Imam of unauthorised independent prayer congregation sentenced to jail

Self-appointed Imam, Hussain Thowfiq, arrested last month (September 30) for leading unauthorised prayers at Dharmuvantha Mosque, has been sentenced to jail for two years by the Criminal Court.

The 34-year-old was found guilty of disobeying religious unity regulations by delivering unauthorised sermons at the mosque, leading Friday prayers at a mosque not designated for the prayer, and of attempting to incite religious strife and discord read the criminal court sentence.

Meanwhile, Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said yesterday (November 8 ) that such independent congregations are “unacceptable” and threatened legal action if members of such groups refuse to accept advice from scholars.

The government would not allow practices outside the bounds of the law and religious strictures, declared Shaheem.

The Dharumavantha congregation had previously been described as inciting extremist ideology by the Islamic minister. The sermons had called for the destruction of the current government, prompting a temporary shutdown on February this year.


Government implements new escaped prisoner regulation

The government yesterday started implementing a new regulation on procedures regarding escaped inmates.

The regulation was made in compliance with Article 144 of the Prisons and Parole Act, 2013.

The regulation gives the authority to the director of prisons to declare that an inmate has escaped from detention, failed to return from temporary release, or taken flight while on medical release.

The new regulation obliges the most senior officer in-charge of the prison security to inform the director of prisons immediately if an inmate escapes or attempts to escape. The director must then inform the Commissioner of Prisons before submitting a detailed incident report within 24 hours.

Correctional services are subsequently obliged to inform police with a written document and to publish the escaped inmate’s picture on the media as well as informing the family of the escape.


Jabir jailed upon return to Maldives

Former opposition MP Abdulla Jabir has been jailed upon his return from Malaysia to the Maldives.

The former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP was sentenced to  one year jail sentence in February for refusal to provide a urine sample during a police raid on Hondaidhoo Island in November 2012.

He was temporarily released on April 25 for a three month period to undergo medical tests in Malaysia.

According to the Maldives Correctional Services, Jabir is expected to submit medical records within seven days.

The Prosecutor General also charged Jabir over possession of cannabis but the Criminal Court acquitted by the MP citing insufficient evidence.

Charges of alcohol possession against Jabir are pending at the Criminal Court.


Kaashidhoo MP Jabir returns to prison after treatment

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Abdulla Jabir has been transferred back to prison after receiving treatment for breathing difficulties.

Jabir was admitted to the hospital on April 8, with his wife Dhiyana Saeed at the time telling local media that he was brought to Malé to be treated for respiratory defects with which he had been born.

The Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) has told local media that Jabir was discharged from the hospital yesterday afternoon and was handed to Malé Jail’s medical department.

The Kaashidhoo MP is currently serving a one year sentence for a failure to provide urine to police for testing.

An official from the MCS told local newspapers that Jabir had requested a medical test of his heart but that the service was not available in Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

He said that the service was now trying to facilitate a way to permit him to go abroad to do the medical test, adding that the MCS would obtain all the medical documents of Jabir before submitting them to the medical board.

Local media has also reported that Jabir was returned to jail with a bilevel positive airway pressure machine – reportedly obtained from Singapore

In a text to MDP parliamentary group members, Dhiyana said: “The pulmonologist who saw him says his previous surgeries for severe sleep apnoea has failed and needs to be admitted.”

Sleep apnoea is a type of sleep disorder characterised by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep.

In an interview with Vnews earlier this month, Dhiyana has said her husband had been in hospital since April 8, revealing that doctors had informed her that Jabir’s breathing stopped four times every hour.

MCS Spokesperson Hassan Zilaal was not responding to calls at time of press.

In February 2014, Jabir was sentenced to jail after being found him guilty of failing to provide a urine sample to police to run a drug test following his arrest on the island of Hondaidhoo in November 2012.

A total of 10 people were taken into police custody on November 16 after police raided and searched Hondaidhoo with a court warrant. Officers alleged they found large amounts of drugs and alcohol upon searching the island.

Seven of the suspects, including the MDP MPs Hamid Abdul Ghafoor and Jabir were among those charged.

At the time, police submitted cases against former SAARC Secretary General and Special Envoy to the former President Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, former President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair and his wife Mariyam Faiz. The manager of Jabir’s resort J Alidhoo Jadhulla Jaleel and Zaki’s son Hamdan Zaki also face charges.

The prosecutor general also charged Jabir for possessing cannabis before he was acquitted by the court on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to prove that he was in possession of cannabis when detained by police.

Charges of alcohol possession remain outstanding, with the last hearing of Jabir and Hamid’s joint trial being suspended due to Jabir’s hospitalisation.

Following the ‘Hondaidhoo’ incident the Prosecutor General has also charged Jabir for possessing alcohol. The trial of the case still continues in the Criminal Court.


High Court rules Jabir cannot be released

The High Court has decided that the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) member Abdulla Jabir cannot be released from jail as his legal team had requested.

Jabir’s legal representatives submitted their appeal earlier this month on March 3. At the hearing yesterday (March 10) Jabir’s lawyers asked the court to release the MP until it had reached a conclusion on whether or not to uphold the Criminal Court’s decision to imprison him for 12 months.

On February 20 Jabir was sentenced to 12 months in prison after being found guilty of failing to provide a urine sample to the police to run a drug test.

The Kaashidhoo MP’s representatives have argued that his trial and sentencing “was in violation of several procedural and factual formalities accorded in the Constitution and statutes of the Maldives.”

Local media reported that the High Court informed Jabir’s legal team that their request could not be granted later on the same day.

The incident leading to Jabir’s imprisonment happened on November 16, 2012, when a total of 10 people were taken into police custody after police raided and searched the island Hondaidhoo. Officers alleged they found large amounts of “suspected” drugs and alcohol upon searching the island.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said at the time of the arrests that officers requested all suspects taken into custody on Hondaidhoo to provide urine samples for a routine examination. Seven individuals including other senior MPs refused to give a urine sample, leading to prosecution.

Police issued an order for Special Envoy Ibrahim Hussain Zaki – one of those facing charges related to the incident – to be taken into custody presented in court after officials were unable to present him with a summons.

After his conviction, Jabir’s legal team submitted a plea to the High Court arguing that he had the right to campaign for the Majlis elections. Jabir was set to re-contest his Kaashidhoo seat after an internal MDP decision to discipline the MP for repeatedly breaking three-line whips was overturned on appeal.

The constitution stipulates that a anyone sentenced to longer than 12 months in prison will be ineligible for election to the People’s Majlis.

While the MP was recently found not to have been guilty of possessing cannabis during the incident, his trial for alcohol possession is ongoing.

Speaking prior to this announcement by the High Court, Jabir’s wife Dhiyana Saeed stated the legal team would file a case with the Civil Court if the High Court did not accept.

Dhiyana was not responding to calls at the time of press.


Man sentenced to four years and six months in jail for stealing four lotion bottles

The Crminal Court has sentenced Ali Rasheed to four years and six months in jail for stealing three lotion bottles rom Lily F&B Suppliers store in Malé in 2011.

The verdict was based solely on Rasheed’s confession. According to the Crminal Court, Rasheed had been convicted of three counts of theft previously.

Under the Maldives Penal Code, if an individual is found guilty of theft for the fourth time, he or she may be sentenced to four years in jail or banishment. The Criminal Court added six months to Rasheed’s term for stealing from a shop.


Criminal Court issues three year jail sentence for cannabis use

A young man has been sentenced to three years in prison for using cannabis, reports local media.

The 19 year-old Male’ resident was arrested in April 2013 in Male’s Mahchangolhi ward on suspicion of having used drugs.

The young man confessed in court that he was on drugs at the time of his arrest, which was confirmed by drug tests conducted during the investigation that were positive for cannabis, the Criminal Court said during sentencing.


HRCM investigating three cases of alleged torture in Male’ custodial

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has confirmed it is investigating three recent cases of detainees being tortured by Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) officers while in the Male’ jail.

The HRCM issued a recent press release stating they were “investigating complaints of brutality” towards detainees at the Custodial Reception and Diagnostic Centre (Male’ Jail).

Officials from the HRCM visited Male’ Jail June 2, 2013 after the family of a detainee informed the HRCM on May 31, 2013 that the victim had been beaten by DPRS officers.

“From the investigations that ensued, [the HRCM] found proof that there were two more detainees who sustained injuries while in custody,” read the statement.

“The HRCM is currently investigating the cases, therefore I’m sorry I cannot be more specific, but I cannot comment at the moment,” HRCM Vice President Ahmed Tholal told Minivan News today (July 13).

“The HRCM always considers allegations of human rights violations quite serious issues and is quick to react, [which is] crucial when human rights violations occur, because otherwise there is no point,” explained Tholal.

“In cases involving torture, fresh evidence is needed, additionally the torture could be ongoing and taking immediate action is needed to protect the victim,” he continued.

“There must be some sort of comfort and support to people when things fail,” he added.

In situations where there is the prospect that a large number of people have suffered human rights violations, it is part of the HRCM’s public relations strategy to announce that investigations are occurring, Tholal noted.

“This is both to demonstrate to the public that the commission is acting proactively, as well as to encourage other victims to submit their complaints to the HRCM,” said Tholal.

Tholal explained the basic assumption from which the HRCM functions is that ‘things are going ok’, but if the state fails to protect human rights – in cases of domestic violence, child abuse, health, migrant workers, for people with disabilities – even if the violations are not directly perpetrated by the Maldives’ government, the HRCM will still investigate.

“The HRCM is always accessible, if any sort of human rights violation occurs we urge people to report it,” he added.

Systemic and systematic torture

“It is very, very good, I’m pleased the HRCM has made the decision to go public with their investigations. HRCM needs support from us,” the Maldivian Democracy Network’s Executive Director Humaida ‘Humey’ Abdulghafoor told Minivan News today.

“It is quite worrying that we keep hearing about accounts of torture in custody,” said Humaida. “These recent accounts [the HRCM announced they are investigating] are an indication of the consistence and continuing abuse in custody.”

“There is systemic and systematic abuse of detainees [in the Maldives], therefore the practice of torture is unlikely to just disappear over a short period of time,” she emphasised.

Humaida highlighted the need to address the “complete lack of professional standards” within the DPRS and Maldives Police Service (MPS).

“What is the system of accountability within the MPS? Where are the professional standards and oversight?” she questioned.

“It is an indicator of the total unprofessional behavior by the MPS that there are ongoing allegations of torture. It is most despicable, no agent of the state should be involved in abusing its citizens,” she declared.

Minivan News spoke with a Maldives Police Service Media Official, Sergeant Hussain Siraz, however he was not aware of the current HRCM investigation and was unable provide an official comment to Minivan News.

Meanwhile, Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef was not responding to calls at time of press.

Correction: The previous version of this article said Maldives Police Service officers were accused of torturing detainees, however this should have referred to Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services officers. Minivan News regrets the error.


Maafushi Prison inmates petition president over poor conditions

Inmates in Maafushi prison have petitioned President Dr Mohamed Waheed over poor conditions in the prison.

In the petition, the inmates stated that there were people in the prison sentenced to be incarcerated for more than 100 years, calling for the chance to reintegrate into society.

According to the petition, the inmates alleged they were being deprived from basic human rights guaranteed by the constitution, regulations made under the constitution and international treaties the Maldives had signed.

The inmates said that some of the cells were so small there was no space to kneel towards the Qibla during prayer time. They complained they had been able to perform Friday prayers for the past four years and had not been provided with healthy food and clean water.

According to the petition, the daily amount spent on food for each inmate had dropped from MVR95 (US$6.16) to just MVR35 (US$2.26).

The inmates called on Dr Waheed to take urgent measures to ensure food and clean water were provided in the cells.

‘’There are inmates who have serious medical conditions, who are advised by doctors to take medication accordingly, but the prison officers are not providing them the medical treatment as asked by the doctors,’’ the petition stated.

The inmates referred to one incident in which an inmate identified as Mohamed Ibrahim of Seenu Hithadhoo was refused medical treatment, which allegedly resulted in his appendix bursting inside his stomach while he was in the cell.

The petition also claimed that when inmates travelled to Male’ by sea, they were handcuffed to the back of the vessel with no prison officer on standby, which was against safety regulations.

The inmates also claimed that prison officers had banned inmates from marrying another inmate.

The inmates said they regretted remarks by former Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel alleging that inmates were homosexual, and alleged the banning of marriages in prison was intended to force inmates into homosexuality.

The petition called on the state to allow inmates to marrying inmates of the opposite sex ,and to fix issues the Maafushi Prison.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad told Minivan News that the office had not received the petition.