A mother accused of murdering her three-year-old boy has confessed to killing the child at the first hearing of her trial today.
Afiya Mohamed Manik told the court that she repeatedly abused her son, Mohamed Ibthihaal, and said she felt anger towards the boy because he was born out of wedlock.
In addition to murder, Afiya was also charged with disobedience to order over child abuse and neglect with reference to the law on protecting children’s rights. She appeared for today’s hearing without legal representation and pleaded guilty to the latter charge, but also confessed to the murder.
Ibthihaal died “by my hands,” Afiya was quoted as saying by local media. She confessed to strangling the child and kicking his chest three times.
Judge Muhthaz Fahmy reportedly stopped Afiya and reminded her that she was to answer the disobedience to order charge. The judge and state prosecutor explained the charge to Afiya.
Afiya said she understood the charge and was confessing to abusing her son voluntarily.
The charge carries a penalty of six months in jail.
Reporters at the hearing observed that Afiya appeared calm, but her voice trembled when she spoke of abusing Ibthihaal on the day of his death. She was handcuffed throughout the hearing.
At today’s hearing, the judge offered Afiya the opportunity to appoint a lawyer at the state’s expense and explained the process of seeking a public defender. He did not announce a date for the next hearing.
If she is found guilty of murder, Afiya faces a sentence of life imprisonment. She had reportedly confessed to murder during the police interrogation and her remand hearings.
Ibthihaal’s body was found with signs of severe abuse on January 28 in the worst case of child abuse in recent years. The horrific murder on the island of Rakeedhoo in Vaavu atoll shocked the nation while reports that the authorities had been aware of Ibthihaal’s abuse sparked public outrage.
Afiya was arrested for murder two days later and has since been held in pre-trial detention.
Afiya’s stepfather, Ismail Raoof, was arrested on April 1 on suspicion of physically and sexually abusing Ibthihaal.
In April, Chief Inspector Abdulla Satheeh said negligence by government authorities and the island community on Vaavu Rakeedhoo was partly responsible for the toddler’s murder.
Satheeh said marks on the child’s neck indicated that he had been strangled.
Police also found swelling on the right side of his forehead, scrapes on his face, wounds on his right ear and scars all over his body. Some of his ribs were broken as well.
Satheeh said Ibthihaal’s death was caused by “major injuries” while some older scars remained unhealed.
“Mohamed Ibthihal had received physical and psychological harm from different individuals on different occasions, for a long period of time,” he said.