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.



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.


MP Jabir in Malaysia for medical treatment

Jailed opposition MP Abdulla Jabir is seeking medical treatment in Malaysia, local media have reported.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP was hospitalised on April 8 after suffering respiratory difficulties. He is currently serving a one year jail sentence for refusal to provide a urine sample to police.

Jabir left the Maldives at 9:15 pm on Friday night without a set return date, the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) told Minivan News.

Doctors at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) recommended Jabir go abroad for an examination of his heart, the MCS told local media. The service is not available in the Maldives, the MCS said.

Jabir was hospitalised for two weeks and transferred back to Maafushi prison on April 22 with a device to facilitate breathing – reportedly obtained from Singapore.

At the time of hospitalisation, the MP’s wife Dhiyana Saeed said Jabir had been born with birth defects which caused a sleep disorder called sleep apnoea. The disorder is characterised by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep.

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

In an interview with VNews earlier this month, Dhiyana said doctors had informed her that Jabir’s breathing stopped four times every hour.

Jabir was sentenced to jail in February for failure to provide a urine sample for a drug test during a police raid on the island of Hondaidhoo in November 2012.

A total of 10 people were taken into police custody at the time. Officers alleged they found large amounts of drugs and alcohol upon searching the island.

Seven people, including the MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, face separate charges for refusal to provide urine, alcohol possession and cannabis possession. They include former President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair and his wife Mariyam Faiz, the manager of Jabir’s Alidhoo resort Jadhulla Jaleel and son of former Special Envoy to the President Ibrahim Hussein Zaki, Hamdan Zaki.

All seven have accused the police of brutality during their arrest.

The Prosecutor General also charged Jabir for possessing cannabis but the Criminal Court acquitted by the MP citing insufficient evidence.

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


Drug kingpin appeals sentence from Sri Lanka

The ringleader of a nationwide drug network who is currently in Sri Lanka for medical treatment has asked the High Court to review his 18-year jail term.

Ibrahim Shafaz ‘Shafa’ Abdul Razzaq, 32, of Maafannu Lonumidhilige was sentenced to 18 years in prison and fined MVR75,000 (US$4,860) for drug trafficking in November.

Shafaz’s departure to Sri Lanka caused a furor in local media last week with newspaper Haveeru claiming the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) were not informed of a date for the inmate’s return. An MCS officer did not accompany Shafaz, the local daily reported.

Opposition aligned broadcaster Raajje TV alleged Shafaz was not listed in the immigration control system as a convict when he boarded the midnight flight with his family.

But High Court procedures say appellants in criminal cases must be present in the courtroom for trials to proceed.

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Prisons Moosa Azim said all due procedures had been followed in allowing Shafaz to leave to get medical treatment.

Article 70 and 110 of the new Jails and Parole Act states the Commissioner of Prisons may release an inmate to seek medical treatment abroad, on the advise of a medical board, if such care is not available in the Maldives.

“A medical officer does not have to accompany the inmate. He was allowed to leave under an agreement with his family. Family members will be held accountable for his actions, including failure to return,” Azim told Minivan News.

Although an inmate is given a maximum three-month period for treatment, the duration may be extended if documents prove further care is required.

“Shafaz’s family is required to keep us informed through daily reports,”Azim said.

Operation Challenge

Shafaz was arrested on June 24, 2011 with 896 grams of heroin from a rented apartment in a building owned by PPM MP Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem.

Former head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED), Superintendent Mohamed Jinah, told the press at the time that police raided Henveiru Fashan based on intelligence information gathered in the two-year long “Operation Challenge.”

Jihah labeled Shafaz a high-profile drug dealer suspected of smuggling and supplying drugs since 2006.

The traffickers had been using an authorised money changer called A J Emporium to transfer funds to Sri Lanka, Jinah revealed.

The drugs were believed to have been smuggled via Sri Lankan Airlines.

Jinah claimed that the network smuggled drugs worth MVR1.3 million (US$84,306) to the Maldives between February and April 2011.

Police also discovered that Shafaz had bought a shop named ‘Charm’ for MVR150,000 (US$9700) that was sold in June 2011 for MVR200,000 (US$12,970).

Moreover, Shafaz was renting three apartments in Malé and owned a tailor shop bought for MVR200,000 (US$13,000), a shop in Kaafu Atoll Maafushi, and a Suzuki Swift car worth MVR180,000 (US$11,673), later sold for MVR170,000 (US$11,025).

As Shafaz was not in the room with the drugs at the time of the raid and his fingerprints were not found on the confiscated drugs, the Criminal Court ruled last year that there was not enough evidence to convict Shafaz on one count of the drug charges.

However, he was found guilty on the second count based on recorded phone conversations and financial transactions with a contact in Colombo, believed to be the supplier.

Three of Shafaz’s accomplices who were caught with the opiates and packing equipment – Ismail Shaheem, Mohamed Meead, and Anas Anees – were meanwhile found guilty of possession and trafficking and sentenced to ten years in prison.

In a speech a few days after the drug bust, former President Mohamed Nasheed said he found it “quite shocking [that] 800 packets of heroin a night were getting sealed in the house of an honourable member of parliament.”


Fifty inmates selected to begin work on Thilafushi road construction in a week

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Hanim has stated that fifty of the “best disciplined” inmates have now been chosen to take part in the ministry’s government’s labour programme.

The first project for which the inmates have been selected is the construction of roads in industrial island Thilafushi.

The government has still not revealed the amount of pay inmates will be entitled to after completing the work, although Hanim echoed Home Minister Umar Naseer’s statements that half of each inmate’s pay will be taken for the development of the prison system, while the other half can be saved or sent to the inmates’ families.

Hanim revealed that prison guards will be overseeing the work of the prisoners, as well as accompanying them on the transfer trips to and from Thilafushi to Maafushi, where the prison is located.

“We have selected the best of the inmates for this work. This is a very special initiative taken by the Home Ministry to contribute to finding a solution to many problems faced by the nation, including the need to employ foreign labourers,” Hanim is quoted as saying to local media.

“When we make inmates do work that would otherwise be done by immigrants, it also has huge benefits to our economy. Additionally, this gives the opportunity for inmates to financially assist those who have to take care of them,” he said.

Minivan News was unable to contact Deputy Minister Mohamed Hanim for comments.

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer initially announced the project in late December 2013.

“There is no country in the world where inmates are not made to work. This administration’s aim is to make inmates in our jails work in various government projects. To bring them out of their current situation,” Naseer had said then, at an event announcing the government’s policies on youth development.

While the labour program is voluntary, detainees will be selected based on their disciplinary records during the time in detention and their suitability for the work to be conducted.

Naseer predicted that by the end of 2014, 400 out of 730 inmates will be working on some project, thereby preparing them for reintegration into society.

In order to prepare detainees for such work, the ministry further plans to introduce vocational training programs in Maafushi Island prison in the near future. The program will desensitise them to work environments and hone a number of skills, he said.

Umar Naseer was not responding to calls at the time of press.