V News editor arrested for assault

V News Editor ‘Mundu’ Adam Haleem has been arrested on Tuesday night on charges of assaulting a female colleague.

The outlet has placed Haleem on suspension in connection to the incident, local media reports, after CCTV footage showing a man fitting Haleem’s description shoving a female colleague onto a staircase was circulated on social media.

The footage showed another male figure intervening to stop Haleem from further assaulting his colleague before pulling him into a nearby room.

Police stated that Haleem was arrested under a court order at around 11.30pm on Tuesday night (November 11), declining to comment further on the ongoing investigation.


Four applicants for auditor general’s job

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz has told local media that applications from four individuals have been received for post of auditor general.

While the application deadline ended on Monday, Muaz stated that the applications are currently being processed. He declined from providing any information regarding the applicants other than saying that none were females.

On October 29, the parliament approved an amendment proposed by ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Thoriq to the Audit Act enabling the president to reappoint the auditor general, four years before the end of the incumbent Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim’s seven year term.

The recent amendment stipulates that the president must submit a nomination for the post to the parliament 30 days from the ratification of the act.

The amendment was passed despite the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members’ argument that it should not have been put to a vote as it allows the discharging of the incumbent without following the constitutional provisions for impeachment.

The amendment came into effect on the same day that the Auditor General signed a damning report into an alleged US$6 milllion corruption scandal involving PPM Deputy Leader and Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb – a report Adeeb claimed was politically motivated.

Earlier in November, Niyaz Ibrahim told local media that he will not be reapplying for the post, and that instead he intends to challenge the constitutionality of the amendment in court.


AG seeks to strengthen prohibitions on carrying of sharp weapons

Attorney General Mohamed Anil has today submitted to parliament a number of amendments to the act prohibiting carrying and threatening use of sharp weapons.

Speaking at a press conference held by the cabinet’s Social Council, Anil revealed that amendments included the narrowing of certain rights that the accused currently have.

Among these, the right to remain silent and the right to consult with legal representatives will be narrowed, while police will be given the right to hold suspects in custody for purposes of community safety until the court considers the case.

The proposed changes comes as the number of stabbing incidents in the country continues at an alarming rate, with 18-year old Ibrahim Shifaaz last week becoming the latest in a list of incidents that have resulted in three deaths this year.

Anil explained that the present law only stipulates penalties for the carrying of sharp weapons and for threatening individuals with the use of sharp weapons.

“Both the home minister and we at the AG office find it to be very concerning that the law does not describe penalties for damages caused by such actions, such as the taking of a life, loss of a limb, or other physical harm to the victims,” Anil stated.

“Currently, these crimes are tried under the existing old Penal Code, which has in it far too lenient penalties. Thus, the proposed amendments will include new penalties that can be given to perpetrators for commission of such an act.”

He described the newly proposed penalties as including 7 to 15 year jail sentences and even the death penalty, depending on the seriousness of the crime.

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer prompted international concern when calling for an end to the country’s 60 year moratorium on the death penalty earlier this year, completing the required regulatory changes in April.

The new amendments also stipulate that crimes falling under this act should be investigated within 15 days of arrest, while the Criminal Court must complete the case within 30 days from its submission.

Anil also announced that three additional bills have been submitted to parliament. These are the goods and services tax bill, the construction bill, and the mutual legal assistance bill.

Earlier on October 15, Umar Naseer conducted meetings with pro-government parliamentarians about amendments to these same laws.

“Reactions from parliamentarians of both Jumhooree Party and Progressive Party of Maldives were positive to my recommendations,” Naseer said at the time.

At today’s press conference, Naseer also revealed that the government has plans to commence a MVR4 million  (US$260,000)  project to further develop the security of the prisons in the coming week following the recent escape of two convicted murderers last weekend – both since apprehended.


High Court grants Humam a month to appoint lawyer in death penalty appeal

The High Court has granted a man convicted of killing MP Dr Afrashim Ali one month to appoint a lawyer.

Hussein Humam had requested the period at the first hearing of the appeal at the High Court this morning.

The Criminal Court sentenced Human to death on January 16, finding him guilty of intentional murder, stating Humam had assaulted the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP with a sharp object and intentionally killed him.

Dr Afrasheem was found brutally murdered in the stairwell of his apartment building on October 1, 2012.

Humam gave contradictory statements in court regarding his involvement in the crime. Although he initially confessed to the crime, he later retracted his statement claiming the statement had been given under duress.

He appealed the death sentence in May, just before the 90 day appeal period for lower court rulings was about to expire.

Death penalty

Shortly after the Criminal Court sentenced Humam to death, Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer announced plans to implement the death penalty ending an unofficial sixty year moratorium on the practice.

Speaking on a show on state broadcaster TVM on Sunday night, Naseer said the incumbent government will not “shy away” from implementing the death penalty despite pressure from foreign countries and human rights organizations.

“We are not one to shy away from implementing the death penalty by showing various excuses. Nothing will stop us from implementing the death penalty as planned,” Naseer said.

He said that while he respected the views of European countries which are calling on the government to continue with the moratorium on the death penalty, he believed that the decision lies solely with the Maldivian government.

“While European countries are speaking against the death penalty based on their set of principles, the US, Indonesia, China are not, even though they are by far the more populated countries. Each country has a separate viewpoint on it, and I understand and respect that. However, I believe there is a need for the death penalty to be implemented here, and come what may, we will implement it”.

The decision to reintroduce implementation of the death penalty  has given rise to public debate.

While Islamic groups have said that capital punishment is a crucial aspect of the Islamic Shari’ah, Mauhadini Sanawi and Azhar University graduate Scholar Al Usthaz Abdul Mueed Hassan previously told Minivan News that Islam is a religion of forgiveness first, and called on the state to abolish the death penalty.

“In taking qisaas, it is prescribed that it must be done in the manner that the crime was committed. Like the metaphor an eye for an eye. Taken in the exact same manner. How can this be done in cases of murder? How can the life of the murderer be taken in the same manner as that of the murdered? This is prescribed so as to discourage the taking of qisaas,” Mueed said at the time.

The government has previously announced that lethal injection is the state’s preferred method of implementing capital punishment.


Prisoner’s escape was our fault, but we will find them: Home minister

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has accepted that loopholes in the prison system allowed two dangerous convicts to escape from Maafushi prison on Friday (October 17)

Ibrahim Shahum Adam and Fariyash Ahmed of Javaahiruvadhee in Gaafu Alifu Maamendhoo were both serving life sentences for separate murder incidents.

Naseer told Television Maldives yesterday (October 19) that the Maldives Police Services will doubtless recapture the two criminals and return them to prison.

Describing the escape during his interview, Naseer said that necessary changes to procedure had been identified which 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 the home minister.

“We will find them. The government is willing to use all the powers vested in them to find them, recapture them and return them to prison,” he added.

The search has today expanded to the capital Malé after investigations in Maafushi and neighbouring islands proved fruitless.

The escape

Naseer described the layout of the Maafushi Prison as being divided into two subsections, referred to as ‘The Pentagon’ and ‘U2’.

U2 is the facility where criminals who pose daily threats are kept, whereas prisoners in Pentagon get a few hours a day out in the prison grounds. The two escapees were placed in the Pentagon wing of the prison at the time of escape.

Naseer stated that the prison houses over 700 inmates, all of whom are convicted on serious charges including murder, rape, and pedophilia.

The escapees had placed dummies made of pillows on their beds at the time of the routine headcounts, the minister explained, resulting in the guards miscounting.

This particular method of escape was made famous by the 1979 film ‘Escape from Alcatraz’, which was itself based on a 1962 escape attempt from the island prison in San Francisco.

Umar Naseer said that it was common for inmates to be asleep under blankets at these times, meaning that nobody noticed anything was amiss.

“We have now realised that it is not alright for us to just count people in a cell, and that we must instead wake everyone up and have them line up for the count,” Naseer said.

In the meantime, the prisoners had escaped out of a barred window and onto the prison roof before reaching the ground via bed sheets tied together.

The escapees had used a broken saw to cut through 22 bars on the window, with Naseer suggesting that the work had been done in a series of days on the windows, which are about 10 feet above the ground.

Naseer admitted that the saw may have been acquired from the prison grounds as there is currently an ongoing construction project to build a new check post in the U2 wing of the prison.

“This wasn’t planned and done in a single day. It was done under a well-planned systematic attempt,” Naseer said.

Opportunity for improvement

“We can look at this as an opportunity to improve upon the current prison system,” Naseer said, describing the prison system as a “learning experience”.

“We have now noticed loopholes in our way of doing things. In future, we will improve upon them. I can guarantee that no other convict can escape using this technique again,” he stated.

“The prison system is largely manual now. The locks on doors, monitoring the grounds, all of this is done manually. We will in future work to automate these things,” he said.

He revealed that the cells have cameras, but that inmates often avoid being on them by spending time in the attached bathrooms or through other tactics.

Naseer said that investigations are currently being conducted into whether the escape was made possible due to the negligence of prison guards.

“Nothing we have so far found in the investigation indicates any negligence or involvement of prison guards. However, if such a thing comes to our notice, we will take immediate action,” he stated.

While the minister noted that the prison system is being maintained on a tight budget, he maintained that his philosophy is to “make do to the best of our levels on whatever budget allocation is available”.

Naseer dismissed the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s labelling of the escape as symptomatic of the government’s failings as a “rant released from a desperate party”.


Home minister acknowledges gang involvement in Rilwan case, blames opposition for slow progress

The home minister has acknowledged gang involvement in the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan, while accusing politicians of obstructing the investigation.

“We already knew that there is a gang connection to Rilwan’s case. However, in a modern investigation, one doesn’t immediately arrest suspects. We leave them free and follow them and gather information,” he explained during an interview on state television yesterday.

“The biggest cause of obstruction to this investigation is the MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party],” Naseer said, accusing the opposition party of being behind a private investigator’s report released by local NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN).

Rilwan was last seen on CCTV footage at the Hulhumalé Ferry Terminal in the early hours of August 8. Friends and family have alleged his disappearance to have been an abduction, based on evidence in CCTV footage and eye witness accounts.

The MDN report, produced by UK based private investigators Athena Intelligence and Security, implicated gangs – possibly motivated by religious extremism – in the disappearance 73 days ago.

“The release of the report forced us to change our investigation technique. We had to hurry the arrests, which led to early release of suspects. It is the biggest hindrance to the investigation so far,” said Naseer.

Four individuals were arrested following the report’s release, though three were later released.

“It has an extreme negative effect on an investigation when people who are not aware of the details of an investigation release reports and offer speculations based purely on hearsay with the intent of gaining some political advantage.”

The minister said that the report had named some suspects who are members of notorious gangs that the police had also already identified. MDN maintains that the report was released with the objective of aiding the police in the investigation.

Police have yet to confirm the nature of their investigations, stating that they have gathered no “concrete evidence” linking Rilwan with a reported abduction outside his apartment the same night.

Naseer concluded his remarks on Rilwan by stating that he believes the 28-year-old remains alive as the abductors have so far left no indication that they have taken his life.

Family concern dismissed

Rilwan’s family has continuously expressed concern regarding the lack of information received from the police regarding the investigation’s progress.

Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed went on the offensive last week, telling local news outlet Vaguthu that the family and certain media organisations were partially responsible for the lack of success in the investigation.

Naseer yesterday dismissed the family’s concerns, saying that police were giving regular updates to the family, and that he had personally met with the family at least four times to share information.

“I personally meet with the investigation team once a week and get an update on progress. I also give them advice on how to proceed with the case,” Naseer said, adding that the government sees the disappearance of Rilwan as a high priority.

President Abdulla Yameen has yet to comment publicly on the case, beyond his dismissal of questions regarding the case in August, although the foreign ministry has expressed concern.

Naseer went on to say that, despite spending state resources, funds, and time on the case, the police have so far been unable to get any answers in the case.

“I must say that sometimes things just happen this way, we just don’t get ahead. For example, consider the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 which disappeared with over 200 passengers. The whole world is looking for it, but no one has a clue as to where it may be. And then we are talking about one man, Rilwan,” he said.

“Things and people that go missing are sometimes just not found easily. We can use all the available resources in a country and even then, there is only so much we can achieve. However, in this case, we have not given up and will continue trying,” Naseer continued.

No police negligence, no state involvement

Umar also dismissed allegations of police negligence involved in the case.

When questioned about police actions following the reported abduction near Rilwan’s residence on the night of his disappearance, Umar said people were speculating that it is police negligence “due to the lack of information they have”.

He affirmed that police had promptly investigated the matter, even without knowing at the time whether it was related to Rilwan’s disappearance.

Naseer also dismissed allegations of state involvement in Rilwan’s disappearance.

“This is MDP’s way of comparing this case with that of Ablo Ghazi [Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed]”, he alleged.

“No one has forced Rilwan’s disappearance. Ablo Ghazi was abducted by the MDP government with the aid of the MNDF. Rilwan is someone who disappeared and we are trying to find,” he explained.

“We are trying to find Rilwan. We were only made aware of this case after Rilwan disappeared. The government has no involvement in this disappearance. This is, in fact, the first disappearance of its kind that has occurred in the country.”

“We are considering the disappearance of Rilwan as a criminal act and are investigating it to the best of our abilities,” he assured the public.


Law and Gender Ministry to provide water from local supply to Special Needs Centre

The Ministry of Law and Gender has said it is currently working on providing clean water to the Centre for People with Special Needs in Guraidhoo through the local water supply plant.

The announcement has been made following the issuance of a directive from the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) ordering the ministry to make immediate arrangements to provide clean water that fits WHO standards to the community.

Observation teams from the HRCM found the water used at the centre to be contaminated with e-coli bacteria and has been advising the ministry to solve the issue since 2009.

Speaking to local media, Deputy Minister of Law and Gender Mohamed Zahid dismissed the HRCM’s observations, stating that residents of the centre were not currently using the contaminated water for drinking or bathing purposes.

He explained that the delay in supplying clean water to the centre came because of the Ministry’s intention of “acting justly towards all” and attempting to provide water from the plant to all locals of Guraidhoo instead of just those living in the centre.

“The water we naturally get from Guraidhoo is not of a quality safe for any use. We wanted to do things justly and equitably towards all. It is not fair to provide clean water only to those residing in the centre,” he is quoted as saying.

Zahid, however, added that water from the public supply can be continuously supplied to the centre within 25 days, while the rest of the island can expect to get the service by 2015.

The directive released by HRCM on October 14 callsed upon the ministry to immediately introduce temporary facilities which will provide clean water for basic needs, and requests detailed plans for dealing with the facility’s water and sewerage problems by October 19.

In 2011 the HRCM has conducted tests on the water available in the centre after receiving complaints that it had a foul smell. Three of four samples taken from the centre proved to be below WHO approval standards.

Hafeeza, head of the ministry’s section mandated with oversight of the centre, could not be reached at the time of press, while a ministry official who requested to remain unnamed declined from commenting on the matter.

The Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC) signed an agreement with Kandooma Resort last year to provide a 30 tonne water plant to Guraidhoo as part of MVR1.5 million (US$97,600) investment.


Vice president says children must not be harmed in the name of Islam and culture

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has stated that truly loving a child is to refrain from inflicting physical harm on the child in the name religion and culture, and from committing sexual harassment against children on the pretext of providing an Islamic upbringing.

Speaking at an event held in the National Art Gallery on Monday (October 15) to inaugurate the Minstry of Law and Gender’s new programmes, Jameel emphasised the importance of protecting the rights of children.

The new programmes focus on providing services for women, children, the elderly and people with special needs.

Jameel described the ministry’s programme as an effort to establish Maldives as the country in the region in which most fundamental rights are protected.

He went on to say that it is imperative that children are not discriminated based on their gender, and that they are not deprived of any educational opportunities or health benefits, local media reports.

Jameel opined that those who need social protection should not be perceived as a burden on the state, before using examples from Islamic history to demonstrate how society benefits from these people.

The gender ministry’s programme includes the release of two books regarding internet safety, the introduction of a domestic violence database, formulation of regulations for the establishment of day care centres, and home care services for the elderly.

Additionally, employment letters were also handed over to two persons with special needs. The two job placements are at Fenaka Corporation and Island Aviation Services.


Three persons injured in Kulhudhuhfushi bike accident

A speeding motorcycle hit two pedestrians yesterday night (October 14) near the jetty in the island of Kulhudhuhfushi in Haa Dhaalu Atoll.

Both the pedestrians and the driver are currently receiving medical attention in the island’s hospital. While further details of injuries sustained have not been made public, police assured that none of the victims are in critical condition.

According to the police, the driver was 20-year-old male, while the pedestrians were women aged 52 and 57-years-old.