Two detention officers seriously injured after attacks at Maafushi Prison

Two Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) detention officers have been seriously injured after they were assaulted by Maafushi Prison inmates while trying to conduct a routine head count last night (December 1).

Ministry of Home affairs spokesperson Thazmeel Abdul Samad told Minivan News that the officers have been brought to the capital and are being treated for head injuries.

“An officer went in to unit 3 at 10pm to conduct a routine head count and requested assistance after the inmates refused to cooperate, four officers went into the unit to assist him and then they were attacked by the inmates,” explained Thazmeel.

All four officers suffered head injuries with one officer getting bruised on the arm.

Maafushi Prison has been at the centre of a number of incidents this year, including escaped prisoners and deadly assaults on an inmate.

The head count was one of six conducted throughout the day and night, part of recently altered security measures following the escape of two dangerous convicts in October, who had broken through a ventilation shaft and left dummies in their beds to deceive the guards.

“The new security measures state that the detention officers have to enter the cells and check the identity of the inmates even if they are sleeping,” said Thazmeel.

While speaking about the escaped convicts, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer accepted that there were loopholes in the prison system, that the necessary changes to the procedure have been identified and that they would now be implemented.

“There is no prison in the world from which someone or the other has not escaped from. The strength of a prison system is in how quickly we recapture escapees and return them to their cells,” said Naseer in an interview to Television Maldives.

The escapees in question were Ibrahim Shahum Adam and Fariyash Ahmed – both serving life sentences for separate murder incidents – were soon recaptured in the capital Malé.

While speaking at a ceremony in Maafushi Naseer said he would use a dog squad periodically in preventing the entry of illicit drugs into Maafushi Jail.

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

Last month, correctional services seized large amounts of illegal contraband from jails under its custody, including Maafushi. MCS confiscated 32 phone chargers, 33 SIM cards, and 200 packets of illicit narcotics from the high security facility.

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

Earlier this year, Maafushi inmate Ibrahim Azar died from serious head injuries he suffered following an attack by two of his cell mates.

A one page MCS report to the Parliament’s oversight committee stated that Azar had requested a transfer to another cell shortly before he was fatally assaulted.

Related to this story

Hospitalised Maafushi inmate requested transfer from cell before assault

Drugs, mobile phones seized from jail

Manhunt underway for escaped convicts

Escaped convicts were on hunt for murder, theft deal, says home minister


STO signs agreement to supply equipment to construct Maafushi Prison wall

The State Trading Organisation (STO) has signed a contract with the Department of Correctional Services to supply equipment needed in order to construct a security wall encircling the Maafushi Prison.

Haveeru reported that Managing Director of the STO Adam Azim provided assurance that the company would provide all the necessary equipment as per schedule, and would cooperate fully with the correctional services.

The wall, which is to be built using the paid labour of the prisoners is estimated to cost MVR7 million (US$460,000), with more than half of the total being spent on equipment.

The government’s decision to build the wall came after the escape of two prisoners – both serving life sentences – through some ventilation shafts in their cells.

The Maldives Police Service had previously stated that it would assist correctional services in looking after the security of the prison by permanently stationing a police team on the island.


Police arrest man who swam to Maafushi prison with mobile phones

Police have said last Friday (1 October) they have arrested a man who attempted to smuggle 23 mobile phones into Maafushi prison after swimming to the island.

According to police, the man is 28 years old and has previous records of assault, theft, obstruction of police duty and drug related offenses.

Police said the man was first captured by Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Service prison officers and was later handed over to police.

When his body was searched police found 23 mobile phones, five charges and one headset, the police said.

Maafushi Police Station is now investigating the case.


Over two hundred prisoners allegedly unable to register for Saturday’s election

As the Elections Commission (EC) today announced details of their plans for Saturday’s presidential election, Minivan News has learned that many inmates of Maafushi Prison will be unable to take part in the poll, despite their legal right to do so.

A source within the Maafushi Prison has told Minivan News that more than 200 inmates were not registered to vote because they do not have national identity cards. The source claimed that inmates have to pay the prison department to renew their ID cards but that there are inmates in the cells who have no way to get money.

“Many of the inmates in the cells have no connection with their family or anyone to help them, so they can’t afford to deposit money to their prison account to make ID cards,” he said. “We talked to the senior prison officers about this and their reply was that inmates have to find their own ways to get money and pay for the ID card.”

He said that inmates have contacted politicians and have been told it is  the responsibility of the Home Ministry to make ID cards for all the inmates who don’t have them.

The source also claimed that inmates have complained about either the Prison Department or the Home Ministry stealing the money the government had given them to get ID cards for inmates.

Election plans

Meanwhile, the EC has announced that the preliminary results of the presidential elections will be revealed on Saturday night at 11pm in a press conference held by the commission.

The EC also said that it would have four press conferences on Saturday – one in the morning from 9 until 9:30 pm, one in the afternoon at 2:30pm, another at 5:30pm to 6pm, before a final press conference at 11pm. Voting begins at 7:30am.

Polling stations based in Trivandrum, New Dehli, and SriLanka will begin voting at 8am and end at 4:30pm. The ballot box in London will be open for voting at 9:am until 5:30 pm UK time.

Ballot boxes in Malaysia and Singapore will be open for voting from 10:30 pm until 7pm local time.

The EC’s  national complaints bureaus will be online from 8am to 4pm and then 8pm to 10pm, except for Friday. On Friday the complaints bureaus will be working from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm and then from 8pm to 10pm.

The national complaints bureaus can be contacted at 3004489, 3004492, 9901051, 7986942 – or complaints can be faxed to 3004495 or 3004497. Complaints can also be mailed to [email protected].

Meanwhile, President Dr Waheed Hassan has decided that the day following polling (8 September) will be a public holiday.

Giving further information about the decision, the President’s Office issued a statement saying that the decision had been made in compliance with a request made by the Elections Commission.

Furthermore, the President’s Office has said that President Waheed will address the nation tonight at 8:30pm through the media and will give his message to the people regarding the election.


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.


Health Ministry conducts “routine” TB screening at Maafushi prison after inmate diagnosed

The Ministry of Health today confirmed it has conducted a routine tuberculosis (TB) screening of staff and inmates at Maafushi prison after a single case of the disease was diagnosed at the facility.

Health Minister Dr Ahmed Jamsheed Mohamed today told Minivan News that a screening for TB had been undertaken at the prison, but added that just a single inmate had tested positive and been diagnosed with the disease.

The screening comes a month after the country’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) warned that a drug resistant strain of TB had been found in the Maldives, posing a “quite a serious” health threat for authorities to deal with.

However, Dr Jamsheed said today that there was no information at present to suggest the single case of TB detected at Maafushi Prison was a drug resistant form of the disease.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), TB is an infectious bacterial disease that can be transmitted via droplets in the throat and lungs of an infected person.

Despite praising authorities for their efforts to eradicate the disease across the Maldives in recent years, the WHO has expressed concern that drug-resistant strains of TB have become a major public health problem resulting from patients not fully completing the recommended six-month course of treatment.

New challenges

The Ministry of Health released a report earlier this year concluding that authorities in the Maldives were facing new challenges controlling the disease.

HPA Public Health Program Officer Shina Ahmed told Minivan News shortly after the report’s publication in March 2013 that although the new strain of TB was “quite serious”, thus far cases of the disease in the Maldives were not resistant to every drug available to patients.

“We have had a few cases come in now with the new strain. The most important thing we have to do is to continue and complete the course of treatment,” Shina said at the time.

“Most of these drug-resistant strains are caused by patients stopping the treatment. We have enough drug supplies to give to them, but because the course goes on for six months, patients tend to go off taking the treatment towards the end.”

In April 2012, staff at the Maldives Criminal Court were screened by health authorities for TB after an employee was found to have tested positive for the disease.

Control programs

International health authorities have previously observed that the Maldives had achieved notable success in TB control since the establishment of a national control program by the Department of Public Health in 1976.

Maldives has an estimated incidence of 47 per 100,000 population of all forms of TB and has sustained meeting the global targets for TB control since 1996, according to the WHO’s communicable disease department for South East Asia.

Tuberculosis, which had a prevalence in the Maldives of 35 cases per thousand people in 1974, declined to about 0.66 per 1000 by 1996, according to the findings.

However, last year the Health Ministry raised concerns over the growing number of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases in the Maldives.

The rate of TB prevalence among the country’s expatriate population is also reportedly on the rise as well.  “A large migrant workforce from high TB-burden countries,” continues to identified by the WHO as major challenge for local health bodies.


Parliament committee to investigate detention of underage orphanage minors in Maafushi prison

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for Madaveli Mohamed Nazim has called on parliament’s national security committee to investigate the arrest of two minors living in the Villingili Orphanage.

The issue was discussed at the National Security Committee meeting on Monday. MPs decided to summon the head of the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS), the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), and representatives from the Villingili orphanage.

The committee has summoned the heads of the authorities to appear on Tuesday night at 8:30pm.

In a letter to the chair of the committee, MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, MP Nazim said there was public concern regardingthe arrest of the two minors.

The letter said that media reports regarding the arrest of the two minors revealed that HRCM and the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights were in dispute over the issue.

Nazim asked the committee to publish details of its investigation on completion.

On January 17, HRCM called for the immediate release of two underage females living in the Villingili orphanage, who were arrested and sent to Maafushi prison.

Local media alleged the two girls, aged 15 and 16, were arrested on December 28, 2012, after escaping the orphanage in the middle of the night to fraternise with some boys.

HRCM asked the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights to return the girls to the Villingili orphanage immediately, noting that their incarceration in Maafushi prison violated chapter 2, article 35[a] of the constitution.

The commission stated that government authorities had not cooperated with the commission’s investigation and had furthermore provided false information on the matter.

In response last Friday, the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human Rights issued a statement condemning the HRCM and alleging that its official who went to meet the two underage girls had forced them to talk about their past.

The ministry said it was considering taking legal action against the HRCM.

Later the same day the HRCM issued a counter statement, claiming HRCM officials who visited the jail were highly qualified.

Meanwhile, sources familiar with Maafushi prison confirmed to Minivan News that the two underage females had now been moved to a separate area of the prison, but were being kept with two other underage female inmates completing their sentences.

According to the sources, at least one man was arrested in connection with the same case as the two girls.

‘’The girls have not met the inmate [population], they have have met inmates who are participants in the handicraft workshop,’’ the source told Minivan News.


Inmates at Maafushi Prison ordered to trim beards to be eligible for parole, claims family member

Inmates in Maafushi Prison have been handed a notice informing them that they must have short hair and trimmed or shaved beards in order to be eligible for parole, a family member of an inmate informed Minivan News.

The source told Minivan News that the notice handed to inmates states that according to Prison Order 12, article 1.5, inmates shall not grow their hair and beard unless for “a medical purpose”, and hair must be trimmed or shaved, or they would not be eligible for parole.

The notice also stated that in a meeting held by the Parole Board on April 11, 2012, the board decided to consider hair as a disciplinary issue when selecting inmates for parole, and that inmates who insisted on long hair or growing their beards would have it recorded as a misdeed in their disciplinary record, according to the source.

The notice was made in compliance with Second Chance Program Office memo number 479/167/2012/113, Minivan News was informed.

When considering parole the board will check for record of misdeeds over the past six months.

Parole Board Chair Dr Ali Shahid Mohamed meanwhile denied that the Parole Board made such a decision.

‘’We are not mandated to determine the regulations and rules of the prison, we only see their disciplinary records and we will see what progress the inmate has made in prison,’’ Shahid said.

Shahid said he does not know what the prison regulations stated about beard and hair.

‘’We did not make any specific decision related to hair or beard in the meeting that day, we enhanced an earlier decision to consider the inmates disciplinary record when releasing inmates on parole,’’ he said.

Parole Board member from Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Service (DPRS) Bilal did not respond to calls at time of press.

DPRS Director General Mohamed Rasheed’s mobile phone was switched off.

In November last year a group of prison guards working in Maafushi Prison filed a case at the Maafushi Court after they were ordered to shave off their beards.

Maafushi Court ruled that growing a beard for men in Islam is more than a Sunnah and almost ‘waajib’ (obligatory), and that prison officers should not be asked to shave off their beards.

In March this year the High Court invalidated the ruling saying that Maafushi Court gave no opportunity for the defendant – the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) – to say anything before the case was concluded, and that therefore the ruling was unlawful.


Tribunal orders CSC to reinstate job of DPRS Superintendent Husham

The Employment Tribunal has today ordered the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to reinstate Mohamed Husham to his job at the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Service (DPRS) after the tribunal determined that he was terminated from his post without grounds as specified in the Employment Act.

Husham was a Superintendent at the DPRS and the head of Maafushi Prison.

According to the tribunal he was terminated on September 7 last year. Haveeru  reported that during the hearings Husham claimed that he was terminated for refusing to obey “unlawful” orders.  He claimed that he was transferred from Maafushi Jail to an office in Male’ where he was not even provided with a chair for one and a half years.

The CSC was ordered to consider Husham as an employee of the CSC and to pay his full salary and allowances from September 7 until his reinstatement. The order also obliges the CSC to pay Husham within 15 days and to then inform the tribunal.