Police holding discussions to repatriating Iranian fishermen

Police have announced that they are holding discussions on the matter of repatriating 14 Iranians on a fishing boat found in Maldivian seas.

The boat was discovered near the island of Thimarafushi in Thaa Atoll on June 6, after having been lost at sea for two months.

Police revealed that the boat and its crew are now in the island of Madifushi in Thaa Atoll.


Iranian boat and suspects connected with heroin seizure released

Police have released the Iranian vessel ‘Harmooz’ and six Pakistani nationals who were arrested in connection with the 24kgs of heroin that was seized by the police last month.

A police media official has confirmed the releases to local media but has declined to say why they had been released.

‘Hormooz’ was seized after having carried the drugs from Chahabar port in Iran and delivered it to the Maldivian fishing boat ‘Violet’ 30 nautical miles outside of Maldives EEZ.

A total of eighteen officers were involved in the operation, with a police report describing the operation as a unique experience for all who took part in the record-breaking operation.

Police have revealed that the money was transferred to the agents in Iran by a member of the Maldives Police Service who has subsequently been arrested in connection with the case.

Four Maldivians, three Bangladeshis, and 11 Pakistanis were taken into custody in connection with the case.

Local newspapers have reported that Abdulla Shaffath, who was arrested in connection with the Artur brothers’ case last year, was among the suspects taken into custody, although police have yet to confirm this.

Police Superintendent Mohamed Rasheed, head of the Drug Enforcement Department had previously told the media that the street value of the drugs may have been up to MVR100 million (US$6.5 million).

In an interview with Minivan News in January, Home Minister Umar Naseer said that the main target of his ministry for the next five years would be curbing drug-related crimes.

Naseer said that he intended to give a high priority to enhancing the customs services in order to stop illegal drugs and other contraband from being smuggled in to the country. He also said that the police intelligence department was being expanded.

“Leaving aside abusers and peddlers, the focus of this front will be on major wholesale drug dealers. We will investigate how drugs are brought into the country, find the contacts abroad, find ways to locate and take action against those involved even if they are abroad,” he said.


Police reveal details of record drugs seizure

Police have released detailed information of the special operation conducted to seize 24kgs of heroin smuggled into the Maldives using an Iranian vessel last month.

A police officer implicated in the crime as well as the 11 Pakistani nationals on the Iranian vessel were among the 18 persons arrested in connection with the case.

In the statement the police said that officers involved in the operation experienced things that they had never experienced before, and it was noted that the police officers aboard the speedboat were not carrying any weapons.

Police said that officers involved in the operation first followed two Maldivians who went to Villimalé on March 4 where the Maldivian boat the ‘Violet’ was prepared to set sail to meet an Iranian vessel which had journeyed from Chahabar, Iran.

When the two Maldivians reached the boat docked in Villimalé harbour, the boat captain and three expats working on board had already made all preparations to set sail towards North Ari atoll at around 3:30pm.

Police officers were assigned to follow the ‘Violet’ on a gulf craft speedboat as it left Malé with intercepted communications revealing that the Maldivian boat planned to meet with the Iranian craft at 11pm that evening.

The boat reached North Ari atoll at 6:15pm, stopping in the ocean between Rasdhoo and Mathiveri, before making its first trip to meet the Iranian vessel at 3:30am in the morning.

According to police, the meeting point of the Iranian vessel and the ‘Violet’ was 30 nautical miles north of North Ari atoll. The Maldivian boat travelled outside the EEZ of the Maldives in heavy rain and rough seas with the police speedboat following throughout.

When the ‘Violet’ reached the meeting point, its crew was informed that the Iranian ship was still 450 miles away from the meeting point, and that they will take 56 hours to get there. The ‘Violet’ subsequently returned to North Ari atoll.

Police said the two men police originally followed subsequently returned to Malé, contacting their agent in Iran at 11:30pm to get details regarding the next attempted rendezvous.

The following day, as the ‘Violet’ refueled in preparation for its second trip to meet the Iranian vessel, the two Maldivians suspects attempted to transfer money to agents in Iran.

Police have revealed that the money was transferred by a member of the Maldives Police Service who has subsequently been arrested in connection with the case.

The next day ‘Violet’ travelled on the same route as before, again stopping between Ukulhas and Mathiveri, before being contacted at 12:45am by the Iranian ship which explained that it was 200 miles from the meeting point.

After receiving this news, the Maldivian boat travelled towards Baa Atoll – outside Maldivian territorial waters – and waited there until the Iranian vessel informed the crew that the drugs were hidden inside a small dingy in the Iranian vessel.

The following day (March 9) the Maldivian vessel reached the meeting point, but again had to wait for the Iranian vessel to get there the next morning.

When the two boats met the the Maldivian boat took a small dingy released by the Iranian vessel and began its trip back to Malé late in the afternoon of March 10, the police statement said.

Upon their arrival in Hulhumale’ that evening, all aboard ‘Violet’ were arrested and the drugs seized.

After collecting enough information to begin the operation, police assigned 16 officers to follow ‘Violet’: five intelligence officers were based in Mathiveri Island, a surveillance team consisting on seven officers was created.

Eight intelligence officers were assigned as a ground analysis team, and a further five were assigned as ground technical team. Three intelligence officers were assigned as covert team and two others were used to trace communications, the police statement revealed.


Comment: Iranian people need Maldives’ leadership at the UN

Dr Fatemeh Haghighatjoo is a former member of the Sixth Iranian Parliament. A co-founder and chief executive officer of the Nonviolent Initiative for Democracy and a leading advocate for a civil, women’s, and democratic rights in Iran.

During its current session, the UN Human Rights Council has heard the latest report from former Maldivian Foreign Minister and current UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Iran Dr Ahmed Shaheed.

The council is set to consider a resolution to extend Dr Shaheed’s current mandate this Thursday (March 27).

Eight months ago, Iranians overwhelmingly supported the moderate Mr Hassan Rouhani electing him president hoping that he could deliver on his promises to make meaningful human rights reforms. These include the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscious, and specifically Iran’s most important political opposition leaders – Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Ms. Zahra Rahnavard – who have been placed under house arrest for three years without charges or even seeing a court.

The international community welcomed Mr Rouhani’s election for many of the same reasons. Yet today, Iran has seen little to no human rights changes. Speech remains strictly curtailed. Hundreds political prisoners languish behind bars. Unfortunately, torture is common while fair trials are rare. Indeed, Iran’s leader and the judiciary have block any prospect of progress.

Facing these internal challenges, the Iranian people need the international community to help prioritise human rights reforms in our country.

The Maldives has played this role in recent years. As one of 47 voting members of the United Nations Human Rights Council it voted to establish and renew a special rapporteur dedicated to monitoring the situation in Iran on three occasions. In fact, the Maldives sponsored these resolutions.

In doing so the Maldives demonstrated why it was elected to the council.  It established itself as leading member of the body and one of the few Muslim countries willing to defend human rights.

As a Muslim myself, I know how vital it is that Muslim nations show their commitment to human rights.

This week, I hope Maldives demonstrates its leadership once again when the Iran vote is presented. To do otherwise would be to surrender its responsibilities at the Human Rights Council.

The illegal detention of Mousavi, Karroubi, and Radnvard plays a key role in Iran and demonstrates the need for Maldives and the Council to act.

These three people are no ordinary Iranians. Mousavi is a former Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic and Karroubi, a ranking cleric, is a former speaker of parliament. Both were government-vetted candidates in the disputed 2009 presidential election, and Radnavar – who is Mousavi’s wife – is one of the most respected women’s advocates in Iran and a former chancellor of Alzahra University.

So, if these individuals can be stripped of their rights, held without legal justification, formal charges, or a trial in violation of Iran’s own constitution – anyone can.

After authorities stopped Mousavi, Karroubi, and Radnavar from joining a February 14, 2011 peaceful demonstration in support of the Arab Spring, hardline members of Iran’s parliament called for their deaths on the floor of parliament. For the last three years, the supreme leader has called them traitors and state and pro-government media have repeatedly used distorted religious rhetoric to demonise them.

As a former member of parliament, Mr Karroubi was my boss, a friend and a mentor.

Karroubi is a kind, caring and social person. Human interaction is at the core of his personality. And for three years he has been cut off from the outside world, from visits with others with the rare exception of a few allowed visits from his wife and children. When I was a member of parliament, Karroubi frequently visited with the families of political prisoners and learned of their plight. He advocated on their behalf and in at least two instances, his support for prisoners sentenced to death led to their executions being stayed.

Mousavi and Radnvard were no different – committing themselves in defense of the rights of Iranian people and for this paid the price.

And it isn’t just Mousavi, Karroubi, and Radnvard suffering in Iran. This month, 23 prisoners of conscience wrote an open letter calling for an urgent visit to Iran by international human rights bodies and Dr Ahmed Shaheed, the appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, to investigate the systematic violations taking place inside prisons.

As a former member of parliament, I understand the Islamic Republic. I know the only way we’ll see change in Iran is when the world stands with the people of Iran and loudly raises its concern.

The Maldives cannot ignore what is happening in Iran. This week, it must join the Human Rights Council and adopt a resolution renewing the mandate on human rights in Iran. The Maldives should also call for the release of Mousavi, Karroubi, and Rahnavard and other political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Iran.

For progress to be made, UN member states must stand together and tell Iran’s supreme leader that Iran must improve its dismal human rights record.


Comment: Maldives should honor its history by supporting the rights of the Iranian people

In the coming days, the United Nations General Assembly will adopt a human rights resolution passed last month by its humanitarian committee aimed at improving the lives of Iran’s citizens. The human rights conditions of Iranians have been abysmal for three decades now.

This includes entrenched political repression, state-sanctioned gender and religious discrimination, and institutionalised violence and torture of government critics. Today, nearly a thousand political prisoners and prisoners of conscience languish in Iranian prisons due to the exercise of their guaranteed rights to expression, conscience, and religion.

While newly elected President Hassan Rouhani has provided hope to Iranians who voted him in on a platform of citizens’ rights, limits to presidential power are already undercutting his administration’s ability to usher in the human rights reforms he promised during his campaign for president. Policymaking in Iran also rests with unelected officials, so for Rouhani to advance his reform agenda, support from Iran’s Supreme Leader is necessary. What the Iranian people desperately need, therefore, and what President Rouhani can benefit from, is sustained and elevated attention to their situation. This will help Iran’s entire leadership understand that episodic or cosmetic steps will not be accepted as a substitute for genuine, broad-based democratic human rights reforms.

Yet, when the vote on this issue was called at the United Nations in November, the Maldives’ seat was empty.  This is all the more astonishing since the Maldives, itself, recently emerged from authoritarianism following its first multi-party elections in 2008. Meanwhile, the Maldives asked the UN General Assembly not once, but twice, to be elected to the Human Rights Council. It was the UN that called attention to a lack of gender equality in the Maldives’ judicial appointments, which helped the Maldives end gender discrimination within the judiciary, leading to the appointments of the country’s first-ever female judges. In Iran, female judges were unjustly removed from the bench after the 1979 revolution. They should be returned to their rightful posts.

Remembering the role of the international community

It was just eight years ago when in 2005, the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and human rights defenders sent an urgent appeal to the government of the Maldives concerning the now-defunct Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs’ declared ban on the possession of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The government responded within a week affirming its support for the UDHR and explaining that the Council’s statement was not legally binding. Moreover, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs responded a month later to confirm the initial response and to inform the UN experts that the government notified the Council to desist from such pronouncements without prior consultation. For these reasons, and more, the Maldivian people understand firsthand the vital role played by the international community in assisting nations to make human rights progress.

The Iranian people deserve the same support from the international community. They certainly deserve the backing of the Maldivian people who have faced similar challenges and benefitted from the UN’s attention.

The Iran human rights resolution focuses on many critical issues, such as the lack of freedom of expression and assembly in the country – as well as the need to release the hundreds of human rights defenders, activists, journalists, and opposition members in prison. It catalogues how women and religious minorities continue to face severe discrimination in law and practice, sometimes amounting to persecution. It discusses the country’s exorbitant execution rate, the highest per capita in the world. It requests Iran to end the practice of juvenile executions, public executions and other executions carried out in the absence of respect for internationally recognized safeguards, as well as to end inhumane and degrading forms of punishment, including amputation.

Despite President Rouhani’s election, more than 254 hangings have been carried out by Iran’s judiciary since his inauguration in August. The government has surpassed last year’s record by executing 529 people as of the end of November. Finally, the resolution calls on Iran to cooperate with UN human rights special procedures, including the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, who has not been allowed to visit the country since 2005.

The Maldives has the ability again this week to be present when the vote on the human rights of the Iranian people is called at the UN General Assembly. It has another opportunity to honor its own painful and inspirational history, and to honor the hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Iran who continue to fight for their freedom and for their human dignity. The Maldives should vote yes for its own people and for the people of Iran.

Dokhi Fassihian is an international human rights expert. Since 2003, she has led three non-governmental organizations working in the areas of human rights, democracy, and Iranian affairs

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Shaheed more “actor than rapporteur”: Iran’s human rights chief

Iranian officials have accused former Maldivian foreign minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, subsequently appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, of failing to perform his duties adequately.

The Secretary General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights  labelled Dr Shaheed “more of an actor than a rapporteur”, suggesting that he had been acting like an inspector rather than a rapporteur according to the Tehran Times.

Mohammad Javad Larijani at the same time rejected Shaheed’s requests to visit the Islamic republic, stating: “I believe that the request is not serious.”

“I believe that in view of the measures taken by Ahmed Shaheed and the show of interviews launched by him, he is more of an actor than a rapporteur,” he added.

Dr Shaheed was appointed Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran in 2011 – the first time a Maldivian has held such a position.

The decision to establish a Special Rapporteur on Iran was made in 2011 after the deterioration of human rights in the country following the 2009 election.

The mandate for the position includes investigating human rights abuses and undertaking country visits in order to report back to the General Assembly.

The Tehran Times also quoted Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman, who also attacked Dr Shaheed.

“He has not acted fairly and has played the role of the opposition, and his measures have been outside the purview of a UN rapporteur,” the paper quoted Abbas Araqchi as saying.

The spokesman is reported to have said that Iran has no intention of allowing Shaheed into the country until his approach is “modified”.

Shaheed is scheduled to report his recent findings to the General Assembly in October.

In his last report in March, he informed the UN Human Rights Council that Iran’s human rights violations had increased in the past two years.

In a list of recommendations, he urged Iran to “extend its full cooperation to the country mandate-holder by engaging in a substantive and constructive dialogue and facilitating a visit the country.”

Iran’s official response to this report described it as “biased” and as disregarding the “realities on the ground” and “principles of transparency, fairness and impartiality”.

Speaking with the Canadian media last month, Dr Shaheed had expressed hope that the new administration of President Hasan Rohani would result in greater opportunities for dialogue.

“Skepticism borne out of previous experience should not make us blind to opportunities,” he told the New Canadian Media website.

Shaheed’s chief critic, Larijani, made headlines last year when he reportedly described homosexuality as a “disease”.


Ahmadinejad sends independence day congratulations to President Waheed

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has congratulated President Mohamed Waheed of the Maldives for the occasion of the country’s Independence Day, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

“President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday congratulated anniversary of Maldives Independence Day to his Maldivian Counterpart President Huhammad Hassan Vahid,” IRNA reported.

Ahmadinejad expressed hoped “that the relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Maldives would expand comprehensively more than ever before,” the agency added.

“The IRI president meanwhile in his message hoped for the establishment of peace and security throughout the world, and prayed to God for good health and evermore success of President Muhammad Hassan Vahid, as well as prosperity and wellbeing of the Muslim Maldivian government and nation.”


President Waheed discusses expanding Iranian relations

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has committed to strengthen relations with Iran in a number of areas such as education and energy, the country’s state media has reported.

The state-run Fars News Agency has reported that President Waheed had shown “willingness” to expand ties between the two nations during a meeting with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi in Male’ last week.

The comments were as Iranian President Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad invited Dr Waheed to attend the 16th Non Aligned Movement Summit in Iran between August 30 to 31.

The invitation was delivered personally by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi at meeting at the President’s Office. Discussions were also held on the potential for investment and higher education opportunities from Iran.


Iranian Ambassador Nabi Hassani-Pour meets President Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has met with the Iranian Ambassador of Iran accredited to the Maldives, Mohammed Nabi Hassani-Pour.

At a meeting at the President’s Office in Male’ yesterday, Dr Waheed discussed the current state of bilateral relations with Iran, as well as means to further strengthen cooperation with the Maldives.

The ambassador was also thanked for the ongoing support provided by Iran in relation to the country’s “economic situation”, according to the President’s Office website.