High Court orders immediate release of former warden arrested over inmate torture investigation

The High Court has today ordered the immediate release of former head prison warden ‘Isthafa’ Ibrahim Mohamed Manik, citing that his arrest was unlawful and he was currently not in a position to eliminate evidence as claimed by police.

Isthafa was arrested in Male’ in connection with the investigation of photographs allegedly obtained from the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) and leaked to the media, appearing  to show inmates being tortured in custody. Police obtained permission to extend his detention to 15 days from Maafushi Court on Friday.

The photos released so far include images of men tied to coconut palms, caged, and bloodied. One of the photos, of a prisoner lying on a blood-soaked mattress, has a 2001 date stamp.

The High Court ruled that Isthafa was required to be summoned to the Criminal Court because he was arrested in Male’.

The decision of the Maafushi Court was inconsistent with systems applied in such situations, and the Supreme Court’s procedures, said the High Court.

The High Court also said that the Maafushi Court warrant to extend the detention of Isthafa noted that the extension warrant was issued to prevent Ishtafa from influencing witnesses and evidence.

Inspector of Police Abdulla Nawaz confirmed in a statement to the state broadcaster MNBC that the matter involved severe cases of torture and suspected fatalities, and had been passed to police.

Isthafa was summoned for questioning by police in March in mid-March 2011, regarding an undisclosed investigation.

Local media reports citing unnamed sources at the time claimed Isthafa had been summoned to clarify information surround the possible death in custody of a prison inmate named Abdulla Anees.

Abdulla Anees of Vaavu Keyodhoo Bashigasdhosuge, was an inmate at the former Gaamaadhoo complex and was officially declared missing in the 1980s. President Mohamed Nasheed has claimed that human bones discovered on the site of the former Gaamaadhoo prison were thought to match the age and estimated period of death of Anees, after sending the samples to Thailand for DNA analysis and carbon dating, and asked police to investigate.

In April the government claimed crucial files relating to the investigation into the Gaamaadhoo bones had gone missing – including the originals kept with the DPRS, and copies stored with police.

State Home Minister Ahmed Adhil told Minvan News at the time that the government had ordered a police investigation into the missing files.

“Police  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 at the time that 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.”

Earlier this month, former deputy leader of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Umar Naseer, a key leader in Gayoom’s faction of the DRP, claimed to have obtained information that results of the examinations showed the bones were “over 800 years old.”

”Those bones were first taken to Thailand for investigation and [investigators] said they were over 800 years old,” said Naseer. ”Later the government sent the bones to America, where they also said the same.”

Umar said the investigation into the identity of the bones was now closed, ”but the government will never say that because they want to use it for political purposes.”

Following Isthafa’s arrest, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s spokesperson Mohamed Hussein ‘Mundhu’ Shareef told Haveeru that the detention of the former head of prisons was the “the third part of the drama” in a long-plotted lead up to the arrest of the former president.

“The attempt to arrest President Maumoon will only boost his profile. We see this simply as the government’s attempt to divert the people’s attention from the dollar crisis and rising commodity prices,” Shareef told Haveeru.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.