New bill sets jail term up to 20 years for ‘Jihad’

The Attorney General’s Office has overhauled a first draft of a draconian anti-terrorism bill and specified some 14 offences as acts of terror, including joining or attempting to leave the Maldives to join a war in a foreign country.

The new draft, submitted to the People’s Majlis on Monday, proposes a jail term of 17-20 years for joining a foreign war. Any individual caught attempting to leave the Maldives with the same intent could be jailed for 10-15 years.

The bill also permits extensive surveillance of terror suspects.

More than a hundred Maldivians are thought to have left the Maldives to fight with Islamic State and Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria and Iraq. The two groups are designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S.

The government has been struggling to stop the steady outflow of Maldivians joining Jihad.

A previous draft of the bill, obtained by Minivan News, granted the president the exclusive authority to declare groups as terrorist organisations. Acts of terror were previously loosely defined. Inciting violence at demonstrations, threatening the country’s independence and sovereignty, and promoting a particular political or religious ideology were considered terrorism.

The new bill, however, defines some 14 offences committed with the intent of unduly influencing the government, creating fear, or promoting ‘unlawful’ political and religious ideologies as terrorism.

These offences include murder, causing bodily harm, disappearances, kidnapping, damaging property, hijacking vehicles, endangering public health or security, damaging public infrastructure and suspending public services.

The president must consult with the national security council in designating groups as terror organisations. The list must be publicised within 15 days of the ratification of the law.

Using explosives, bullets or other weapons to cause harm, even if committed without the three motivations of terrorism, is an act of terror. This means gang violence will be considered terrorism. More than 30 people have died in gang violence over the past seven years.

Punishments range from 20-25 years for perpetrators. Planning an act of terror is punishable by 17-20 years in jail. Encouraging terrorism with direct or indirect statements is punishable by 10-15 years in jail.

Training to commit acts of terror, including learning how to use weapons or joining training camps, is punishable by 12-15 years in jail.

“We condemn terrorism. The government aims to mete out the harshest punishments for those who commit such crimes,” the AG office said in a statement.

The bill also criminalises possession of dangerous weapons, distributing publications of a terrorist organisation, and forming gangs or groups to commit acts of terror.

Fundamental rights, including the right to remain silent and access to a lawyer, can be restricted for terror suspects. Between 6-12 hours is provided to appoint a lawyer before interrogation. Meanwhile, any communications between a suspect and a lawyer for the first 96 hours after arrest must take place in the presence of a police officer.

The bill authorises the home minister to apply for a monitoring and control or ‘monicon’ order from the appellate High Court in order to tag, intercept communications and conduct surveillance on suspects.

Unlike the first draft, the new bill provides measures that the High Court must consider in issuing a monicon order and establishes some safeguards.

Judges must determine if there is sufficient evidence in a police’s intelligence report against a terror suspect and must determine if the monicon action desired is proportionate to the evidence. If the evidence is insufficient, the court must refrain from issuing the order, the bill states.

The minister does not have to inform the suspect and the court is not obliged to summon the suspect before issuing the order. However, the order must be presented to the suspect before it can be enforced.

The bill grants a suspect a 90-day period to appeal the monicon order at the High Court. The court is obliged to accept appeals of monicon orders and hold hearings.

Monicon orders last for a year and can be extended every year. Orders can be issued against minors.

The government can restrict a suspect’s place of residence, freedom of movement and monitor bank account transactions and order a suspect to undergo a rehabilitation programme under a monicon order.

If a suspect violates a monicon order, a court can jail or place them under house arrest for 18 months.

If the law is passed, the Anti- Terrorism Act of 1990 will be dissolved.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Tholhath Ibrahim were charged under the terrorism law over the military’s detention of a judge and sentenced to 13 years and 10 years in prison, respectively, in March.


IS enforces death penalty against Maldivian recruit

The militant organisation Islamic State has enforced the death penalty against a Maldivian recruit in Iraq.

Haveeru reported today that the Maldivian was thrown off the top of a tall building last month.

He was sentenced to death by an IS court, the newspaper reported, but the alleged offence is unclear.

The Maldivian had traveled to IS-held territories in Syria in late 2014 and had gone to Iraq last month following a military offensive by the Iraqi army to recapture Tikrit.

A number of Maldivians jihadis who traveled to fight in the Syrian civil war have been reported dead. Commissioner of Police Hussein Waheed in early January estimated over 50 Maldivians could be fighting in foreign wars.

Most Maldivian jihadis are believed to have joined the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Al Nusra front in Syria.


Foreign terrorist organisations planning to topple government, claims Nasheed

Foreign terrorist organisations are planning to overthrow President Abdulla Yameen’s government with help from elements of the police and military, former President Mohamed Nasheed has claimed.

“The government of our country is on the edge of being toppled. Foreign terrorist organisations and domestic institutions are carrying out this work swiftly together,” Nasheed said at a gathering of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) last night near the Hulhumalé ferry terminal in Malé.

The opposition leader accused President Yameen of attempting to conceal the alleged efforts from the public, which Nasheed said would not benefit either Yameen or the Maldives.

The MDP would remain vigilant and watch developments closely, he said, adding that the party did not want any harm to befall the nation.

In late September, Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed dismissed allegations of links between Maldivian security services and foreign terrorist organisation as false and intended to bring disrepute to the police and military.

Waheed said such claims were harmful to national interest, adversely affects the economy, and could incite unrest and strife among the public.

Allegations that damage national interest and threaten national security would be investigated, Waheed warned, and “necessary action would be taken.”

Waheed’s remarks followed Nasheed claiming in an interview with the UK’s Independent newspaper that the vast majority of Maldivians fighting in Syria and Iraq were ex-military.

Following the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s claim in May that extremist ideologies were prevalent in the security services, the defence ministry dismissed the allegations as both “baseless and untrue” and intended to “discredit and disparage” the military.

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) meanwhile issued a press release on September 18 condemning Nasheed’s allegations in the Independent.

While police estimated that about 24 persons with links to militant jihadist organisations might be active in the Maldives, MPS insisted that none of them were police officers.

“And the police leadership has always been working to ensure that such people are not formed within the police,” the statement read.

Police urged all parties to refrain from making false statements “to gain the public’s support, achieve political purposes, or win approval from foreign nations”.

Police and gangs

Nasheed meanwhile went on to say that the unexplained disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan109 days ago symbolises the extent to which security and personal safety have been lost.

The police had solved only 53 of the 465 cases filed this year, Nasheed claimed.

The reason police are unable to properly investigate the cases was due to the involvement of police officers in most of the cases, he alleged.

Elements of the police and military were tied to criminal gangs in Malé, he continued, which were in turn connected to foreign terrorist organisations.

“We see all the dark activities happening in the Maldives going on through this connection,” he said.

Nasheed had previously suggested that radicalised gangs were behind the recent “atrocities” in the capital, noting that extremist religious indoctrination of youth was a relatively recent phenomenon in the Maldives.

He further claimed that many young men from criminal gangs were seen in a protest march held in Malé on September 5 with participants bearing the militant organisation Islamic State (IS) flag and calling for the implementation of Islamic Sharia.

Of the approximately 150 participants, Nasheed had said most were “active in gangs.”

Referring to a bomb threat made to a Flyme passenger flight this week, Nasheed noted last night that the incident occurred a year after a Flyme flight departing to Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Kaadehdhoo was delayed after a group threatened to hijack the plane.

“But police did not investigate the case,” he said, adding that the threats should be taken seriously.

“Our Maldives is under a dark cloud. Our Maldives is on the edge of a dangerous pit,” he said.

The MDP was forced to take to the streets once more because of President Yameen’s “carelessness and arrogance” in response to Rilwan’s disappearance, Nasheed said.

The party would not back down in efforts to hold the government accountable and push for good governance, he added.

Nasheed also claimed that an internal opinion poll conducted by the government revealed that its support among the public was below 25 percent.

The MDP’s victories in recent by-elections has shown that a majority was behind the opposition party, he contended.