Jailed ex-president’s visitation rights restricted

The government has restricted visitation rights for imprisoned ex-President Mohamed Nasheed to his wife, children and parents, the former president’s office has revealed.

The opposition leader’s siblings and members of his extended family were previously allowed to visit him at the high-security Maafushi jail.

“Today’s arbitrary change was announced suddenly and does not seem to be a reflection of any established procedures or regulations governing the Maldives Correctional Service,” the former president’s office said in a statement.

It added that an official from the Maafushi informed the family of the restrictions in a phone call to a non-family member.

“These changes come at a time where President Nasheed’s lawyers were denied their weekly visit – without rationale – on Wednesday, and while it has been over a month since he has been denied a MRI scan recommended by doctors at Maafushi health centre and the military clinic in Malé,” the statement continued.

“The MRI can only be done in Malé and the authorities denied him the scan even though they brought him to Malé on 22 May.”

The home ministry’s media coordinator Thazmeel Abdul Samad and prisons officials were unavailable for comment.

The former president was found guilty of terrorism in March over the detention of a judge during his tenure and sentenced to 13 years in prison. The 19-day rushed trial was widely criticised over its apparent lack of due process.

The home ministry has previously said prisoners are only allowed a visit once a month.

Nasheed’s lawyer Hassan Latheef told Minivan News today that the legal team was previously allowed daily visits, but the home minister later restricted the visits to once a week.

After visiting the former president every Wednesday for three weeks, Latheef said the lawyers were informed via a phone call yesterday that the weekly visit has been cancelled.

Authorising visits from the lawyers now appears to be at the discretion of prison officials, Latheef said.

Last month, home minister Umar Naseer complained of Nasheed’s lawyers “having fun, laughing and joking, and entertaining him” during visits to the jail.

Latheef at the time expressed concern with the home minister’s knowledge of confidential meetings between lawyers and a client.

“We fear that the meeting areas may be bugged,” he said.

In his reply to the home minister, Latheef noted that were also communicating with the former president’s international legal team and providing documentation for a petition at the UN working group of arbitrary detention.

Former first lady Laila Ali lodged the petition in April requesting a judgment declaring Nasheed’s detention arbitrary and illegal.

The opposition is planning to hold a third mass protest tomorrow (June 12).

The family of Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla’s family have accused the government of attempting to weaken him physically and psychologically, while under police custody.

The criminal court last week ordered police to hold Imran in pre-trial detention until the conclusion of his terrorism trial.

Imran, who has diabetes, was brought to the AMDC clinic in Malé on Wednesday. He was also taken to see a doctor on Tuesday and on the night of June 7 as well.

The home ministry has not yet responded to queries regarding Imran’s health.


Lawyers ‘entertaining’ Nasheed during daily visits, complains home minister

Home minister Umar Naseer has advised former president Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyers not to use their visits to “entertain” the imprisoned opposition leader.

In a letter to Nasheed’s attorney, Hassan Latheef, the home minister said that the legal team was “having fun, laughing and joking, and entertaining him” during daily visits to the Maafushi jail.

“I advise you to make proper use of the opportunity to meet lawyers,” Naseer stated.

The letter was dated May 3, but the legal team said it was only delivered yesterday.

Nasheed is serving a 13-year jail sentence following his conviction on terrorism charges on March 13 over the detention of a judge during his tenure. The 19-day trial was widely criticised by foreign governments, the UN, and international human rights organisations over its apparent lack of due process.

In a tweet last night, Latheef called Naseer’s letter “insane.”

“Stupidity to the max!” the former labour minister tweeted.

Latheef told Minivan News that Naseer did not have the authority to “determine whether we can laugh or not.”

The consultations with Nasheed were “none of Naseer’s business,” he continued and expressed concern with the home minister’s knowledge of confidential meetings between lawyers and a client.

“We fear that the meeting areas may be bugged,” he said.

Latheef said the legal team was only allowed to meet Nasheed once a week for two hours, which poses difficulties as the lawyers were also communicating with the former president’s international legal team and providing documentation.

The lawyers were able to meet other clients on any day at their convenience, he continued, but visits to Nasheed were authorised under strict supervision of the home minister.

In his reply to the home minister – shared on social media today – Latheef said the legal team’s efforts are intended to “save” the former president from the jail sentence and prove his innocence.

“As such, a case has been filed at the UN working group of arbitrary detention,” Latheef noted.

Former first lady Laila Ali lodged the petition last month requesting a judgment declaring Nasheed’s detention arbitrary and illegal.

Latheef said the conduct of the criminal court judges and proceedings at the court were amusing.

“Therefore, laughing at times while talking about the case is only natural,” Latheef wrote.

Latheef urged the home minister not to use his complaints “as an excuse” to narrow or deny the former president his constitutional right to legal representation.



Maafushi jail inmate dies of apparent natural causes

An inmate serving a 10-year sentence for drug abuse died at the Maafushi jail last night of what appears to be natural causes.

Ahmed Lishan, 23, complained of chest pains to prison guards during a head count at the low security unit, home ministry media coordinator Thazmeel Abdul Samad told Minivan News.

“He was taken to the island health centre where the doctor pronounced him dead,” he said

Thazmeel said the inmate is believed to have died en route to the health centre around 8:55pm last night. The cause of death remained unclear and the authorities were awaiting a report from the doctor, he added.

While rumours of a custodial death began circulating on social media last night, both Lishan’s family and the human rights watchdog have said there were no signs of physical abuse when the body was brought to the cemetery in Malé.

A family member told Minivan News that Lishan had been admitted at hospital with chest pains about six months ago. Lishan had sustained an injury to the chest when he was hit by a ball while playing sports at the jail.

He had been complaining about the pain getting worse, the relative said.

The family was informed of his death around 9:00pm last night.

The relative said the family does not suspect foul play as the authorities had shown the inmate’s body to his father around 1:30am. The body was brought to Malé for burial at the family’s request and was reportedly laid to rest after dawn prayers.

However, a source familiar with the matter alleged that prison guards had ignored pleas from Lishan’s cellmates to take him out for treatment after he complained of chest pains.

The source claimed Lishan was dead when he was taken from the cell. The Maafushi jail has not had a resident doctor for a month, he added.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has meanwhile launched an investigation. An HRCM team visited the Aasahara cemetery to inspect the body.

The commission said that it will share findings with the authorities after concluding the investigation.

In February 2014, Ibrahim Azar, an inmate serving a five-year sentence for drug abuse, suffered severe head injuries after being attacked by two cellmates. He died in April last year while undergoing treatment in India.

On April 9, police began investigating an incident in Addu City where a 28-year-old detainee suffered extensive burns to his back. The victim was being held at a cell inside the Hithadhoo police station ahead of transfer to a detention centre.

The HRCM is also investigating the case and the authorities have yet to reveal how the detainee caught on fire.


Ex-president kept in ‘inhumane prison conditions’

Former president Mohamed Nasheed’s lawyer say he is being kept in an isolated and filthy cell at a maximum security prison, but the home ministry maintains Nasheed is treated as a VIP and given special comforts.

Following a visit with the opposition leader at Maafushi Island jail on Tuesday, lawyers said the ex-president’s cell is adjacent to the prison garbage dump and is infested with flies and mosquitoes.

Nasheed, who is serving a 13-year sentence on terrorism, is forbidden from exercising, while the food is “barely edible.”

“The cell is situated far from the main prison and other inmates –nobody would be able to hear President Nasheed should he call out for help,” lawyers said.

Nasheed’s family and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party have repeatedly expressed concern over alleged plots by the government to assassinate the opposition leader. But the government has dismissed the allegations as slanderous and baseless.

Meanwhile, Nasheed’s international legal counsel Jared Genser described the conditions in which Nasheed is held as “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” in violation of international anti-torture laws.

President Abdulla Yameen and home minister Umar Naseer may be “held legally responsible for the use of torture – we will take all necessary measures to hold the government to account for this treatment,” he added.

Nasheed was transferred to Maafushi Jail, on an island three hours from the capital, last week from a minimum security prison. Lawyers alleged security officers threatened to use force against Nasheed when he asked for time to pack before the transfer.

Speaking to Minivan News, a home ministry official said Nasheed “is afforded benefits no other prisoner receives.”

The opposition leader is allowed to see seven members of his family for two hours every week and he is given a ten minute phone call with his family for ten minutes every week, spokesperson Thazmeel Abdul Samad said.

Other prisoners are only afforded one family visit a month and one phone call a month.

Nasheed is given a menu to choose mildly-spiced meals and include fruits on the doctor’s advice. The special apartment has a flatscreen TV, a refrigerator, he continued.

The former president is allowed to read books sent by his family, and there are always a team of security guards within eyesight if he needs any help, said Thazmeel.

Nasheed’s arrest has sparked international outrage, with the European Union parliament today passing a resolution urging the government to release the former president immediately.

The resolution also calls on European countries to warn tourists on Maldives’ human rights record on their travel advice websites.

The opposition is meanwhile planning a 25,000 strong march in Malé tomorrow over Nasheed’s jailing and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim’s imprisonment.

The government has labeled the rally as an attempt to overthrow President Abdulla Yameen, but opposition coalition insists the demonstration will be peaceful.


Ex president transferred to high security prison

Former president Mohamed Nasheed was transferred from a low security prison to a maximum security jail located close to the capital Malé last night.

The opposition leader’s lawyers have raised concern over what they say is an arbitrary transfer from one jail to another which is located on two different islands, and say his family was not given notice before the transfer.

Lawyers said they had visited Nasheed in Asseyri jail on Himmafushi Island on Monday afternoon but the corrections department had not informed them of an impending transfer.

Nasheed’s family and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party have repeatedly expressed concern over alleged plots by the government to assassinate the opposition leader. But the government has dismissed the allegations as slanderous and baseless.

The opposition is meanwhile planning a 25,000 strong march in the capital Malé on Friday demanding the government free Nasheed and other politicians.

The former president is serving a 13-year jail term on terrorism charges relating to the detention of a judge during his tenure. He was convicted on March 13, but was held under police custody at the Dhoonidhoo Island remand centre until his transfer to Asseyri Jail on April 21.

Home minister Umar Naseer announced Nasheed’s transfer to Maafushi Jail at 10:30pm last night in a tweet.

The home ministry has previously said the special apartment constructed for Nasheed measures 264-square foot, with a sitting room and is furnished with air-conditioning, a television and VCD player.

The special apartment will also have a 1,087 square foot garden and Nasheed would be able to “live with other inmate friends.”

Nasheed’s lawyers have also raised concern over the identity of the “inmate friends” Nasheed is to be incarcerated with, and say the prison apartment is located adjacent to the prison garbage dump and is “highly unsanitary.”

The human rights commission of the Maldives had previously said old cells at the location were unfit for human habitation.

Lawyers said family visits and phone calls to the family have been restricted since his transfer to jail.

However, the home ministry says the former president’s family and supporters have no reason for concern stating: “Nasheed is fully under the security and protection of Maldives Correctional Services. He will get the security and protection from the correctional services. Plus he is a VIP prisoner, so he will be offered comforts including TV and so on”.

“This is not a sudden transfer,” home ministry spokesperson Thazmeel Abdul Samad said, adding Nasheed was transferred to Maafushi as soon as the prison apartment was completed.

Nasheed’s trial was widely criticised by foreign governments, international human rights organisations and the UN for its lack of due process.


New regulations require inmates to shower twice a day

The government has imposed stricter standards of personal hygiene in prisons and limited the length to which inmates can grow their facial hair.

The regulation on inmates’ discipline requires inmates to shower twice a day and clean their cells under the supervision of Maldives correctional services officers.

The stricter sanitary measures are expected to reduce the spread of diseases and will improve prison cleanliness, said commissioner of prisons Mohamed Husham.

“Skin diseases are very common in jail. Before these regulation were written, we could not tell a prisoner to even take a shower. Now we can, which will benefit both the prisoner and his cell mates,” Husham said.

The new regulation also requires male prisoners to shave their facial hair completely or keep a two-inch beard. Inmates cannot shave their heads, and hair must be kept at two centimeters.

An inmate from Maafushi Jail told Minivan News there is a lot of resistance to the new regulations.

“A majority of inmates are against it because it dictates our appearance. Plus some of us grow our beards because of religious beliefs. We won’t obey the rule. But I think there will be some who will,” he said.

Some religious scholars have expressed concerns over the provision requiring shorter beards.

“Islam requires men to grow their beards long. So no one can impose a ban on that which God has instructed us to do. It also goes against the Maldives constitution which states that no law or regulation should be made against Islamic principles,” said Dr Iyaz Abdul Latheef, the vice president of the Figh Academy.

Husham, however, defended the regulations saying it “establishes a disciplinary standard for the inmates. The appearance of prisoners is also important in the rehabilitation process.”

The commissioner of prisons said he had expected some controversy over the beards, but said: “My point is the inmates are here to be disciplined and rehabilitated. There should be an established standard on how inmates should keep their beards as well.”

Vice president of the human rights commission of the Maldives, Ahmed Tholal, says he has “some concerns” over the new regulations, but said he cannot disclose further information without a discussion among the five commissioners.

Staff at the correctional services in 2012 got the Maafushi court to annul a regulation banning them from sporting beards, but the High Court overturned the verdict citing a procedural mistake.



Hundreds of inmates display artwork at national gallery

Some one thousand inmates displayed a variety of artwork showcasing their creativity and skills in an annual exhibition at the national art gallery today.

Nimal Ibrahim, who won first place for his painting, said: “This is a great opportunity to showcase our potential and be a part of the society.”

Ibrahim’s painting depicted a man in a suit holding a scale jeering at four people, one of whom carried the Maldives flag.

The three-day exhibition organised by the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) is open to the public and will continue till Saturday night.

Inmates from the Maafushi and Asseyri jails exhibited over 850 paintings and hundreds of handicrafts and furniture today. Plants grown by inmates in an agricultural training session were also on display.

Hundreds of inmates were present at today’s exhibition, accompanied by security guards.

Several paintings depicted interrogation rooms and courtrooms, demonstrating the trials inmates go through in the Maldives criminal justice system.

A member of the organising team, corporal Abdulla Ameen, said inmates had worked on their artworks over the last year.

“There are about 500 inmates who have participated every year since this exhibition began in 2011,” he said.

Winners are given a prize of MVR500 (US$32). Members of the public can purchase any artwork and proceedings are to go to the correction centre’s cooperative society.

inmate art 2

Mohamed Shifag, who made a large wooden sail boat, said inmates worked on their artworks for a few hours every day.

“I learned how to do craft work from the courses we are taught,” he said.

In addition to art classes, inmates are also given classes in agriculture and religion.

“We receive help from the authorities for the courses we hold, and inmates are always looking for such opportunities,” said superintendent of jails, Mohamed Asif.

Inmates are selected for the courses based on their discipline.

The exhibition will be open from 2-6pm in the afternoon and from 8-10pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.


Home minister assures Nasheed’s safety and welfare in custody

Former President Mohamed Nasheed will be incarcerated in a 264-square foot furnished “prison apartment” in Maafushi jail with air-conditioning, a sitting room, a television and VCD player, Home Minister Umar Naseer has said.

Naseer revealed in a tweet this morning that the opposition leader would also have a 1,087-square foot garden and would be able to “live with other inmate-friends.”

“The government guarantees the safety, welfare, and protection of former [President] Nasheed while in custody,” Naseer tweeted last night.

“He’ll be treated with respect and dignity.”

Following the Criminal Court sentencing Nasheed to 13 years in jail on Friday night, Naseer said he had asked police to hold the former president in Dhoonidhoo detention centre “until a special unit is constructed in Maafushi prison.”

Nasheed was found guilty on terrorism charges over the January 2012 military detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

However, the office of former President Nasheed released a statement today claiming the cell being prepared to house the opposition leader was in an area of the jail deemed unfit for human habitation.

“The use of the cell being prepared in Maafushi jail was discontinued after the Human Rights Commission of Maldives and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent determined in 2009 that it was unfit to hold people,” the statement read.

“The toilet of the cell currently being prepared is inside the cell. It was built such that unclean odours and bacteria fans out to the whole cell. It is adjacent to the jail’s garbage dump. Germs, bacteria and unclean air constantly circulate inside the cell.”

The Maldives Correctional Services – which manages jails and detention centres – functions under the home ministry.

Home Ministry Media Coordinator Thazmeel Abdul Samad told Minivan News today that he was not aware of the location of the cell within the jail.

“It is being built in the most appropriate way to hold a former president of Maldives,” he insisted, adding that Nasheed would “not feel any discomfort.”

Thazmeel said construction of the cell would be complete within a week or ten days.

The office of the former president meanwhile contended that the the home ministry’s arrangements were in violation of the Constitution as well as the Maldives’ obligations under the the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

“This government is making arrangements to unjustly cause serious harm to President Nasheed,” the statement alleged, adding that preventing inmates from interacting with others or from being seen by anyone was also against the domestic anti-torture law.

“We have received information of the Ministry of Home Affairs preparing a good place to hold President Nasheed and making arrangements to keep other inmates with him,” it continued.

“However, the cell is being prepared in an area in Maafushi jail that has been deemed unfit for human habitation. And as the other inmates to be kept with President Nasheed so as not to keep him in isolation would be determined by this government, we are extremely concerned over the threat to President Nasheed’s safety and security.”

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Drugs, mobile phones seized from jails

The Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) has seized a large amount of drugs and mobile phones from the Maafushi jail, custodial jail in Malé and Himmafushi low security ‘Asseyri’ jail.

At a press briefing yesterday (November 2), Superintendent of Prisons Mohamed Asif said MCS has been “continuously searching” jails for contraband as part of wider efforts to improve security.

“After searching Maafushi jail for the past three weeks, we have seized 52 mobile phones and 35 phone batteries,” Asif revealed.

In addition, MCS found 32 chargers, more than 33 SIM cards, and 200 packets of illicit narcotics from Maafushi jail cells, Asif added.

Smuggled items confiscated from the Malé custodial jail include three mobile phones, two chargers, two phone batteries, one SIM card, and one packet of a substance believed to be drugs, Asif said.

“In the same operation, we searched Asseyri jail and found four mobile phones, three chargers, and one phone battery and one SIM card,” he said.

Prison guards checked jail cells at random, Asif noted, praising the “hard work” of MCS employees.

Moreover, a mechanism has been put in place for prison guards to check jail cells once a month, Asif continued, conceding that prevention of smuggling items into prisons completely would prove difficult.

“However, we have commenced numerous different efforts to minimise the extent of smuggling,” he said.

A joint investigation with the Maldives Police Service was underway to determine how the contraband was smuggled into the three jails, Asif said.

The search operation follows the escape of two dangerous convicts from Maafushi jail last month. Police revealed that the pair had sawn off 22 bars on a window in the bathroom of cell number 14 in unit nine of Maafushi jail.

Following the capture of the fugitives, Home Minister Umar Naseer said a dog squad would be used periodically in preventing the entry of illicit drugs into Maafushi jail.

In addition to a new 20-foot wall, surveillance cameras, increased lighting and automatic locks will be used to strengthen security at the jail, Naseer said.

Between 50 and 100 inmates will work for pay in constructing the wall. The MVR4.2 million (US$272,000) wall will stretch for 1.4 kilometers and is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

Asif meanwhile told the press yesterday that the lack of an outer wall allows access to Maafushi jail on all sides, noting that construction of the 20-foot wall was underway.

Asked about the involvement of prison guards in smuggling drugs and phones, Asif said MCS has started searching guards and employees before they enter the jail.

Asif contended that contraband could be smuggled without the involvement of prison guards or staff, referring to items being thrown into the custodial jail in Malé.

A net has been put up around the perimeters, Asif said, which was, however, “not a total solution.”

Both visitors and prison guards have been caught while attempting to smuggle drugs and phones, he noted.

In May, a police officer was caught while attempting to smuggle drugs into the custodial detention centre in the capital.

In January, police seized mobile phones and drugs from Maafushi jail while a 20-year-old and a minor were arrested in February for attempting to smuggle drugs into the jail.