High Court overturns sex crime conviction of renowned Quran teacher

The High Court on Sunday (October 16) overturned the conviction of renowned Quran teacher or reciter Hussain Thoufeeq, for committing a sex crime.

In November 2013, Thaufeeq was sentenced to six months banishment and 15 lashes for sexually abusing children. However the Criminal Court suspended the sentence for three years, on the grounds it was the Qari’s first offence.

Thaufeeq appealed the verdict and the High Court ruled noted that the three witnesses were all related, had not reported the matter to police, and had testified after being evicted from their apartment.

Presiding Judges Abbas Shareef, Yousuf Hussain, and Dr Ezmirelda Zahir ruled that the testimony of the witnesses was not sufficient to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Thaufeeq was arrested in August 2010 on multiple charges of child sexual molestation with “some cases going a long time back,” police said at the time.

Thaufeeq’s students had also submitted a petition to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) asking the commission to investigate the allegations.

Thaufeeq hosted a daily Quran teaching program on Television Maldives (TVM) for school children every evening after Isha prayers. He also led Friday prayers and conducted sermons.

Under the Child Sex Offenders (Special Provisions) Act of 2009, the penalty for child sex abuse is 10-14 years but can be extended to 15-18 years if the accused was in a position of trust with the children he allegedly abused.

However, Thaufeeq was charged under a different regulation for criminalising fornication and sexual misconduct.

The Qari is also being charged with possession of pornographic material. The trial is still pending at the Criminal Court.


Appeal hearings on Farhad murder case ends

Appeal hearings on the death sentence issued by the Criminal Court on Mohamed Nabeel of Reef in Galolhu ward on charges of the murder of Abdulla Farhad of Lilymaage in Seenu Atoll Hithadhoo have been completed.

The High Court will be announcing its verdict at the next hearing, which has not been scheduled so far.

The murder of Farhad was committed on March 9, 2009 in capital Malé city near Sosun Store on Majeedhee Magu.

He was allegedly attacked for harassing a girl who worked at a nearby shop. The girl has previously been reported to be a sister of the accused, Nabeel.


MNDF officers in ‘constitution appeal’ face disciplinary action

Four Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) officers – all signatories of an appeal calling on their fellow soldiers not to obey “unlawful” orders issued by the president following the expiry of the presidential term on November 10 – are facing disciplinary action.

Staff Sergeant Hassan Hameed of the Marine Corps is being held in the MNDF training facility at Girifushi Island, while Sergeant Ismail Sobeeh is being held in the military barracks at Bandaara Koshi, sources within the military have said.

Corporal Mohamed Rasheed and Lance Corporal Ahmed Anwar Ali have been barred from entering any military facilities.

The appeal signed by 73 mid-ranking officers – titled “An appeal to soldiers to maintain their oath to be professional and apolitical” – cites Article 107 of the constitution which limits a presidential term to five years and notes there will be no president and commander in chief at midnight on November 10.

“With reference to the aforementioned constitutional articles, we believe any order they make in the name of any institution on the army and police is unlawful. We call your attention to Article 245 of the Constitution which states that we do not have to obey such orders,” the appeal states.

MNDF spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem confirmed Hameed is being investigated on a disciplinary matter, but declined to comment on where he is being held.

The MNDF was not responding to calls when Minivan News called to check on the status of the three other soldiers.

An hour before the expiry of his presidential term, President Dr Mohamed Waheed declared he would stay on until the end of run off polls on November 16.

On the same night, police questioned suspended Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam who was removed from service in January this year.

The MNDF in October brought amendments to its regulations imposing punishments on officers found guilty of inciting upheaval and chaos.

The Military Act amendments came after senior officers sent a letter of concern over delays in presidential polls to Chief of Defense Forces Major General Ahmed Shiyam. The letter warned of political turmoil within the military should presidential elections be delayed and a new president not be determined by the end of the term.

Following the circulation of the letter on social media, First Lieutenant Abdulla Shareef, Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed and Lance Corporal Sharhaab Rashid were handed ‘indefinite suspensions’ for allegedly inciting disruptions in the military ranks.

Minivan News understands the three soldiers are still on suspension without pay and without permission to work elsewhere.

On the same day, Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal was also removed from his position as the Commandant of Training and Doctrine.

The ‘anti upheaval and chaos’ amendment that has now become the 22nd chapter of the Military Regulation defines ‘upheaval and chaos” as

  • Making demands through petitions drawn among two or more officers
  • Displaying content that could sow discord and disorder amongst military flanks through speech, writing, graphical depictions, photographs or any other means
  • Speech or conduct that amounts to doubts and questions being raised about the legality of an order given to the officers or a group of officers and
  • Incitement of hatred and false allegations towards the upper ranks of the military.

Former Male Area Commander of MNDF Retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi – publicly regarded as a hero for his exploits during the 1988 Tamil coup attempt – in a letter published on social media also advised military officers to uphold the law and constitution regardless of who attempted to undermine it.

“My advice to the military officers is: ‘Do not give the opportunity to anyone who plans to rule this country by taking the laws to their own hands and override the constitution and undermine the constitutional framework of this country’,” wrote the ex-Brigadier General.


Fifteen year-old’s appeal of flogging sentence for fornication stalled in High Court

State and judicial authorities have failed to provide a timeline for the appeal of a 15 year-old rape victim sentenced to flogging for a separate incidence of fornication, despite repeated pledges and promises of wider legal reform.

The 15 year-old minor from the island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll was convicted to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest in February 2013, after confessing to fornication with another man during an investigation into allegations she was sexually abused at the hands of her stepfather. Those allegations arose with the earlier discovery of a dead baby buried in the outdoor shower area of the family’s home.

A month after the sentence was delivered, sources on Feydhoo told Minivan News that islanders had been raising concerns to the authorities over the girl’s abuse by other men on the island since 2009.

Sources at the time accused law enforcement officials, civil society and successive governments of failing on every level to protect the minor.

Widespread international coverage of the sentencing has since led to over two million people signing an Avaaz.org petition calling for her sentence to be quashed, a moratorium on flogging, and reform of laws to protect women and girls in the Maldives.

Despite the country’s international reputation as an romantic island getaway for couples, fornication (sex outside marriage) is illegal in the Maldives and is subject to Sharia punishments under the 1968 penal code.

However, statistics from the Department of Judicial Administration show that flogging sentences are overwhelmingly issued to women. Of the 129 fornication cases filed last in 2011, 104 resulted in sentences – 93 of whom were female.

Meanwhile, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has dismissed calls to suspend Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed following the judge’s appearance in at least three recently-leaked sex videos appearing to depict him fornicating with unidentified foreign women in a Colombo Hotel room, citing “lack of evidence”.

15 year-old’s appeal stalled

The opening hearing of a High Court appeal of the girl’s flogging sentence, filed on her behalf by Attorney General Azima Shukoor, was held on April 29

The High Court has confirmed to Minivan News that there had been no further hearings in the three months since, and no further hearings scheduled.

However, a legal source speaking this week on condition of anonymity said the hearing in April was believed to have been the last, with the court expected to deliver a verdict on the case the next time it reconvened on the issue.  The appeal is being heard behind closed doors.

The flogging would be administered when the girl turns 18, although local media has previously cited a court official who claimed it could be implemented earlier should the minor request so.

Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham confirmed that the sentence had not been carried out, and reiterated that no date had yet been set for a verdict on the minor’s appeal.

Usham added that a process to oversee legal reforms into the treatment of sexual abuse victims involving state bodies including the Attorney General’s (AG’s) Office was ongoing at present.

“Hopefully something concrete will be announced on this soon,” he said, but could not speculate on a timeline.

President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government has previously pledged to review and “correct” laws it says victimise young women and minors who have suffered sexual abuse.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad previously expressed hope that the use of punishments such as flogging would be among practices debated as part of reforms.

“I’m sure when we debate [punishing suspects for fornication with lashes], we will find an acceptable solution for all parties,” he said.

More recently, the President’s Office said current legal practices involving the treatment of victims of sexual offences could not be changed overnight, and required gradual implementation.

“We cannot go any faster on the matter than this, we don’t want to see any trouble like in the past. We can’t just go and ask a judge not to [give sentences like this] anymore,” Masood said in May.

The President’s Office today confirmed that Dr Waheed had established a “special committee” as part of efforts to try and oversee the requested legal reforms, referring any specific questions on its work to Spokesperson Ahmed ‘Topy’ Thaufeeq.

Thaufeeq was not responding to calls or text messages at time of press.

Recently appointed Gender Minister Dr Aamaal Ali meanwhile requested Minivan News contact the office of former Gender Minister and current AG Azima Shukoor concerning the current status of attempts to reform laws on the treatment of sexual abuse victims.

Azima was not responding to calls or e-mails to her office at time of press.

Local newspaper Haveeru meanwhile last weekend interviewed the judiciary’s official flogger, Abdul Khalig.

“According to his memory, Khalig has enforced flogging sentences of over 300 people which amounts to thousands of lashes with his leather whip,” reported Haveeru.

“But Khalig to this day remains hesitant when it comes to flogging the elderly given their age. But he assures that no old person mostly sentenced for fornication and child abuse had come to any harm as a direct result of the flogging.

“No matter who the person is, this must be done. It is not a cruel punishment. Only one woman fainted whilst I was flogging her,” Khalig told the paper.

“I notice that people who have been flogged, repent and live good lives afterwards. Because this such a small society I see it quite often. People who have been flogged for fornication later go on to live very good lives,” he said, adding that he was now hoping “to impart what he has learned to the next generation before he retires.”

15 year-old’s case “tip of the iceberg”: Amnesty International

Speaking to Minivan News at the conclusion of a nine day visit to the country in April, Amnesty’s South Asia Director Polly Truscott claimed the treatment and controversial flogging sentence handed to the 15 year-old girl was the “tip of the iceberg” regarding the Maldives’ treatment of sexual abuse victims.

Earlier the same month, Maldivian NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) criticised child protection measures currently in place in the country as “inadequate”, urging government authorities to incorporate several key human rights obligations into domestic law.

ARC at the time told Minivan News that although the Maldives has signed and agreed to be legally bound by the provisions in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its Optional Protocols, the commitments have yet to be adopted into law.

Minivan News meanwhile in June investigated reports of “widespread” child prostitution being conducted in Laamu Atoll, and was informed by a private clinical psychologist that the practice had become “so common” that the victims considered it “normal”.

Multiple sources told Minivan News the practice has prevalent across the Maldives, ranging from male benefactors grooming children with ‘gifts’ to parents actively selling the sexual services of their children – some as young as 12.

Official and public acknowledgement of the “systemic” child sexual abuse remains taboo, although Azima Shukoor – then Family and Gender Minister – in a statement on May 10 to mark Children’s Day revealed that “children being used as sex workers, where the children are sent to places as a means to pleasure people and to gain an income from such a trade. This is being practiced in the Maldives today. Both boys and girls are being used in this trade.”


MP Hassan Adil sex abuse case continues in High Court

The High Court appeal concerning the sexual abuse case of Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Hassan Adil has begun today, reports Haveeru.

Today’s session was held behind closed doors, the paper reported, which is constitutionally allowed for in order to protect the family involved.

Adil was acquitted in March of this year after the judge said the state had failed to present sufficient evidence as per the requirement of Article 47 of the Use of Special Procedures in Dealing with Child Abusers Act.

Police originally arrested Adil on 4th April 2011 with a court warrant.

On June 12 2011 the court granted the Prosecutor General (PG)’s permission to hold Adil in house arrest until the trial reached a conclusion.

If the court finds Adil guilty, he will face imprisonment for a period of between 10 to 14 years and would lose his seat in parliament.


Comment: Appeal for help

On the 7th of February, 2012 the lawfully elected Government of Maldives was overthrown by a mutiny carried out by joint factions of the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and the Maldives Police Service. Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed was forced at gunpoint to write a letter of resignation addressed to the Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid.

Using the above mentioned letter that was processed under duress, was used as a pretext to usher in the then Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik to the President’s chair. Soon thereafter, Dr. Waheed appointed a new Home Minister, a new Defense Minister and a new Police Commissioner. It has now been revealed that these new posts are taken up by the leaders of the coup.

The self-claimed government of Dr Waheed is using the military and the police force to beat and arrest MPs and others loyal to the former government. This large scale crackdown on the members of Parliament and supporters of President Nasheed is continuing.

At the moment, the UN, Commonwealth and other bodies are trying to diffuse the situation.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the coup including Dr Waheed are using their newly assumed powers to suppress free media, conduct extra-judicial arrests and utilise the Criminal Court in issuing court orders for the arrest of President Nasheed and his supporters. We believe they are trying to wipe out the democracy movement by destroying the Maldivian Democratic Party.

As indicated by the popular uprising in the aftermath of the coup, a great majority of the Maldivian people do not accept the newly established government in power.

President Nasheed won the Election in 2008, after 30 years of autocratic rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. New President Waheed named ministers on Sunday who are almost all veterans of the government of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 years until Nasheed beat him in 2008 in a presidential election.

We believe that despite counter claims of Dr. Waheed, his move up from vice president to the head of state did not follow constitutional procedures after Nasheed was forced to resign.

We call upon citizens of all democratic countries to condemn this coup and to demand from the government of Dr. Waheed to hand over power to the Speaker of Parliament in accordance with the Maldives Constitution, until a free and fair election can be held. We also demand from the international community to conduct an independent inquiry of the process that lead to the forcible removal of President Mohamed Nasheed from office.

Help us save this young democracy, before the coup leaders and the mutinous military and police take back our democratic rights.

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