Police to assist with Maafushi Prison security after jail break

Maldives Police Service (MPS) is to assist Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) in strengthening Maafushi Prison security of after two convicts serving life sentences for murder escaped from the prison on Friday night (October 17).

A police media statement said a police team will be stationed on Maafushi Island to assist MCS on a need to basis and that the two institutions are currently taking measures to strengthen security.

The police declined to reveal details of how many police officers are to be stationed on the island or what kind of security measures are to be taken.

Fariyash Ahmed of Gaafu Alifu Maamendhoo and Ibrahim Shahum Adam of Malé escaped from Maafushi Prison after sawing off metal bars in a ventilation shaft.

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer accepted that loopholes in the prison system had allowed the two prisoners to escape, but said he was confident the police would recapture the convicts and bring them to justice.

“There is no prison in the world from which someone or the other has not escaped from. The strength of a prison system is in how quickly we recapture escapees and return them to their cells,” said the home minister.

On Saturday (October 18) Umar Naseer tweeted that the prison escape is an opportunity to identify loop holes in the prison system and to improve the system.

“Every prison escape is an opportunity for Prison Officers to identify the loop holes and improve the system while we hunt them down,” read the tweet.

Meanwhile, in a statement released on Sunday (October 19) MPS called upon the public be extra vigilant as the search for the two ‘dangerous’ convicts continue with the aid of Maldives National Defense Force and the Coast Guard.

Police also urged the public to submit any information they may have about the escapees to the following numbers:  3322111 or 9911099. The police have also pledged to take legal action against individuals who withhold information on the whereabouts of the Shahum and Fariyash.


President Yameen grants clemency to 169 convicts

President Abdulla Yameen has granted clemency yesterday to 169 convicts serving banishment, house arrest, or jail sentences.

According to the President’s Office, Yameen granted pardons or commuted sentences in accordance with Article 29 of the Clemency Act.

Some 116 individuals were released on parole with conditions following consideration of “age, health, type of medical treatment, time and circumstance, compassion, and behaviour,” the President’s Office revealed in a statement.

Convicts sentenced for drug abuse would be required to complete rehabilitation programmes, the statement noted.

Moreover, released inmates would be returned to jail to serve out the remainder of their sentences if they violate parole or commit a crime.

Persons convicted of murder, a crime with a punishment (hadd) prescribed in Islamic Shariah, terrorism, child sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape, and homosexuality were not among the 169 released convicts, the President’s Office said.

“In addition to the above-mentioned [exceptions], sentences were commuted based on records from the Maldives Police Service without including persons who could pose a threat to society’s safety and security,” the statement read.

It added that President Yameen had announced his intention to release prisoners at a campaign rally in Fuvahmulah last month.

Home Minister Umar Naseer told Minivan News in the wake of President Yameen’s announcement that the release of inmates would not present any difficulties to ongoing efforts to combat drug trafficking.

“It will not be a hindrance because the present Clemency Act prevents serious offenders from being released. Furthermore, this process will be monitored by the Home Ministry,” he said.

President Yameen also commuted the sentences of 24 inmates in January while his predecessor Dr Mohamed Waheed released 39 convicts during his last days in office.

Article 115 of the constitution states that the president has the authority “to grant pardons or reductions of sentence as provided by law, to persons convicted of a criminal offence who have no further right of appeal.”

On January 9, police cleared or expunged criminal records of 1,023 young persons who were arrested for various criminal offences, as part of the government’s pledge to facilitate youth employment.

“Political stunt”

Following President Yameen’s announcement last month, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy described the move as “a very irresponsible political stunt”.

“This is a stunt they are pulling off as elections approach – an act without any form or structure. This is a stunt like they used to pull during the Gayoom administration – as every election nears, they’ll let out numerous prisoners and the streets will be teeming with drug abusers,” the Maafanu North MP said.

Fahmy also defended the release of convicts under the MDP government’s ‘Second Chance Programme,’ which he stressed was “a structured effort, under which applicable prisoners were released under parole to be under the guardianship of a family member.”

They were given training in various skills and were provided with employment opportunities. They were monitored constantly and were taken back in when there is a risk of re-offending crimes.”

“Yameen and the people around him were those who most criticised our ‘Second Chance Programme’. And now look at what they are attempting to do. This clemency plan has no structure and will prove detrimental to the society,” he said.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who served as Home Minister during the Waheed administration – shut down the ‘Second Chance Programme’ in March 2012, alleging that the MDP government had used it to “release unqualified criminals under political influence and without any clear procedure”.

In July 2012, Jameel blamed a “surge in crime” partly on the ‘Second Chance Programme’, claiming that over 200 convicted criminals released under the scheme had been returned to prison for re-offending.

Jameel also published a comment piece in newspaper Haveeru in September 2011 criticising the programme and emphasising the importance of granting clemency in accordance with the Clemency Act.


President commutes sentences of 24 inmates

President Abdulla Yameen has commuted the sentences of 24 inmates under the authority vested in the president by the Clemency Act of 2010.

According to a President’s Office statement, sentences were commuted based on the inmate’s age; time spent under house arrest, jail, or banishment; medical condition; and discipline. Conditions were attached to the commutation, the statement said.

The president considered the following criteria in commuting sentences:

  • Inmates must not have committed a disciplinary offense in the past two years
  • Inmates must not have received an presidential pardon or commutation of sentence, or drug rehabilitation through the Drug Court or been granted parole in the past five years
  • Inmates must not have been sentenced in 2013

Individuals who were convicted of murder, terrorism, disturbing the peace – including attacking or threatening a security officer or vandalising public property, child abuse, rape, homosexuality, drug trafficking involving an amount more than four grams, or a hadd crime were not considered, the statement said.

The president did not include anyone that could be determined as dangerous to the society. Yameen will grant clemency to an additional group of convicts on April 1, the statement said.

Article 115 of the constitution states that the president has the authority “to grant pardons or reductions of sentence as provided by law, to persons convicted of a criminal offence who have no further right of appeal.”

On January 9, police cleared the police records of 1,023 young persons who were arrested for various criminal offenses, as part of the government’s pledge to facilitate youth employment.

At the time, Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed urged all young persons to make the best out of this “golden opportunity” and to leave the crime environment and become useful individuals to society.

In March 2012, current Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed shut down former President Mohamed Nasheed’s flagship Second Chance program set up to reintegrate convicts into society.

Jameel, who was Home Minister at the time, said that Nasheed’s administration had used the program “to release unqualified criminals under political influence and without any clear procedure “.


President Waheed commutes sentences of 35 convicts, approves lump sum payment for ministers

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has commuted the sentences of 35 convicts under authority granted by the Clemency Act of 2009 and approved a lump sum payment of three months’ wages for cabinet ministers.

President Waheed exercised the executive power on the last official working day of his administration before the end of the current presidential term on Monday, November 11.

The President’s Office revealed in a statement that Waheed had commuted the sentences of persons banished, serving jail sentences or under house arrest “with conditions.”

Details of the convicts, the conditions and the reduced sentences were not disclosed.

President Waheed considered “age, illness, nature of medical treatment, time and circumstance, behaviour and conduct, or a compassionate view,” the President’s Office stated.

Persons convicted of murder, a crime with a punishment (hadd) prescribed in Islamic Shariah, terrorism, child sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape, and homosexuality were not included among the 35 convicts, the President’s Office claimed.

Under the law passed in 2009, prisoners who have completed one-third of their sentences and exhausted all avenues of appeal are eligible to apply for clemency.

Local media meanwhile reported that President Waheed has also decided to provide a lump sum payment of three months’ salaries and allowances for cabinet ministers.

While the proposal was made at the last cabinet meeting, a decision was not finalised last week.

As ministers earn MVR57,500 (US$3,729) a month, the lump sum payments would amount to MVR2 million (US$129,702) for the 12 ministers presently in the cabinet.

Local media has also reported that the government signed an agreement on Wednesday (November 6) to hand over the Kaadehdhoo airport in Gaaf Dhaal atoll to Villa Air, owned by business tycoon and Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim, for a 50-year period.

Transport Minister Ibrahim Ameen, who signed on behalf of the government, is a senior member of the JP representing the party in the coalition government.

Former Transport Minister Dr Ahmed Shamheed – filling a JP slot in cabinet at the time – was sacked in November 2012 after extending the lease of the privately-owned airport in Maamigili for 99 years. Despite the dismissal, the decision was not reversed and Shamheed was replaced by Ameen.

In February this year, the Anti-Corruption Commission began investigating the lease extension of the airport operated by Gasim’s Villa Shipping and Trading.

In March, Dr Shamheed told Minivan News that President Waheed wanted “credit” for extending the Maamigili airport lease.

The media reports today also revealed that an agreement was signed with Island Aviation to hand over the Ka’dhoo airport in Laamu atoll, while agreements were signed with Reol Investment and Millenium Capital Management to build and operate airports in Dhaal Kudahuvadhoo and Noonu Maafaru, respectively.

The companies were given uninhabited islands as an airport subsidy – Noonu Kummala and Raa Ufulandhoo to Millenium and Dhaal Hiriyafushi and Kadimma to Reol – to be developed as resorts.


Reports of theft increase 23 percent in first quarter of 2012

Cases of reported theft  have increased 23 percent in the first quarter of 2012 as compared to the first quarter of 2010, statistics from the Maldives Police Service (MPS) reveal.

While 2059 theft cases were reported in the first quarter of 2012, the figures for the same period in 2011 and 2010 stand at 1762 and 1597 respectively. Compared to 2011, 2012’s first quarter saw a 14 percent increase in reported theft.

Cases of reported assault remain the same, but cases of vandalism has increased 24 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same time period in 2010.

Court buildings and police stations were vandalized and set on fire throughout the Maldives on February 8 following former President Mohamed Nasheed claim that he was deposed in a coup d’état.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News the increase in reported cases may be due to increased awareness of reporting procedures, and the failure to jail convicts.

“A lot of convicts who should be in jail are currently free,” Haneef said.

The Home Ministry in March claimed that only 621 of the country’s 1258 convicts sentenced to jail are currently serving their sentences.

A hundred convicts have been apprehended and sent back to jail since President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan took power in February, reports local media Haveeru.

Speaking to Haveeru, State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz said these 100 individuals include offenders released under former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Second Chance Programme set up to reintegrate former inmates into society.

“These people include those released under Second Chance programme and individuals who were sentenced in absentia,” Fayaz told Haveeru.

Current Home Minister Mohamed Jameel said the government intends to shut down the Second Chance Program, alleging that the former administration had used the program “to release unqualified criminals under political influence and without any clear procedure “.

Fayaz told Haveeru that the 100 individuals were sent to jail after being arrested for committing additional offenses. Furthermore, Second Chance inmates were only sent to jail because they had violated their terms of release under the programme, he said.

Fayaz and the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) were not responding at time of press.

Police have stressed that it remains too early in its investigations to say if there was a link between an increase in reported incidents of crime and recent political turmoil in the Maldives.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has continued to demonstrate for early elections. Hundreds have been arrested in protests since February.

Police have confirmed they are also looking into break-ins that occurred Saturday morning at offices belonging to Vice-President designate Waheed Deen and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Interim Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik. Both offices are based in the same building in the capital of Male’.

Politicians and public figures linked to both government-aligned parties and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have raised concerns that the break-in may have been politically motivated crimes. Police urged caution in drawing early conclusions.

Since the controversial transfer of power on February 7, two men have died in knife attacks. Abdulla Muheeth died on February 19 and Ahmed Shifan died on April 1.

The Maldives Police Services’ priorities for 2012 include curbing organized crime, drug use and street violence, and increasing road safety.


50 percent of Second Chancers employed: Home Ministry

Nearly half of the 300 inmates released under the Second Change Programme are employed or earning incomes, the Home Ministry has reported.

Speaking to program participants at the Islamic Centre last evening, State Home Minister Mohamed ‘Monaza’ Naeem said any convicts who violate any of the 25 conditions for their release would be sent back to jail, Haveeru reports.

In September, six convicts released under the program were apprehended for allegedly dealing and using drugs. Three were sent to detoxification centers.

Most of the program’s convicts are living in Male’ (217), while 113 are living in the atolls. Only 100 participants attended last evening’s program, designed to give advice.

Naeem was disappointed in the turnout, and said he expected a better attendance next time, reports Haveeru.

The government intends to continue the program, partially designed to relieve the Maldives’ prison system from overcapacity. Program participants were encouraged to disregard criticism of the program, previously expressed by the Adhaalath Party.


Police arrest three suspects in burglary case

Police arrested three men Thursday on suspicion of stealing a safe with over Rf800,000 (US$62,250) in cash and jewellery from a house in Maafanu ward of Male’.

Haveeru reports that the third suspect, Ahmed Muaz, municipality register number 8499, was found Thursday night hiding in his girlfriend’s bathroom.

A police media official said that officers at the scene broke the bathroom door after Muaz refused to come out.

Muaz was arrested in connection with the burglary of a safe containing US$38,000 and Rf30,000 (US$2,330) in cash along with expensive watches and jewellery. The safe was stolen from the third floor of a Maafanu residence.

Jaufar Mohamed, 29, M. Medhuriya, and Ahmed Riyaz, 29, M. Hasthy, were meanwhile taken into custody before police issued a public search notice for Muaz.

Police revealed that one of the suspects, Jaufar Mohamed, had previously been sentenced to jail and that efforts were underway to determine how or why he was released.

Meanwhile the Criminal Court revealed that a man brought before the court yesterday for assaulting a shop owner after threatening to kill him had previously been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Court records showed that Ismail Waheed, G. Sundance, had been convicted for possession of 25 packets of drugs.

The court ordered police to keep the repeat offender in custody for 15 days and to hand him over to the penitentiary department within that period.