“No idea” why criminal court has taken so long to process museum vandalism case: PG’s Office

The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office has revealed it has “no idea” as to why two individuals charged with vandalising the national museum last year have yet to be brought to justice.

The two men, accused of damaging archaeological evidence of Maldives’ pre-Islamic Civilisation in the national museum in Male’ on February 7, 2012, failed to attend their trial hearing at Criminal Court scheduled for today (February 25).

A media official from the PG’s Office told Minivan News that the two suspects had originally been charged between September and October last year, but were yet to face trial in court.

Asked as to why the Criminal Court had taken so long to process the case, the media official said “we have no idea”.

The official was then asked if the PG’s Office had made any attempt to question the court over the delayed trial, to which he responded: “No, we haven’t questioned the court, we have taken no action yet.”

Last month private broadcaster Raajje TV aired leaked security camera footage showing a group of men vandalising around 35 exhibits after they stormed the museum amid the political chaos of February 7 last year.

Police in May 2012 forwarded cases against four suspects to the PG’s office, however the case was initially returned to police for further clarification.

Speaking to Minivan News, Police Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz said the case was then sent to the PG’s Office on July 8, 2012.

Local media reported that two men – Mohamed Nishan of M. Haadhoo and Yousuf Rilwan of G. Adimagu – were due to attend a trial hearing at 10:00am this morning over charges relating to the case.

However, a Judiciary Media Unit official said the hearing was cancelled after the two defendants did not receive their summoning chit to the Criminal Court.

“The chit was sent by the court to the homes of the defendants, but they did not receive it. So now the court will have to send a new summoning chit for a new trial hearing,” the official added.

Minivan News contacted the Criminal Court Spokesperson who, when asked for information regarding the case, gave an unclear response. When Minivan News asked for clarification, the spokesperson hung up.

Minivan News then attempted to contact the spokesperson, but he was not responding to calls at time of press.

“99 percent of Maldives’ pre-Islamic history destroyed”

According to museum director Ali Waheed, the vandals destroyed “99 percent” of the evidence of the Maldives’ pre-Islamic history prior to the 12th century, including a 1.5-foot-wide representation of the Buddha’s head – one of the most historically significant pieces at the museum.

An official at the museum told Minivan News following the incident that the group “deliberately targeted the Buddhist relics and ruins of monasteries exhibited in the pre-Islamic collection, destroying most items beyond repair.”

“This is not like a glass we use at home that can be replaced by buying a new one from a shop. These are originals from our ancestors’ time. These cannot be replaced ever again,” the official said.

In September 2012, the United States government donated US$ 20,000 (MVR 308,400) to help restore and repair the damaged artifacts, as part of an effort to preserve Maldivian cultural heritage.