Gaamaadhoo prison bones not Abdulla Anees ‘Aibalhey’, say police

Police have reported that human bones discovered in the site of the former Gaamaadhoo prison on September 19, 2009 do not belong to Abdulla Anees ‘Aibalhey’.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged that the human bones discovered in Gaamaadhoo prison matched the age and estimated period of death of Anees, who disappeared while he was serving a sentence in the prison.

Speaking to the press, Deputy Head of Specialist Command Mohamed Riyaz said that police had concluded the investigation into the case launched under former president Nasheed’s administration, and decided that Anees had not died while in prison. He had last been seen while he was on an island, sentenced to banishment.

Riyaz said the bones were analysed in Thailand and the US, and were found to be aged between 950-1050 years old.

During the investigation police travelled to different islands where Anees had been and met with his close friends, family members, cell mates and women that he had had relations with to gather information, and had  tracked faxes and letters and other documents, Riyaz said.

According to Riyaz, Anees was in jail in early 1980 and was among the inmates that transferred to Gaamaadhoo prison in 1982. In 1983 he was banished to the island ‘Kondey’ in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll.

In December 1983 he was brought back to jail, Riyaz said, and there were records that he had escaped prison several times.

In 1984 he was banished to some islands in the north of the Maldives and on several occasions had tried to flee by stealing a ‘Bokkura’ [small traditional boat]. He was last banished in July 1985 to the island of Dhiyadhoo in Gaafu Alifu Atoll, according to Riyaz.

In 1983 Anees was banished to Fuvamulah, but stole a boat and tried to flee before he was found near the waters of Fiyoari in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll and brought back to hail.

That same year he was arrested again in a bokkura in the Vaadhoo Ocean, as a fugitive on the run who had escaped prison for the second time.

Prison documents show that Anees was in prison in December the same year and had escaped prison that time as well.

In July 1984 Anees was banished to Hoarafushi in Haa Alifu Atoll, and in September that year he stole a boat and fled to Molhadhoo in the same atoll.

The last information about Anees that police could obtain was that he was banished to Dhiyadhoo island in 1985, and on the evening of September 25 of the same year he stole a bokkura and left the island.

Police said the night Anees left was stormy, and that after he left there was no sign of the bokkura, his body or his clothes.

According to police, documents at the Dhiyadhoo island office and former prisons division showed that a search was conducted to find him, but it was unsuccessful.


Investigation compromised as documents concerning Gaamaadhoo bones disappear

Crucial files relating to an investigation into human remains found on the site of the former Gaamaadhoo prison have gone missing, the President’s Office has claimed.

President Mohamed Nasheed announced on October 10 last year that DNA tests in Thailand had revealed that human bones discovered on the island a year before matched the age and estimated period of death of Abdulla Anees, Vaavu Keyodhoo Bashigasdhosuge, an inmate officially declared missing in the 1980s.

“The mysterious disappearance of Abdulla Anees is an important case in investigating the alleged torture, violation of human rights and killing of many inmates during the previous 30 year dictatorial regime,” the President’s Office said in a statement, announcing the appointment of new members to the Presidential Commission tasked with investigating allegations of police torture and mistreatment of prisoners in custody.

Amin Faisal, Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad and Mohamed Shafeeq were today tasked by the President with investigating the case of the missing files, “as this disappearance points to a deliberate attempt to hide evidence to obstruct an ongoing investigation.”

A senior source in the President’s Office told Minivan News that following the President’s announcement on October 10 last year, police had been asked to investigate the disappearance of Abdulla Anees in light of the discovery of the bones.

“People want to see justice for what happened,” the source said. “Human remains were discovered and there is a strong reason to believe that something bad happened. However it looks like the investigation has been compromised.”

Minivan News understands that the original file was stored at the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation (DPRS), while copies were kept by police. Both sets of documents were reported missing.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan News that he had met with the unit investigating the case.

“Copies of necessary documents concerning other government authorities had been misplaced, but they have been but found now,” Shiyam said.

No further documents were missing from the police side, he added.

State Home Minister Ahmed Adhil told Minvan News that the two authorities had been searching for the files “for the last couple of days.”

“Police have informed the Home Ministry that they have located copies of the files, but the original was held by the DPRS and is still missing. We don’t count copies of papers so we don’t know whether any important documents are missing unless we find that original,” he said.

Adhil said the Ministry could not yet say whether the files had been misplaced or deliberately removed, although the theft of the documents “is a very close possibility.”

The Home Ministry had requested police investigate the matter, he said.

“We have to reform the DPRS; we’ve been saying that since this government came to power. There are a lot of weak areas in the DPRS and we have to do a lot of upgrading. These sorts of things have been happening for the last couple of years – this is the culture, and it’s time we faced it.”

Political background

President Nasheed announced the results of the DNA test last year at the launch of a book by elderly historian Ahmed Shafeeq, who contends that at least 111 people died in custody under the former government.

Nasheed said at the time that he was intimately familiar with Gaamadhoo prison, having spent three years there for dissident journalism in opposition to the rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

When he heard that the bones had been found, Nasheed said he had wondered if they belonged to Anees.

A former prison guard, Mohamed Naeem, of Gaaf Dhaal Hoadhendhoo Muraka, had told the police investigators that Anees had died in Gaamaadhoo prison.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News at the time that the Maldivian Democratic Party had voiced concern over the disappearance of inmates.

“There were allegations that some were killed in jail and buried,” said Zuhair.

“There were also allegations that some people were dropped in pits where they made lime for construction.”

Allegations of torture and deaths in custody remain a sensitive political subject in the Maldives, as the opposition has outright denied involvement or complicity in human rights abuses that occurred during the former administration.

Officials of both former and current governments have however spoken about a “culture of torture” they claim still persists in elements of the police and DPRS. Many senior members of the present government, including the President, allege abuse and torture at the hands of the former government.

When he took power in a peaceful transition that surprised many analysts, President Nasheed pledged that Gayoom would be allowed to remain in the Maldives and live in peace in dignity as a former statesman, so long as he remained outside active politics.

However that pledge has conflicted with considerable pressure from within his own party to prosecute the former President and those under his administration for a host of human rights abuses, and allegations of corruption. Frustration over perceived inaction led several senior MDP officials to form a ‘Torture Victims Association’, claiming they would seek redress against the former President in international courts.

Gayoom has shown particular sensitivity to such allegations, going as far as prosecuting local media for defamation for publishing official audit reports suggesting, at the very least, misappropriation of state funds.

Following Nasheed’s statement at the launch of Shafeeq’s book, Gayoom wrote a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron claiming that Nasheed was waging a compaign of intimidation and harassment against himself and his family.

“In a book authored by this Shafeeq, which was ceremoniously released [on October 10] by Mohamed Nasheed himself, it is accused that I also ordered the man’s arrest and supposed torture in prison. In a country of just over 300,000, it is safe to assume that even one ‘missing person’ would not go unnoticed, let alone 111,” Gayoom told the British PM.

“All such allegations of corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation of funds and property are basedless and completely untrue, as are those of torture, repression, and unlawful detention during my presidency.

“Nearly two years after the MDP government assumed presidency, Nasheed and his government have failed to uncover a single shred of evidence to substantiate any of these allegations,” Gayoom added.

Shortly afterwards, Gayoom declared that he was returning to the Maldives to help the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), of which he remains the ‘Honorary Leader’, campaign in the local council elections.

The MDP voiced its dismay, aware of Gayoom’s continued popularity in many of the islands, prompting Nasheed to controversially warn Gayoom to stay out of the Maldives “for his own safety”, in reference to the death of former presidents who were killed after their resignations.

After the local Council elections Gayoom spearheaded a split in the opposition, disowning DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali whom he had previously endorsed as his successor.

A not uncommon outcome

Political and social turmoil rooted in the dichotomy between revenge and reconciliation is not unique to the Maldives.

Peter Godwin, author of The Fear: The Last Days of Robert Mugabe who visited the Maldives during the Hay Festival last year, observed that a country’s inability to confront or reconcile with its turbulent past led old wounds to fester.

Transitional justice was a vast subject falling between the two clashing camps of ‘revenge’ and ‘reconciliation’, and mired in shades of grey.

“You can listen to each argument and be convinced by both,” said Godwin. “I think it is one of those things where you have to look at each case separately. But the thing that never works is not doing anything about it; moving on and pretending it hasn’t happened.

“Because that is one of the things that has gone wrong in Zimbabwe. It has festered. You can feel the people seething. And the weird thing is that the children of the people killed and tortured are even more taken up with the cause than the parents. It doesn’t fade away – it magnifies with the passing of generations.”

The decision, he said, should lie with the victims and their families, he suggested.

“It’s very counterintuitive. The victims, who were put in jail and tortured – are the main victims who suffered during the authoritarian rule of a repressive regime. These people have the inherent right to decide what to do.

“You would imagine that these people would be the most radical, but a curious thing happens. In my experience – and I’m not alone, my view is shared by a lot of NGOs – the main thing that people who have been through the firing line want is acknowledgement.

“Not an ‘eye-for-an-eye’, just acknowledgement. The further you get away from the actual victims, the more radical you get. The people who didn’t risk their own lives in opposition – they don’t have the authenticity of victimhood.

What countries grappling with the enormity of such problems must do “is ventilate”, he suggests.

“You have to bring it into the mainstream. You have to bring it into public debate. You have to basically talk it through. It’s odd that the solution turns out to be the ventilation of it, as it becomes acknowledged in the media and public discourse, and ultimately in the way people write their own history.”


Isthafa Ibrahim Manik summoned to Police Headquarters to aid undisclosed investigation

Police spokesperson Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam has confirmed that the former Director General of the country’s Defence Ministry, Isthafa Ibrahim Manik, has been summoned by police as part of an undisclosed investigation.

”He was summoned to clarify some information regarding a case we are investigating,” Shiyam confirmed. ”At the moment, we cannot reveal the nature of the case.”

Reports appearing today in newspaper Miadhu had quoted undisclosed sources as claiming that Manik had been summoned to clarify information surrounding the possible death of a prison inmate called “Abdulla Anees”.

However, Minivan News was not able to confirm what role Manik was playing in the investigation.

Abdulla Anees of Vaavu Keyodhoo Bashigasdhosuge, was an inmate at the former Gaamaadhoo complex and was officially declared missing in the 1980s. The status of a number of former prison inmates claimed to have gone missing under the previous administration has been a major focus of the current government.

Back in September 2009, President Mohamed Nasheed said that Human bones discovered on the site of the former Gaamaadhoo prison were thought to match the age and estimated period of death of Abdulla Anees.

Days later, the President’s Office had confirmed that it had asked police to investigate the samples of 14 bone fragments discovered at the prison, which were sent to Thailand for DNA analysis.

Nasheed later said that forensic examination has identified the age of the deceased, while a former prison guard, Mohamed Naeem, of Gaaf Dhaal Hoadhendhoo Muraka, had told police investigators that Anees died in Gaamaadhoo prison.

The president has since claimed that the police service has now gathered enough evidence to send the case for prosecution, additionally pledging that some 111 cases of missing people identified by historian Ahmed Shafeeq would be investigated.

The Gaamaadhoo jail was destroyed in a fire in 1998 and prisoners were transferred to Maafushi jail.

In the presidential campaign, Hulhu-Henveiru MP “Reeko” Moosa Manik, parliamentary leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) alleged that reports existed claiming that inmates killed in prison were buried at Gaamaadhoo.

Moosa had said before President Nasheed came to power in 2008 that if elected, the Maldivian (MDP) would dig up the potential grave sights to investigate any custodial deaths allegedly concealed by the former government of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.


Gaamaadhoo bones identified as belonging to missing inmate, says President

Human bones discovered in the site of the former Gaamaadhoo prison on September 19, 2009 matches the age and estimated period of death of Abdulla Anees, Vaavu Keyodhoo Bashigasdhosuge, an inmate officially declared missing in the 1980s, President Mohamed Nasheed revealed this morning.

Speaking at a ceremony to unveil the first volume of elderly historian Ahmed Shafeeq’s short stories at Nasandhuraa Palace Hotel, Nasheed said he was intimately familiar with Gaamadhoo prison and had wondered if the bones could belong to Anees (“Aihbalhey”) when he first heard of the discovery.

“The investigation team said the cemetery at Himmafushi was dug up and its soil was taken to the Gaamaadhoo area and these bones must have been brought from there,” he said, dismissing speculation that the bones could have been transferred from Himmafushi, the inhabited side of the island.

“I was watching with my own eyes when sand was brought from Himmafushi. I would know that it was not from that soil.”

President Nasheed spent three years in Gaamaadhoo prison for dissident journalism in opposition to the rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In September 2009, the President’s Office asked police to investigate the discovery and samples of the 14 bone fragments were sent to Thailand for DNA analysis.

Nasheed revealed today that forensic examination has identified the age of the deceased, while a former prison guard, Mohamed Naeem, of Gaaf Dhaal Hoadhendhoo Muraka, has told the police investigation that Anees died in Gaamaadhoo prison.

Police have now gathered enough evidence to send the case for prosecution, he said, pledging the cases of 111 people reported as missing by Shafeeq would be investigated.

Keyodhoo Councillor Gasim Ahmed told Minivan News today that a 90-year-old man was the only remaining relative of Anees in Keyodhoo.

“I knew Anees very well,” he said. “He was playing with us when he broke his hand and that’s how he was called ‘Aihbalhey’.”

Gasim said that Anees’ father was still alive but had moved to another island.

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said today that the investigation was still underway and details would be disclosed at a later stage.

Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News at the time that the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party had voiced concern over the disappearance of inmates.

“There were allegations that some were killed in jail and buried,” said Zuhair. “There were also allegations that some people were dropped in pits where they made lime for construction.”