Gangsters abduct, beat pro-opposition Facebook page administrator, and hack page

Gangsters abducted and beat the administrator of a pro-opposition Ranreendhoo Maldives Facebook page last night after the page published pictures of individuals implicated in the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

Reliable sources told Minivan News the Ranreendhoo Madives administrator was accosted at his workplace at 9pm on Wednesday night and escorted to a café at Malé’s Artificial Beach area.

In a closed room, the dozen strong group then beat and interrogated him as to who had posted the pictures online.

The social media posts, which were widely circulated on Facebook and Twitter, named and publicised pictures of known gangsters, some of whom were named in Glasgow-based Athena Intelligence and Security’s investigation into Rilwan’s August 8 disappearance.

Many of those identified in the posts also hold records of murder and organised crime including drug trafficking.

One of the posts included a photograph of gangsters with Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb at a motorcycle rally to mark ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) one year anniversary in power.

According to sources, the “offensive” posts were removed on Wednesday afternoon after the page’s administrators were threatened via text messages. The abduction occurred hours later.

Gangsters forcibly took the Ranreendhoo Maldives administrator’s phone and posted several status updates claiming Rilwan had been disappeared because he had threatened to leak damning documents involving opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Ranreendhoo Maldives has 9,502 likes.

Among the abductors identified by the source were Ahmed Ismail (Ahandhu), Ismail Razeen (Rabarey), Arlif Rauf, and Ahmed Muaz (Gatu Mua).

The four were also reported to have been behind the abduction and interrogation of several young men in June. These abductions were carried out to find out the identities of administrators of Facebook groups advocating secularism and atheism in the Maldives.

Abductors forced victims to hand over their Facebook account details and hijacked a popular Facebook group called ‘Colorless’ which had been set up to facilitate discussion on politics in the aftermath of Nasheed’s ouster in February 2012.

Athena Intelligence and Security’s investigative report named three of the four as possible suspects in Rilwan’s disappearance.

Discounting theories of suicide and voluntary disappearance, the report said Rilwan was likely to have been abducted by gangs motivated by religious extremism.

Home Minister Umar Naseer has also acknowledged involvement of gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance.

Shortly after the report’s release on September 25, Muaz vandalized Minivan News’ security cameras as others left a machete in the building’s door. Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s offices were firebombed and Nasheed’s family residence was vandalised on the same night.

Nasheed in a tweet last night called on the Maldives Police Services to investigate the abduction immediately.

However, a police spokesperson said abduction has not been reported, and declined to comment when asked if the police would initiate an investigation on their own.

Nasheed has recently criticised President Abdulla Yameen’s administration for increasing insecurity in the Maldives and said the government has been taken hostage by gangs and rogue police officers.


High Court invalidates Criminal Court verdict against police officer

The High Court has invalidated the Criminal Court’s ruling on a Police Drug Enforcement Department (DED) Officer.

The officer was accused of asking an inmate to find him two girls between the ages of 16 to 25 to have sex with him three nights from 8:00pm to 1:00am, and that in exchange the inmate was to be freed and the case dropped.

The High Court identified the inmate as Mabaah Waheed of Maafannu Jaina and the police officer as Police Constable Ahmed Ismail.

The Criminal Court had ruled that according to Mabaah’s statements, documents presented to the court and text messages sent to Mabah’s mobile phone warranted enough evidence to suggest claims made by Mabah against Ismail were true.

The High Court however noted that Mabaah was arrested by the police on a drug related matter in a case Ismail investigated, raising the possibility that Mabaah might have a grudge against Ismail and so his statements would be weak.

The High Court said in the ruling that Ismail had argued that evidences and statements given by Mabaah should be invalid because Mabaah was inclined to give false statements as Ismail had not commuted the investigation.

The texts allegedly sent to Mabaah by Ismail requesting for the girls were not tested by any digital analysis system, the High Court said, adding that there was not enough evidence to suggest the texts were really sent by Ismail.

The Court also said that there was no evidence other than the words of Mabaah that the documents, written in English, were given to him by Ismail asking for the two girls.

Delivering the verdict, the High Court said it was hard to believe that a person would give a document making such a request, and that the only evidence that the Prosecutor General has presented to the court was the document  and the text messages on the mobile phone, not enough to prove that the officer was guilty.


Mother of self-declared Addu apostate launches media appeal seeking scholars’ help

The mother of a 22 year-old girl from Addu City who publicly declared her apostasy has launched an appeal in the local Maldivian media seeking the help of religious scholars to make her daughter repent.

“She’s been a bit odd ever since she was in the seventh grade, but at the  time she did not say the things that she says now,” the 49 year-old mother told Minivan News.

“Every time I try to advise her she shouts at me and asks me what I was trying to make her believe, and says that she cannot believe the existence of Allah,” the mother said.

The mother said her daughter was currently being held under house arrest while being investigated for allegedly giving birth to a child out of wedlock.

“She has misbehaved since she was young, and is saying things that should not be said in front of the children. She has even been calling me balhu (dog).”

The mother said that whenever she tried to inform her daughter about death, the afterlife and the punishments for apostasy, her daughter would reply that it was “not a problem for her, and not to worry.”

“I admit that it was our negligence as well that allowed her to come this far. We knew about this a while ago and we could have been more careful then,’’ the mother said. “I have been asking around my neighbors and everyone about what to do, but all I can do is remain in this grief thinking about her.”

The mother said she “had no solution” to her grief.

“There’s still some good inside her. I know that because she has been advising her younger sisters not to be like her,’’ she said. ‘’It’s because she can believe that she is not going the right way.’’

The mother said there “was a reason why this had happened to [her daughter],” but said it was “a long story”.

President of Islamic Foundation of the Maldives, Ibrahim Fauzee said the organisation had heard of the appeal and that its local branch was looking into the matter.

“For sure, we will provide her assistance,’’ Fauzee said.

The Islamic Ministry said it had not received official notice of the matter.

The Maldivian Constitution states that the Maldives is a “100 percent” Sunni Muslim country, and the country maintains a reservation to article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of religion.

The last Maldivian to publicly declare apostasy, Mohamed Nazim, did so in front of an 11,000-strong audience attending a lecture in May 2010 by well-known Islamic speaker Dr Zakir Naik.

Nazim was escorted from the venue by police for his own protection after members of the audience attempted to attack him, and was held in police custody. The Islamic Foundation of the Maldives subsequently issued a statement calling for Nazim to be stripped of his citizenship and sentenced to death if he failed to repent and return to Islam.

After two days of religious counseling in police custody, Nazim declared that his misconceptions had been clarified and gave Shahada – the Muslim testimony of belief – on national television during a press conference held at the Islamic Ministry.

In a later interview with Minivan News, Nazim said that he did not regret his actions.

“Somebody had to do it, it needed to be spoken about. The repression of thought, the lack of debate and a lack of a proper public sphere in which such discussion can take place, is dangerous,” he said.

The reaction, he said, was mixed – angry and supportive, superficial and profound. He lost 65 friends on Facebook, the social networking site to which almost every computer literate Maldivian subscribes. He did, however, gain 246 new ‘friends’.

His own friends and colleagues, he said, were uneasy talking about it, and very few actually discussed it with him. However, he told Minivan News he could feel the presence of the issue, “unspoken yet potent”, in every social interaction he had with another person.

In July 2010, 25 year-old air traffic controller Ismail Mohamed Didi hanged himself from the control tower of Male’ International Airport after seeking asylum in the UK for fear of persecution over his lack of religious belief.

Over two emails sent to an international humanitarian organisation on June 23 and 25, obtained by Minivan News, Ismail confessed he was an atheist and requested assistance for his asylum application, after claiming to have received several anonymous threats on June  22.

In the emails, he said he “foolishly admitted my stance on religion” to work colleagues, word of which had “spread like wildfire.”

“Maldivians are proud of their religious homogeneity and I am learning the hard way that there is no place for non-Muslim Maldivians in this society,” Ismail said, in one of his letters.

“I cannot bring myself to pretend to be something I am not, as I am a staunch believer in human rights. I am afraid for my life here and know no one inside the country who can help me.”

A colleague of Ismail’s told Minivan News that it appeared the 25 year-old had sought the early 3:00am shift and “came to work fully prepared to die.”

“His mother said she called him in the morning at 5:30am to tell him to pray, but there was no answer. They found his cigarette lighter on the balcony.”