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.


Man arrested in Thinadhoo for child sex abuse

Police arrested a 29-year-old man from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll on Thursday night (August 7) for alleged child sex abuse.

Police said the suspect was taken into custody with an arrest warrant obtained after receiving information from a member of the public.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that the man had repeatedly molested the minor, police said, noting that the suspect had a criminal record.

Police did not reveal any further details of the case.


17 year-old girl gang raped in Male’

Local media has reported that a 17 year-old girl was gang raped today afternoon on the staircase of a house in Henveiru.

Online newspaper ‘CNM’ reported that the case was reported to police at about 2: 48 pm today afternoon.

According to the paper, the incident occurred inside a house named ‘Light Rose’ in Henveiru Ward.


High Court overturns order to release man arrested for child abuse in Kanduhulhudhoo island

The High Court has overturned a decision made by the Villingili Magistrate Court in Gaafu Alifu Atoll to release a 55 year-old man arrested on charges of molesting an 11 year-old girl.

The incident is said to have taken place in the island of Kanduhulhudhoo in Gaafu Alifu Atoll.

“The man was arrested on February 21 at about 6pm and Villingili Magistrate Court first extended his detention period to three days, and when police took him to the court to further extend the detention period the court decided there was no reason to do so,’’ the police statement said.

Police revealed that this decision was later appealed at the High Court which has ordered that the suspect be held in pretrial detention for 15 days.

Police said Villingili Magistrate Court ordered the man’s release at 10:30am on February 25 but that police had tried to extend his detention period.

The Prosecutor General’s Office appealed the case on March 4, telling the High Court there was a possibility the suspect might influence the evidence against him and that he may constitute a threat to society, police stated.

Local newspaper Haveeru quoted the victim’s sister as saying that the girl had been victimised for a long time, and that her family had found out only after she told them about it.

The paper also reported that the man under suspicion was the imam of the island.

Last month, police arrested seven men from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaalu atoll for allegedly forcing a 16-year-old girl into child prostitution.

Police said the seven men – aged between 18 to 30 years of age – were taken into custody with an arrest warrant, after which the Thinadhoo magistrate court extended their remand detention to 15 days.


Under-age rape victim convicted of fornication, sentenced to 100 lashes

A 15-year-old rape victim from the island of Feydhoo in Shaviyani Atoll was convicted of premarital sex at the Juvenile Court today and sentenced to 100 lashes and eight months of house arrest.

In June 2012, the girl gave birth to a baby that was discovered buried in the outdoor shower area of her homeHer stepfather was later charged with child sexual abuse, possession of pornographic materials and committing premeditated murder.

Her mother was meanwhile charged with concealing a crime and failing to report child sexual abuse to the authorities.

An official from the Prosecutor General (PG)’s office told Minivan News in January this year that the fornication charges against the minor were related to a separate offence of premarital sex that emerged during the police investigation. The charges were filed on November 25, 2012.

In its verdict delivered today, the Juvenile Court ordered the state to transfer the girl to the Children’s Home in Villigili to enforce the sentence of eight months house arrest, according to local media reports.

The girl reportedly confessed at the trial to having consensual premarital sex.

The Islamic Shariah punishment of flogging would be administered when the girl turns 18. However, the sentence could be implemented earlier should the minor request expedition, a court official explained to local media.

In late January, the PG’s Office told Minivan News that it was reviewing the decision to press charges against the minor. Two hearings at the Juvenile Court were subsequently cancelled upon request by the PG.

However, the trial resumed after the PG decided earlier this month not to withdraw the charges.

Officials from the PG were unavailable today to clarify whether the male offender faced the same charge of premarital sex.

The case of the 15 year-old had prompted concern from the executive following international media coverage. The government announced last month that it would review and “correct” laws that victimise young women and minors who have suffered sexual abuse.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad told Minivan News that from government’s perspective, the 15 year-old girl was a victim who needed to be protected, not punished by authorities.

“We will be talking with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs over this manner and will review and correct the problem,” he said.

Masood said that the Maldives had experienced a number of similar cases of late where young women had been victimised and punished by authorities – a situation he said the government was looking to prevent.

“We are reviewing this right now and if we have to go to the extent of changing existing laws then we would look to do this,” he said.

“Absolute outrage”

The criminal charges against the minor was slammed by Amnesty International last month, which called the prosecution “an absolute outrage.”

“This is an absolute outrage, regardless of the reason for her charges. Victims of rape or other forms of sexual abuse should be given counselling and support – not charged with a crime,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Maldives Researcher.

“We urge the Maldivian authorities to immediately drop all charges against the girl, ensure her safety and provide her with all necessary support.

“Flogging is a violation of the absolute prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. The Maldivian authorities should immediately end its use regardless of circumstances. The fact that this time a 15-year old girl who has suffered terribly is at risk makes it all the more reprehensible,” said Faiz.

“Flogging is not only wrong and humiliating, but can lead to long-term psychological as well as physical scars.”

In response to a Minivan News report in 2009 of an 18 year-old woman fainting after a 100 lashes, Amnesty International called for a moratorium on the “inhumane and degrading punishment.”

Of the 184 people sentenced to public flogging in 2006, 146 were female, making it nine times more likely for women to be punished.

In November 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the authorities to impose a moratorium on flogging and to foster national dialogue and debate “on this issue of major concern.”

“This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country,” the UN human rights chief told MPs during a maiden visit to the Maldives.

Her remarks sparked protests by Islamic groups outside the UN building and drew condemnation from the Islamic Ministry, NGOs and political parties.

According to statistics from the Department of Judicial Administration, almost 90 percent of those convicted of fornication in 2011 was female.

Of 129 fornication cases in 2011, 104 people were sentenced, out of which 93 were female. This included 10 underage girls, 79 women aged 18-40 and and four women above 40 years.


Court released child sex abuse suspect to house arrest in victim’s home

The High Court this week rejected a request to place a male suspect accused of sexually abusing an 11-year old relation in custody. The suspect was previously held under house arrest at the same property where his alleged victim lived.

The Prosecutor General (PG’s) Office confirmed that following a remand hearing on Tuesday (February 5), the suspect had been released from the house arrest – with no restrictions currently placed upon his movement ahead of his unscheduled trial.

The remand hearing took place at a time when the PG’s Office is already facing government criticism for pursuing a case against a 15 year-old minor on charges of having “consensual sexual relations”.

The government, which has said it is in the process of reviewing and amending laws on sexual abuse with authorities including the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human rights and Islamic Ministry, today accused state prosecutors of showing “bad judgement” in charging the 15 year-old girl.

The two cases are the latest in a line of high profile sexual abuse trials concerning minors, which have met with international condemnation.

The 15 year-old presently facing charges of having “consensual sexual relations” has also been identified as the victim of child sex abuse in an unrelated criminal case also being pursued by authorities.

The PG’s Office confirmed this week that after reviewing the charges against the 15 year-old girl, a decision had been taken to proceed with her trial at the Juvenile Court over charges of fornication. The PG’s Office was unable to comment further.

However, a source familiar with the matter told Minivan News that the charges against the minor had to be pursued because the girl had confessed to having consensual sex.  The charges relate to an incident reported before her alleged sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, the PG’s Office confirmed to Minivan News that the High Court rejected a request on February 5 to retain a sexual abuse suspect – believed to be an uncle of the victim – after it emerged he had been kept under house arrest in the same property as the 11 year-old victim.

A source with knowledge of the case said that the court released the suspect after enquiring as to why police and state prosecutors had failed to raise concerns about the house arrest earlier.

With no date yet scheduled for the suspect’s trial, the outcome of the remand hearing has meant the suspect had no restrictions on his movement, according to the source.

Minivan News understands the victim has since been moved to a new location on a separate island.

Government legal review

With these two high profile sexual abuse cases ongoing in the courts, the Maldives government has maintained its commitment to reviewing related laws in the Maldives.

President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told Minivan News today that certain laws in the country, which he has previously criticised as treating sexual abuse victims as perpetrators, would be amended following consultations with relevant government authorities.

“We will be holding a one day seminar with the Islamic Ministry either sometime next week or the week after,” Masood said.

The government last month announced its intention to review the laws within the space of a few weeks. However, Masood added that there were many “pressing issues” requiring its attention at the present time.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali and Acting Minister of Gender, Family and Human Rights,  Dr Mariyam Shakeela were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

“Bad judgement”

Despite its stated commitment to review laws concerning sexual abuse in the country, Masood added that the PG’s Office itself remained an independent entity that pursued cases without government involvement.

He added that prosecutors had shown “bad judgement” in pursuing the case involving the 15 year-old while other matters were still pending.

Highlighting what he perceived to be more pressing issues for the PG’s Office, Masood raised concerns against MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor – both aligned with the opposition Maldvian Democratic Party (MDP) – over their alleged  refusal to provide a urine sample after they were arrested under suspicion of drinking alcohol in November 2012.

MPs Jabir – at the time an elected representative for the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP) – and Hamid were arrested back in November along with eight others on the island of  island of Hodaidhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll, on suspicion of drug and alcohol offences.

“[The PG’s Office] should be taking [to court] the issue of suspects refusing to give urine tests after being found at drunken parties,” Masood claimed.


Three arrested on suspicion of drugging, raping 13 year-old girl

A 13 year-old living on Gahdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll was last week sexually assaulted in an abandoned home on the island after being drugged and abducted, police have said.

Minivan News understands that the 13 year-old is not originally from Gahdhoo, but had been living with relatives at the time of the attack.

The attack, which occurred on December 26, is the third suspected case of sexual abuse of a minor to have been reported over the last week.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed today that two 16 year-old males and an 18 year-old man had been arrested on December 27 in connection with the alleged rape. However, he could not specify further details on the case as investigations were continuing.

The Maldives Police Service confirmed that the detention period of the suspects had also been extended from three to 15 days.

Details of the suspected attack were released the same day that police also publicised a picture of a man accused of molesting another 13 year-old girl in a separate incident in Male’ yesterday (December 30).

Police said that the incident occurred last night in the capital, identifying the suspect as Saeed Ahmed, 55.  Authorities have requested the public share any information regarding Saeed’s whereabouts.

According to police, the suspect is accused of entering a house where the 13 year-old girl was staying at around 9:30pm before sexually assaulting her.

Vili-Male’ attack

On Saturday (December 29), police said they had arrested a 33 year-old man on suspicion of the rape of a girl below 16 years of age in Vili-Male’.

The man identified as Mohamed Abdushukoor, 33, of Galolhu Red Coral, was accused of forcing the under-aged victim into a house in Vili-Male’ at about 1:00pm while she was out walking with her 14 year-old brother.

Police accused the suspect of keeping the pair in separate rooms as he sexually abused the girl. The incident was reported to the Police Family and Child Protection Unit.

According to an unpublished 2009 study on violence against minors, almost one in seven children of secondary school age in the Maldives have been sexually abused.

The same study claimed that sexual abuse rate of girls in the country was found to be almost twice as high than cases recorded against boys.

One in five Maldivian girls has been sexually abused – while the figure for boys was 11 percent.  Female minors were particularly at risk in the capital Male’, the report found.

2007 study on Women’s Health and Life Experiences meanwhile found that one in three Maldivian women aged 15 to 49 experience either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, including childhood sexual abuse.

In recent years, local authorities and NGOs have released a number of findings highlighting the extent of child abuse and wider sexual assaults within society.

The state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital’s (IGMH’s) Family Protection Unit reported in 2010 that the centre was notified of 42 cases of rape between 2005-2010. Most of these cases were found to involve minors.

According to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, 13 rape cases were reported last year alone, the majority of which most were gang rapes or assaults involving minors.


DNA testing reveals child sex offender

DNA testing has revealed that a 37 year-old man impregnated a 11 year-old girl in the Feydhoo ward of Addu City, police have said, after concluding investigation of a case that prompted shock and public outrage last month.

The 11 year-old victim in Seenu Feydhoo gave birth two months prematurely on November 1 after being taken to hospital complaining of stomach pains.

The infant died in the early hours of the following morning (November 2).

On November 4, police confirmed that a 37 year-old male suspect had been taken into custody in connection to the case.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Inspector Hassan Shifau, acting head of the Family and Child Protection Department, explained that DNA samples from the infant matched the 37 year-old suspect, Mohamed Javid of Maradhoo-Feydhoo Gulfamge.

Shifau said police obtained DNA samples from all males in the household of the 11 year-old victim.

Javid was a friend of the girl’s parents and visited the house every night, Shifau explained.

Police discovered during the investigation that Javid had been sexually abusing the victim since early 2012, he added.

The second suspect, Adam Saeed, 45, had been living in the girl’s house. Both suspects had previously been arrested on drug-related charges.

The victim meanwhile told police that she did not tell anyone about the abuse she suffered.

Family members and school mates questioned during the investigation said they were unaware that the girl was pregnant as it did not show on her body.

The girl was said to be of a “quiet” and reserved nature.

An official from the Feydhoo health centre told local media last month that “the girl admitted that she got pregnant after someone had sexually molested her.”

In the press briefing, Inspector Shifau appealed to parents to have a closer relationship with their children to ensure that they would be able to share accounts of abuse.

Upon conclusion of the investigation by a team of the Family and Child Protection Department working with the Seenu Gan police station, Shifau said police were in the process of forwarding the case for prosecution.

Child abuse in the Maldives

The case of the 11 year-old giving birth prompted a wider public debate on child sexual abuse in the Maldives, while politicians and NGOs called for a swift investigation.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed labelled it “a very big crime,” adding that the young girl should not herself take any blame or punishment.

“Personally I can’t say any word to punish a small girl in grade six. This may be a rape or sexual abuse case,” he said.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam said the case was “unacceptable” and “shocking”, demanding on social media that police make the case a high priority.

“An 11 year-old doesn’t get pregnant by herself! This is child abuse we are talking about here n authorities need  to find out who is responsible,” she wrote on Twitter.

However, Ali Rameez, a famous singer who gave up music and now heads the Islamic NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, tweeted: “All you people who claim to be Muslims! In Allah’s Shariah [law], a child grows up when he or she reaches puberty. Not when they turn 16, 18, 25.”

Rameez, who also hosts a religious program on private radio station SunFM, tweeted earlier that he was “not aware that children could get pregnant.”

The comments were criticised by some social media users including former Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam, who tweeted: “Where are the children’s right groups… Where is HRCM.. Horrified with the preaching of people like Ali Rameez.”

Local NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) meanwhile issued a statement calling on the government, civil society organisations and the general public to step up efforts to combat child abuse in society.

“It is an obligation for us as responsible citizens to protect our children, and it is the Maldivian government’s obligation as a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) that all international commitments to protect the rights of all children are adhered to fully,” ARC noted.

Almost one in seven children of secondary school age in the Maldives have been sexually abused at some time in their lives, according to an unpublished 2009 study on violence against minors.

Rates of sexual abuse for girls are almost twice as high than for boys at 20 percent – one in five girls have been sexually abused – while the figure for boys was 11 percent. Girls are particularly at risk in the capital Male’, the report found.

In recent years, local authorities and NGOs have released a number of findings trying to detail the extent of child abuse and wider sexual assaults within society.

The state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital’s (IGMH’s) Family Protection Unit reported in 2010 that the centre was notified of 42 cases of rape between 2005-2010. Most of these cases were found to involve minors.

According to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, 13 rape cases were reported last year alone, the majority of which most were gang rapes or assaults involving minors.


Indian Quran teacher arrested on suspicion of molesting student

An Indian Quran teacher has been arrested in the Meedhoo district of Addu City on suspicion of sexually abusing an under-age female student.

Local daily Haveeru reported yesterday that the 35 year-old suspect taught Quran at the privately owned Shamshudeen Centre for Islamic Studies and that the victim was a grade nine student at the Seenu Atoll School.

Police have confirmed the arrest but declined to divulge any further information.

A resident of Meedhoo told the newspaper that family members of the victim allegedly assaulted the expatriate after the girl said that he had sexually abused her repeatedly on different occasions.

Police reportedly took the Quran teacher into custody around 10:30am on Friday following the confrontation with the family members of the alleged victim.

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 or she abused.

In August 2010, police arrested renowned Quran teacher and Qari (Quran reciter), Hussain Thaufeeq, on multiple charges of child sex abuse.