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.