’t appoint members, the President or Majlis (parliament) does, and should take up the matter,” he added.

Former President’s Member on the JSC Aishath Velezinee told Minivan News that JSC members under police investigation should not participate in the commission while this was ongoing.

“When any JSC member is being investigated they should not be participating in the commission. It reflects on the commission and the status of the judiciary,” she said.

“The JSC should be above criticism. How can the public trust judges if JSC members are under question?” she asked.

“Saleem should refrain from participating in the JSC voluntarily, that would be the best course of action,” she added.

Velezinee explained that because “Maldivians do not think like that,” parliament should suspend Saleem from the JSC until the investigation is complete, as was the course of action taken with the Civil Service Commission (CSC) President Mohamed Fahmy.

“Parliament should put Saleem on leave, not as a punishment but until the investigation is over,” stated Velezinee.

“It doesn’t matter who it is, [allegations of] involvement in serious crime require a full investigation by the police,” she noted.

She further detailed that the appropriate course of action requires police to inform the Prosecutor General, who should then inform Parliament so they can take action.

“I welcome the police to investigate, although the police are not without question themselves,” said Velezinee.

“The government itself is in question, anything that happens at this moment will be politicised,” she added.

President’s Office Spokespersons Masood Imad and Mohamed Thaufeeq, as well as Parliament Speaker MP Abdulla Shahid were not responding to calls at time of press.


Attorney general appeals 15 year-old girl’s flogging sentence as authorities contemplate legal reforms

Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor has appealed a court decision to sentence a 15 year-old girl alleged to be the victim of multiple cases of sexual abuse to 100 lashes on charges of fornication, the government confirmed today.

The Juvenile Court sentenced the girl after she confessed to authorities of having consensual sex with an unknown man during investigations into a separate case of abuse against the minor.  The abuse was alleged to have been carried out by her stepfather.

President Mohamed Waheed’s government has previously criticised the verdict, pledging back  in January to review the use of flogging as a punishment for sexual offences – a practice it has alleged in some cases actually serves to punish victims of rape and abuse.

Sources on Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll, where the 15 year-old girl originates from, last week told Minivan News that concerns had been raised by islanders since 2009 that the minor had allegedly been the victim of sexual abuse not just by her stepfather, but by a number of other unidentified men on the island.

The case has brought international attention to the country’s legal system, including the launch of an online petition signed by 1.3 million people that threatens to boycott Maldivian tourism, as well as public criticism from British multi-billionaire Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group of companies.

In a statement posted on his website yesterday (March 26), Branson spoke of the “enormous damage” he believed the verdict was causing the country. As a result, Branson said he had written to President Waheed, who in turn claimed he had pledged to review the case through a ministerial committee.

“The attorney general has now appealed the case on behalf of the child,” Branson wrote.

Speaking to Minivan News today, President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad confirmed that the attorney general had now appealed the court’s ruling, but that he was still waiting on the exact details from the AG’s Office. Massod added that further details would be provided on the appeal later this week.

He was also unable to confirm if a time-line had yet been established for consultations between various state bodies to oversee any proposed reforms to the legal system.

Legal reform

The Maldives Constitution does not allow any law that contradicts the tenets of Islam, with the criminal charge of fornication outlined under Islamic Sharia.

However, Masood has previously noted that the Maldives had a tradition of turning away from practices such as the death sentence and corporal punishment that form part of Sharia law.

According to Masood, punishments such as removing the hand of a suspect in the case of theft had not been used since back in the 1960′s.

He maintained that there was a history of reviewing the country’s relationship with Sharia law in the past and that a similar process could be had with the debate about flogging.

Masood said that all authorities involved in proposed legal reforms would have to tread “a very fine line” in order to tackle long standing “traditions” and beliefs in the country.

Avoiding prosecution

A senior legal expert with experience of working under both the present and former governments has told Minivan News that that while the Maldives Constitution requires that laws in the country do not contradict Islamic Sharia, there were ways of avoiding prosecuting suspects on charges of fornication.

“There are many Islamic legal interpretations that place several conditions to fulfill before a prosecution on fornication be brought forward. Some scholars even go further and argue that hudood offences cannot be practiced in the legal justice systems at the current time,” claimed the legal source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Their argument is that Islamic Sharia is a way of life and you cannot pick and choose which areas you need to implement. Basically, you cannot implement Islamic criminal justice system in its original form when Islamic commercial system or Islamic governance is not observed.”

Addressing the wider issues of how minors were identified and viewed in the eyes of Maldivian law, the legal source added that the culpability of children was identified in a regulation called ‘Kuda kudhin kuraa kushuge masala thah balai, thahugeegu koh, insaafu koh, adhabu dhinumugai amalu kuraane gothuge gavaidu’

The legal source said that the culpability of minors is specifically dealt with in section five of the regulations.

“According to section five, children above the age of 10 and below the age of 15 are criminally responsible for five offences, which are apostasy, treason, fornication, falsely accusing fornication and consumption of alcohol,” the source said.

“Children above 15 years are criminally responsible for their actions. With children who are below 10, parents are required to make good any damage because of a criminal act. There is no criminal liability for below 10.”

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali had his phone switched off at time of press.


Police statistics raise questions over scale of Maldives sexual abuse

A man in his sixties was arrested in Fares-Maathoda last week on suspicion of sending inappropriate text messages to a 12 year old girl as police figures indicate that the number of sexual abuse cases being reported is on course to exceed last year’s total.

“The man had given a phone to the [12 year old] girl, and was sending inappropriate text messages to her, he was also trying to lure her places to meet up” said police spokesperson Ahmed Shiyam in regards to the Fares-Maathoda allegations.

Shiyam said that it was uncertain as yet if an actual meeting had taken place between the suspect and his alleged victim. “We are currently investigating that,” he added.

Police today also confirmed that on June 30 2011, a 33 year old man in Addu Atoll was arrested over the alleged abuse of a 17 year old girl. Shiyam declined to give any more information on this case saying investigations were continuing.

Increase in reported cases

Alongside providing details of these allegations, official police figures given to Minivan News have indicated that a total of 163 sexual abuse cases were reported last year. The same statistics also revealed that 108 sexual abuse cases had been reported up to the end of May 2011. According to these figures, 30 of these cases allegedly involved victims aged between 2 to 12 years.

The number of abuse cases being reported has caused concern among groups such as NGOs. Back in April, the Advocating Rights of Children (ARC) group issued a press release expressing concern at the rising number of child abuse cases in the country, calling on the relevant authorities to strengthen laws to protect children.

However, public and political opinion appears divided on whether there is an increase in the incidence of abuse cases or the number of allegations being reported.

“I believe abuse cases happen a lot in the Maldives, it is just that in the past it was not reported,” said Mariyam Leesha, a 35 year old mother of two, who has reported being a victim of abuse herself.

Leesha said that she believed society was now more open in talking about abuse meaning more people are reporting allegations to the police.

“When a victim is not believed, they will not talk about it anymore,” she said.

Leesha has said that she was abused by her uncle as a child, allegations that her family refused to believe at the time.

According to Leesha, the culture of shame and fear that previously hindered people from reporting sexual and child abuse has been broken to an extent, although more work was needed as a society.

“Even recently when a Maldivian film on child abuse was shown, there were people who said that it should not have been enacted,” she said. Leesha says that issues like sexual abuse need to be discussed more to encourage people to report abuse.

The Gender Ministry declined to comment when asked by Minivan News on the possible causes of the increased rate of sexual abuse cases being reported, saying there was an absence of study or research to make any conclusions.

The names of any victims mentioned in this article have been changed to protect their identity.


Authorities in the dark over Interpol’s Maldivian terror hunt

Maldivian authorities say they have no knowledge of any investigations of its nationals by Interpol regarding possible  involvement in an alleged terrorist plot to attack players at the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Ali of the Maldives Police Service told Minivan News that it had been given no information on any Maldivian nationals wanted for allegedly planning attacks on the World Cup. The only arrest police have confirmed to have made of late that was linked to terrorism was the arrest of local man Iqbal Mohamed over alleged involvement in an attack on the capital in 2007.

Mohamed was himself yesterday released by the country’s Criminal Court. Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed said the decision was made after an apparent “lack of information” supplied by police.

Today’s police comments were made as local paper Haveeru cited officials at Interpol, the international police organisation, as reportedly confirming that two Maldivian nationals suspected of involvement with Pakistani militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) were now wanted for planned attacks at the high-profile cricket tournament being held in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.

The report came 24 hours after prominent regional media outlets such as the Times of India claimed that Iqbal Mohamed, who had been arrested by police earlier this month on charges relating to a homemade explosive device attack in Male’ in 2007, was suspected of being part of an alleged terror plot at the cricket World Cup. LeT was implicated in the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, India.

Haveeru said that Interpol representatives had confirmed that two unidentified Maldivian nationals were now wanted alongside four Pakistanis and an Afghan for alleged involvement in plans to strike the tournament; claims it has said were based on “reliable” information.

The report claimed that Interpol’s information had been based on the interrogation of several terror suspects it had arrested, which it was now using to collaborate with officials from South Asian nations like the Maldives over the matter.

Sub inspector Ali said that although the Maldives Police Force was a member of Interpol, it has not been collaborating over the alleged terror investigations of  Maldivian suspects or supplied with any information on the matter.

“A Maldivian (Iqbal Mohamed) was arrested a few weeks back, but we don’t have any new information since then [about these terrorism reports],” he said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem said allegations of Maldivian involvement in planning potential terrorist attacks during the 2011 World Cup was “old news” and that the Ministry had not been provided with details of any such investigations being carried out by Interpol.

“We really don’t have details about this.  It is a matter for the police,” the spokesperson added.

Representatives from both the Pakistan Foreign Office and Interpol had not responded to Minivan News before going to press.

Interpol has not yet revealed to the media the identities of the two Maldivian suspects it is reportedly hunting, yet Iqbal Mohamed was yesterday identified by the Times of India as a “terrorist” suspect arrested who had been on his way to the Maldives from Karachi with “criminal intent”.

According to the report, Indian police authorities have already issued a general alert ahead of the tournament’s final match scheduled for April 2 in the city of Mumbai, while Australia was said to have last week updated a travel advisory for its citizens calling for a “high degree of caution” for anyone in the region during the event.

Speaking to Minivan News on 15 March, Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that Iqbal Mohamed had been arrested on arrival at Male’ International Airport from Pakistan on 10 March, after regional authorities had alerted their Maldivian counterparts of his movements.

The arrest, according to Shiyam, was made in connection to an attack in Male’ in 2007, where a device built from components such as a gas cylinder, a washing machine motor and a mobile phone exploded injuring 12 tourists – several seriously.

Shiyam told Minivan News at the time that although Iqbal was believed to have been in Pakistan during the Male’ attack, he had been wanted by police for questioning as part of their ongoing investigations into the 2007 incident over an alleged role in the plan.

The sub inspector claimed that the Maldives Police Service had been waiting for the Prosecutor General to present a case against the suspect ahead of any potential trial in the Maldives and had not been aware of any motivation for his return to the country.

“We really don’t know why has had travelled back to the Maldives, but we have now arrested him.”

However, Iqbal was confirmed to have been released from custody yesterday by the Maldives’ Criminal Court after his arrest on March 10.

Iqbal was himself the subject of a red notice issued by Interpol, which was said to have drawn police attention after Interpol’s Major Events Support Team (IMEST) operating in Sri Lanka during the Cricket World Cup identified the suspect as he was travelling through the country back to the Maldives.

According to Interpol, red notices are a system used to keep the 188 nations that make up its members informed of arrest warrants issued by judicial authorities. Although the notices are not formal arrest warrants, the organisation said that they are used to identify individuals wanted for crimes under a national jurisdiction.

Following Iqbal’s arrest, Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that he did not believe the suspect’s return to the Maldives raised concerns about further potential attacks in the country.

He claimed that the country’s National Security Advisor had recently addressed the issue of religious fundamentalists after a request from the country’s Immigration Commissioner and found no additional concerns. Zuhair added that the advisor had concluded that there was not thought to be any terror cells operating within the Maldives and claimed there was no need to further heighten national security against such threats.