Police to assist with Maafushi Prison security after jail break

Maldives Police Service (MPS) is to assist Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) in strengthening Maafushi Prison security of after two convicts serving life sentences for murder escaped from the prison on Friday night (October 17).

A police media statement said a police team will be stationed on Maafushi Island to assist MCS on a need to basis and that the two institutions are currently taking measures to strengthen security.

The police declined to reveal details of how many police officers are to be stationed on the island or what kind of security measures are to be taken.

Fariyash Ahmed of Gaafu Alifu Maamendhoo and Ibrahim Shahum Adam of Malé escaped from Maafushi Prison after sawing off metal bars in a ventilation shaft.

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer accepted that loopholes in the prison system had allowed the two prisoners to escape, but said he was confident the police would recapture the convicts and bring them to justice.

“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 the home minister.

On Saturday (October 18) Umar Naseer tweeted that the prison escape is an opportunity to identify loop holes in the prison system and to improve the system.

“Every prison escape is an opportunity for Prison Officers to identify the loop holes and improve the system while we hunt them down,” read the tweet.

Meanwhile, in a statement released on Sunday (October 19) MPS called upon the public be extra vigilant as the search for the two ‘dangerous’ convicts continue with the aid of Maldives National Defense Force and the Coast Guard.

Police also urged the public to submit any information they may have about the escapees to the following numbers:  3322111 or 9911099. The police have also pledged to take legal action against individuals who withhold information on the whereabouts of the Shahum and Fariyash.


High Court concludes hearings of state’s appeal case over MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor’s arrest

High Court has concluded hearings of the appeal filed by the state following the release of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor by Kulhudhuffushi Magistrate Court.

MP Ghafoor was arrested along with Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Abdulla Jabir and several senior opposition figures on the uninhabited island of Hodaidhoo on November 16, for alleged possession of drugs and alcohol. Police in a statement released following the arrests claimed that 10 people were arrested during a ‘special operation’ on the island.

Police claimed they found large amounts of “suspected” drugs and alcohol during the raid and stated that the arrests were made “based on information received by police intelligence”. Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef earlier told Haveeru that the suspects were arrested with alcohol and “hash oil”.

State requests order to re-arrest MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor

During Sunday’s appeal, the state prosecutors requested an order to re-arrest the MDP MP and invalidate article 202(d) of the Parliament Regulation that bars the police from arresting an MP ahead of a no-confidence motion in parliament.

The state prosecutors argued that Ghafoor should be kept under police custody or else he may “influence” the witnesses that the state wished to present to the court. They also claimed that some of those 21 people arrested might also have evidence.

State prosecutors said that police had informed them that Ghafoor possessed an ‘intoxicant’ when he was arrested but had refused to provide urine to police to conform whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

However, Ghafoor’s lawyer Hisaan Hussain said her client denied the charges levied by the state.

She also contended that Ghafoor did not possess the capacity to influence the witnesses by the state arguing that the only witnesses the state had produced were the police officers who made the arrests.

She also claimed that according to an earlier rule established by the Supreme Court, an institution cannot in their own capacity decide to not to adhere to a section of a law or a regulation on the grounds that it contrasted with the constitution, unless a court of law ruled such a section invalid.

She therefore challenged that police could not decide for themselves that the article 202(d) of the Parliament Regulation was invalid, and that thereby the arrest of MP Ghafoor was unlawful.

During the hearing, the judges posed several questions to the state prosecutor, Aishath Hana.

In one such question, the panel of judges questioned whether the court could decide on the validity of the article 202(d) of the Parliamentary Regulation, in an appeal that concerned extension of a detention.

Responding to the question, the state prosecutor said that the request to invalidate the article of parliamentary regulations was made because Kulhudhuffushi Magistrate Court had also referred to the same article in releasing the detainees.

Chair of the judges panel, Judge Abdul Ghanee Mohamed, responded stating that the court will consider Kulhudhuffushi Magistrate Court’s decision to refer to the concerned article when issuing the verdict.

However the court rejected the state’s request to invalidate the concerned article stating that the request was filed in contrast to the established procedures of the court.

The panel of judges also inquired about the progress of the investigation of Ghafoor’s case, to which the police who had been present in the hearings said that statements from all the officers involved in the arrests had been taken.

Police during the hearing also stated that while Hodaidhoo was an uninhabited island, it was questionable as to whether alcohol had been found on the island.

The court concluded the hearings and stated that a date would be announced later on which it would decide on the case.

“Attempt to frame” – MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor

Speaking to Minivan News, Ghafoor claimed the case was an attempt by the government to “frame” opposition politicians for attempting to impeach the President.

“I am a parliament member who is working to bring an end to this government through legitimate means. Now they want to frame me for possession of drugs and sentence me so that I would not be able to do that,” he said.

Ghafoor described the current developments as a “desperate” attempt by the government to unseat MPs opposed to the current government.

“After the coup, we have been working on ways to defeat this coup government through the parliament. Now we see even political parties that initially opposed us starting to support us. They  have started to work with us as well. This is what this government fears most,” he explained.

Ghafoor claimed that the government had been monitoring each and every move of their political opponents including himself, and alleged that their phone calls are “continuously recorded”. This, he added, was what led the police to arrest them on the island of Hodaidhoo, where they had gone to “discuss our concerns about the government”.

“I don’t see it any other way. This is clearly a politically motivated case,” he contended.

Meanwhile, the MDP also claimed the arrests wer politically-motivated and stated that it was an attempt to disrupt parliament ahead of a no confidence motion against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, and an amendment to voting procedure to make such votes secret.

Last week an amendment to voting procedure to make such votes secret initiated by the opposition MDP MP Ahmed Shifaz was defeated in the parliament floor by 34 to 39 votes. However, MDP MP Ibrahim ‘Bondey’ Rasheed has again re-submitted the amendment to Parliament’s Privileges Committee.

“It is such a coincidence that whenever the Waheed government wants to frame those critical of their government, they come up with trumped up charges and very often it is something to do with alcohol,” said former MDP Chairperson Mariya Ahmed Didi, in a statement.


Hardcore criminal returns to Maldives on custodial condition

Ibrahim ‘Gabbarey’ Abdulla of Machangoalhi Night Villa, who has been identified by police as a “hardcore criminal”, has returned to the Maldives after medical treatment in India.

Abdulla, who has been arrested 14 times for robbery and gang violence, was charged with the murder of 21-year-old Ali Ishar in December 2007. Police had confiscated an axe, an empty liquor bottle, and a bloodied bandage and towel from Machangoalhi Night Villa as evidence, Haveeru reports.

Although Abdulla confessed to the crime, the Juvenile Court acquitted him on the grounds that it had not found evidence against him. He was a minor at the time.

Abdulla was returned on the condition that he be put back into custody upon arrival in the Maldives.

Abdulla was sent to India in April under a court permit and doctor’s recommendations for treatment of stab wounds to the head.

The duration of his stay in India was not specified, police have told Haveeru. In late August, however, Indian police arrested Abdulla for overstaying in Trivandrum.


Sri Lankan prostitution ring busted in Male’

A prostitution ring that has trafficked Sri Lankan girls to Maldivian resorts via Male’ for the past six years has been busted by Sri Lankan police, and is now being investigated by local authorities.

The operation began detected after a Pannipitiya brothel was raided by the Special Investigations Unit of Sri Lanka’s Mirihana Police, which operates in a Colombo suburb. The police are investigating the operation’s association with Maldives’ resorts.

Maldives Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said local police were awaiting these details before taking action locally.

“We have just heard about the operation today, once we receive more information we will launch our own investigation,” Shiyam said.

Shiyam indicated that it was a “delicate matter”.

“We have found some operations before, and sometimes there are many people who are involved,” he said, adding that the police conduct “on and off operations” targeting prostitution rings.

The accused will face deportation or appropriate legal procedures, Shiyam said. Maldivian police forces expect full cooperation from their Sri Lankan counterparts in addressing the issue.

Speaking to Sri Lanka’s The Sunday Times, Inspector H. N. B. Jayasinha said a police decoy established contact with the Pannipitiya brothel’s inner operations, explaining that clients were accepted by appointment.

The brothel was later raided and five girls were arrested along with the matron ‘Pannipitiya aunty.’ The six women arrested were of Galle, Kandy, Anuradhapura and Mahiyangana, and have been remanded until October 31.

Officials noted, however, that the brothel was part of a wider network.

Jayasinha told The Sunday Times that investigations revealed that two or three girls were sent to the Maldives on tourist visas each month, where they worked as prostitutes on islands near Male’.

Speaking to local media Haveeru, Jayasinha said the girls were lured with promises of employment, and instead were held hostage and forced into prostitution.

Haveeru today published pictures of the girls being arrested by local police at a Male’ home, however none of the ringleaders have yet been arrested.

A police investigation conducted earlier this year revealed that human trafficking had overtaken fishing as the Maldives’ second greatest contributor of foreign currency, pulling in an estimated US$123 million annually. A majority was of this industry involves the trafficking of Bangladeshi workers following false or duplicitous promises of employment, however the trafficking of sex workers has also been previously reported.


PG asks police to provide details of protest response

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) office has asked the police to provide details of its response to the protest held by ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) outside the Supreme Court on Thursday, which later spread to the residence of the former President.

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz told Minivan he was unable to comment on the matter at this time.

However Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said this was the first time the PG had made such a request.

“They are requesting details of what happened,” Shiyam confirmed, but said the PG had not notified police of a potential course of action or what it was looking for.

Shiyam pointed out that demonstrations in certain areas, including courts and army gates, are prohibited by the Regulation on Assembly.

“Members of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) have both gathered in these areas though, even though we have requested them not to. Some of them have gone to the army gates and the President’s gate as well, so occasionally we have to address the issue,” he said.

The police have been asked to provide the information before Wednesday this week.

On Thursday October 20 the MDP national council conducted an emergency meeting and approved a resolution to launch a protest against the judiciary, claiming judges were unduly influenced by the former President and his half-brother MP Abdulla Yameen.

The protesters gathered at the Supreme Court before marching towards the former President’s building Endherimaage, where violent clashes erupted between MDP activists and a few Gayoom supporters blocking the entrance to his residence.

Minivan News journalists at the scene also observed gravel, rocks, hot water and sharp metal raining down on protesters from the top floors or terrace of Endherimaage.

Several activists claimed they saw Gassan Maumoon, former President Gayoom’s son, throw stones and pour boiling hot water on the protesters. MDP activists meanwhile threw large stones at Endhirmaage and attempted to break down the door. Some windows of the house were smashed while a car parked outside was damaged.

A 17-year-old, identified as Hussein Hassan, was rushed to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) with critical injuries after a block of wood apparently thrown from the building hit his head. IGMH later confirmed that the boy was conscious and his condition stable.

Police summoned Gassan Maumoon, son of the former President, for questioning on Saturday after a number of MDP members alleged they had seen him throw the block of wood from the balcony. Police subsequently arrested Gassan and took him to the prison island of Dhoonidhoo, and presented him at court this afternoon. The hearing is currently ongoing.


‘Formax’ burglar sentenced to four years and six months

The Criminal Court has sentenced a 19 year old man to four years and six months jail for robbing ‘Formax Computers’, a prominent hardware and software retailer in Male’.

Ali Latheef from the island of Villingili in Gaafu Alifu Atoll was found guilty of robbing the store following his arrest on March 7, while he was attempting to flee with laptops, pen drives, modems and other electronic devices.

He was caught by police after using a shovel to break the glass window of the shopfront.

Latheef reportedly covered his face with a mask when he realised that the place was under surveillance, however police officers patrolling the area witnessed the incident and arrested the man.

Spokesperson for the Criminal Court Ahmed Riffath he had no information regarding the matter.


Germany to assist in training Maldives police

Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Ahmed Shaheed has said Germany will assist the Maldives with police training, reports Miadhu.

This decision has been made after President Mohamed Nasheed’s visit to Germany, where he met with Chief Director of German Police on 9 March to seek assistance in training and building a qualified police force in the Maldives.

Dr Shaheed said the training would begin soon and will train the police on working in a democratic society.

The project will be sponsored by Germany and conducted in the Maldives.


‘We don’t have guns but we can fight with our pens’: Hiriga

Attacks on five senior DhiTV senior officials and the stabbing of a Haveeru employee yesterday afternoon have sparked concern among media outlets that they could be subject to further attacks over their content.

DhiTV reported on its 2 o’clock news yesterday that alleged gang leader Ibrahim ‘Chika’ Nafiz  had been released to house arrest. Soon after the broadcast, a gang reportedly stormed DhiTV studios.

Three hours later a Haveeru printery worker left in a critical condition after being stabbed outside the building.

Police have not yet confirmed whether the two cases are connected, but arrested ten people yesterday evening suspected of involvement in the attacks, including Chika.

“He was arrested in his home last night,” said a police spokesperson, “and today the court gave us five days for further investigation.”

Chika will remain under police custody until the court hearing. Police have meanwhile launched a special operation to investigate the attacks.

The spokesperson said he did not know if the attacks were intended to be a direct message to the media, but said “this really shows how the situation is here.”

‘We will fight with our pens’

President of the Maldives Journalism Association (MJA) and Editor of Haveeru, Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir, said he believed the incidents were “direct attacks on the media.”

“The ruling party members are consistently blaming the media, and suddenly a gang leader leaves jail and attacks us,” Hiriga said, claiming there were political motives behind the attacks.

“The media is in a very bad situation, it is very vulnerable and young.”

Hiriga said he believed DhiTV and Haveeru were targeted because they are “the most vibrant media in this country” and the attacks were “certainly connected.”

He said the attackers had mentioned Haveeru when they entered the DhiTV building, and the police had been informed of this “but did not take enough precautions.”

Hiriga said he did “not want journalists to be afraid, but they are.”

He mentioned that some TV presenters were now “unwilling to appear on TV, and unwilling to report particular news items” because they were “very much afraid that their lives could be put in danger.”

“When law enforcement agencies fail, anything might happen at any time,” he said.

DhiTV CEO Yousuf Navaal said yesterday that “until we receive assurance [of our safety] that we can report this type of news, we will not cover it anymore.”

Hiriga however described Navaal’s approach as “not very professional”, especially since DhiTV had “asked Haveeru not to report on the issue either.

“The media should be one front and approach [these issues] as a collective, but this doesn’t happen,” Hiriga said, suggesting that Navaal was “reluctant” to report the story “because he has not been given enough confidence that the law is under control.”

Deputy Director General of TVM, Mohamed Asif, said the station had not taken extra security measures and were “hesitant and reluctant to report on these issues.”

Hiriga said media should not give in to intimidation: “We don’t have guns but we can fight with our pens!”


DhiTV reported yesterday that Chika had been released to house arrest by the Department for Penitentiary and Rehabilitaion Service (DPRS).

State Minister for Home Affairs Ahmed Adil said the media had been reporting the wrong information, and “he was not released to house arrest”, but had in fact been taken to the DPRS for questioning two days ago.

Adil said the DPRS was investigating Chika and “he signed a paper saying he would cooperate and not leave his house.”

Spokesperson for the DPRS Moosa Rameez said Chika had been in the department’s rehabilitation programme for “six to seven months”, and referred Minivan News to DPRS Managing Director, Mohamed Rasheed.

However Rasheed said he did not want to comment on the issue.

A person familiar with the matter told Minivan News that Chika had been brought to Malé from Maafushi jail for an MRI scan. The source said it was common practice to bring prisoners to Malé when they require medical attention.

Police confirmed Chika had not been placed under house arrest, but would not say why he was in his house yesterday evening.